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Jiordan Castle

Empowered vs. Happy

Tolstoy said it best: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The same concept holds true for your workforce. What makes employees happy? Most of us would agree: unlimited PTO, free snacks… Give me a long vacation and a pizza and I’m happy — for a time.

But there is much more to the Worker Experience than “happy” — a catchall word used too often to describe positive, productive employees. What makes employees dreamy to employers, and what helps jobs — especially those held over many months and years — remain dreamy to employees isn’t one thing; it’s many things. We need more than “happy” to thrive at work; we need tools and support with the power to motivate us, empower us, keep us sane, and, perhaps most importantly, encourage autonomy.

What autonomy means… and what it doesn’t

Consider “autonomous” synonymous with “empowered.” Autonomy is not running the show solo, ignoring the team’s wishes, or working without a strategy in place (or without asking for guidance). Autonomous organizations put the results at the forefront, with less attention and money paid to the red tape or bureaucracy or outdated processes. As Tracy Maylett for Entrepreneur tells us, “The bottom-line benefit to both employees and organizations is that workers who are free to make more choices are happier, more committed to their jobs, productive, and less likely to leave.” Aren’t those exactly the kind of people you want working for you? Isn’t that the kind of culture you want to cultivate? And the thing is — you can.

4 ways to empower your workforce

  • Build a culture of open communication and trust. Kevin Daum for Inc tells us: “So many companies are built on top-down communication from management. Employees in this environment feel there is no purpose in taking a stand, since they have no direct channel and don’t feel they’ll have an impact.” Instead of promoting non-inclusive top-down communication and the dreaded year-end performance review, you may opt for using employee NPS and regular “pulse checks” to see how your workers are doing — what their pain points are, where they’re having success, and what processes and relationships could be improved.
  • Hire self-starters in the first place. Getting a great team together isn’t luck; it’s an art of curating the right people with an eye on the same prize — people equipped with the gift of self-determination. You want to see things get done without having to dole out tasks and delegate every moment of the day? Hire talented people inherently driven to succeed. It’ll benefit your people (which will encourage them to stick around and develop their talents at your company) and, in turn, your business.
  • Build boundaries… with purpose. Clearly define roles across your organization, give context for all major projects to everyone involved, and let every voice be heard; the best ideas will rise to the top and you’ll avoid the kind of redundancies that stem from not giving enough information or input the first time around.
  • Give employees the tools, technology, and training they need to be effective. When you think about the Worker Experience, it may help to begin with the question: “What makes a good Customer Experience?” My (somewhat) short answer is this: Customer-facing employees with the training and authority (the latter part is key) to help customers without sending them to a manager or putting them on a minutes-long hold; having a system in place that makes real-time customer data accessible to your employees, rather than keeping data in silos; a personalized, seamless experience at all customer touchpoints. These are things customers want and expect — things only the most engaged, empowered workers are capable of delivering.

By investing in creating a better Worker Experience, you’re really investing in a consistent, dynamic Customer Experience, and the health of your organization — both inside and out.

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