The move towards hybrid working among traditionally office-based workers, has forced leaders to re-evaluate how they lead. Dispersed teams can’t be managed using control and micro-management,  it simply doesn’t work! Plus, this type of management style will never get the best out of a team. Today’s workforce expects to be empowered, and demands greater autonomy than any previous generation. And this approach also delivers better organisational results, with psychological empowerment positively associated with a broad range of employee outcomes, including job satisfaction and organisational commitment.

People need to be given the space and the tools they need to do their job effectively without managers breathing down their neck! Here’s how you can equip your people for success in the age of employee empowerment:

Provide flexibility  – Giving your employees the flexibility to choose where, when and how they work, allows them to discover the most effective way of getting their work done. Don’t force office attendance for the sake of employees’ “showing their faces”, but allow individuals to decide when interacting with colleagues face-to-face would prove beneficial. And of course, employees must be given the tools to streamline office attendance. Allowing the quick and easy booking of hot desks at a distance is an important consideration.

Trust! – Empowerment is impossible without a culture of trust. Leaders must mentor their people, giving them the guidance and support they need and then step out of the way, trusting them to do a good job. If leaders are constantly intervening, wanting updates and looking to control every decision, then employees will simply become disengaged and ‘switch off’ from their leader (and the organisation).  

Encourage collaboration – Giving employees autonomy doesn’t mean leaving them in isolation. They must be encouraged to collaborate and bond with others, sharing and gaining insights to help them to learn, grow and build connections.

Share knowledge – The worst type of leader uses knowledge as power, holding information hostage and purposefully being evasive rather than honest and transparent. This approach is prevalent when the leadership approach is one of control and power. In contrast, sharing knowledge supports a culture of trust and empowers employees with the information they need to make informed decisions. This should be supported with an IT platform, such as an intranet, which makes organisational documents, information and news accessible to all.

Give your people a voice – Empowerment can’t be achieved if employees are afraid to speak out and/or feedback channels are lacking. Employees need to feel that they are listened to and can influence change, and so a feedback culture is important. Plus, the culture must allow employees to disagree, and not be silenced or stigmatised for holding opposing views.

Provide growth opportunities – There must be learning and development (L&D) opportunities for all, regardless of whether employees are office-based or work remotely. This must include providing distance learning with options of live learning and/or pre-recorded sessions. From short first aid courses through to in-depth management training qualifications, everyone should be given a comprehensive choice of career development options.

Empower with technology – In the post-pandemic world, technology has never been more important for enabling connection, collaboration and career advancement. Without the right tools in place, remote workers will not be given an equitable employee experience and efforts to empower employees will falter. Certain IT solutions are crucial such as a company-wide intranet that holds all documents and information, thereby  providing a ‘single version of the truth’. The same intranet can be used for enabling collaboration, delivering news, sharing opinions, providing L&D and nurturing a strong company culture. Harvard professor, Prithwiraj Choudhury, who has researched hybrid working for several years, highlights the importance of collaborative technologies for enabling asynchronous communication. He asserts: “Through tools such as Google Docs, a Slack channel or a corporate intranet, employees can share ideas and trust their colleagues, perhaps in different time zones, to read and digest these when they’re ready and respond with more considered thoughts of their own.” Other hybrid working solutions such as video conferencing tools, project management solutions and hot desk booking software, all support and empower today’s flexible worker.

Empowering a workforce to make decisions and influence change doesn’t happen overnight. The company culture and leadership style must enforce autonomous working while providing the necessary tools and emotional support to deliver success. With the right approach and systems in place, people will feel emboldened in their decision making and trusted to make the best choices, resulting in a highly engaged workforce that’s far more likely to stick around!

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