In the last 12 months we have seen a significant transformation in the employer / employee power balance. Resignations are rife. Recent data from the ONS showed that in the UK job vacancies in August to October 2021 hit a new record of nearly 1.2 million, an increase of 388,000 from the pre-coronavirus pandemic, with 15 of 18 industry sectors showing record highs. In the US another record of 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in the month of November 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. What’s driving this trend?
Some believe it is due to a surge in workers taking charge of their careers while others think it is caused by an economic and emotional shift as businesses struggle to lure anxious staff to return to industries that have for too long seen workers as expendable. Both views are somewhat simplified.
Other reasons could include health concerns, inflexible working conditions, lack of adequate childcare or perhaps seeing a fertile environment to go it alone. Employers have been keen to try almost anything they can to retain staff including providing free food, free Peloton bikes, gym memberships, gift cards and bring your dogs to work days. However, the elephant in the room, higher pay, is more often than not the main driver behind the Big Quit. While wage inflation is set to continue, individuals are concerned with the opportunity cost of staying in the same job, doing the same thing and therefore reducing their future earning power. Maintaining morale and motivating staff is therefore going to be pivotal and one way to address the higher pay expectations and improving their future earning potential is to focus on giving employees the tools to upskill and empower them.
When an employee is empowered – given a certain degree of autonomy and control in their day-to-day activities – they have the ability to accomplish and succeed in a task, giving them the confidence needed to do the best job possible. This can include having a voice in process improvement, helping to create and manage new systems, and running projects often with much less oversight from higher-level management. One key principle of employee empowerment is giving employees the means to make important decisions. In order to do this, team members require the necessary skills which in some cases, will need to be taught while in other circumstances it can be learnt via osmosis – in effect during the process and having the authority to make a decision. When employee empowerment is implemented correctly, the firm will see heightened productivity and a much better employee work life balance.
Employee empowerment can often be seen as a reflection of the firm’s core strength and values. For example, you cannot empower the team without skilled leadership. A firm’s leaders can all play vital roles in creating an environment that is supportive, where trust, clear expectations and guidelines have been established and in which employees are comfortable taking controlled risks. Employee empowerment can inject greater trust in leadership, improve creativity, and boost employee retention which, in a backdrop of the Great Resignation, will ultimately reward the firm financially.
At Greentarget, unlike in some larger firms where there can be a defined ceiling on individual roles, we empower our team regardless of seniority or experience. We have laid out strong foundations and guidelines for our team so that empowerment is a currency that we use to provide authority, the ability to learn while working and the confidence to make decisions. We believe this has created a great place to work, trustworthy confident individuals and a formidable team. These are all great foundations of individual and collective growth.
Jamie Brownlee is a director at Greentarget.
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