How can organizations make their employees feel heard and empowered in the new world of work? That’s the question facing thousands of companies large and small as they rethink their business processes in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. With many technology companies and knowledge workers moving to permanent remote work, or a hybrid model with a mixture of in-office and WFH, helping employees feel empowered through this transition will be vital for the long-term success of the business.
Our CEO has already written about why employee empowerment is a better strategy for managing remote teams than employee monitoring. But what are the action steps for improving empowerment within your organization while everyone is remote? Here are four areas organizations should invest in to improve employee empowerment in the new world of work.
1. Create a sense of belonging among employees
In our recent Employee Empowerment Summit, SAP Head of People Sustainability and SVP Judith Williams said that she’s seen the conversation in D&I circles evolve over the last several years from “diversity” to “inclusion” and finally to “belonging.” Part of empowering employees is making them feel like they are a full and valued member of their organization. Right now, while the lines between work and home life are blurred, companies should think about how they can create an environment where their employees feel like they belong. This involves listening to employees and responding to their specific needs, but it can also mean supporting employees in advocating for causes they feel strongly about.
2. Rethink your people analytics
Monitoring your employees isn’t cool. It can erode the long-term trust between employer and employee and can get into legal gray areas if the tools used track too much personal data. Think about the data that your People Analytics team tracks – Is all of it necessary? Who benefits from the insights? Should the employee be given a chance to weigh in? In our recent Employee Empowerment Summit, the VP of People Operations at Alphabet Prasad Setty said he believes People Analytics should be “analytics for the people, not analytics of the people.” Does your program reflect that mindset?
Part of empowering employees means giving them control over their own data and trusting them with information about the company at large. Consider giving employees access to PA data that might provide them with useful feedback. If your organization uses pulse surveys, consider making the results public and sharing the changes that the company plans to make in response to them. This demonstrates trust in employees and shows that their thoughts and feedback are being listened to. Employees will likely feel more empowered if they know their employer trusts them to use this information responsibly.
3. Encourage/facilitate conversations between team members
One of the silver linings to remote work is that everyone has the same access to everyone else. Employees in the office tend to talk to their teams, or with people who have desks nearby. But while remote, everyone is just a Slack message or video call away. With a little more structure and planning, your team might end up communicating better despite working from home!
Solutions like Cultivate can help employees communicate more effectively even while they are remote. We have a feature called TeamDynamics that helps teams to set a charter for how they like to communicate (what hours they are available, how they like to be pinged, how they prefer to handle meetings, etc.). There are also “peer matching” programs that help match employees up with one another for informal partnerships or mentoring. Giving employees the training and resources they need to communicate well while remote is another important aspect of employee empowerment.
4. Invest in Diversity and Inclusion programs
Empowerment requires that employees can have open honest conversations, and build relationships with leaders who they can see themselves in. D&I plays a key role in closing this gap for employees who are not well-represented in their particular field. Hire a D&I officer – take D&I seriously enough to put it in the hands of an expert, as you would any other function in your organization.
Historical D&I programs included employee resource groups and mentorship programs, and these can absolutely still function in the remote world. Also, create policies and procedures reflective of your entire workforce. Different groups of your employees will face different barriers and will need different accommodations – for example, caregivers and homeschooling parents may benefit from more flexibility with working hours, while single employees living alone may need more social events and activities to help maintain human connections. Employees of color may need mentorship programs, or more opportunities to network among themselves. Empowerment isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so make sure you understand what your workforces needs are and how you can meet them.
Margaret Tomaszczuk is the Head of Customer Experience, partnering with Fortune 500 enterprises to scale leadership development globally. She’s been focused on building AI products and is passionate about promoting interdisciplinary thought in technology and AI, and ethical AI design.