In a recent article, John Hagel notes that the empowered employee is coming, it’s inevitable, and asks: is the world ready? As companies increasingly struggle to compete for leading talent, he sees savvy firms succeeding by becoming more performance-centric, by design. Technology is required but not enough … empowering employees is the key. The following is my take on Hagel’s three keys to creating engaged employees and why it matters. The wisdom is his. The mistakes, if any, are mine:
FOCUS ON VALUE-CREATION: empowered customers are putting increasing pressure on vendors to deliver more value at lower cost. Businesses have largely responded to this pressure by focusing on the denominator of the productivity equation – by squeezing out costs wherever possible. Focusing on the cost side is a game in diminishing returns. Each additional increment of cost reduction is harder and harder to deliver. And yet the pressure for more value continues to mount. In Hagel’s view, it’s far better to view employees as assets capable of delivering ever increasing value to the marketplace. It moves things from a game of diminishing returns to an opportunity for increasing returns. There is little, if any, limit to the additional value that people can deliver if given the appropriate tools and skill development.
ACCELERATE LEARNING CYCLES: The biggest challenge for businesses today is learning to think about their employees the way they think about their customers. How do you engage them? How do you measure the return? In Hagel’s view, we should shift our focus inward to ask what we can do to engage our employees so that they can get better faster. Emerging technologies have the potential to re-craft the employee experience so that they can learn faster on the job in their day-to-day work environments. It’s among the most powerful forms of talent development that one can imagine, and has the potential to directly drive value-creation. See point 1 above.
MEASURE PERFORMANCE ON THE FRONT-LINES FOR THE FRONT-LINES: The key to harnessing the power of these technologies is to tie them to metrics that matter for the enterprise and employees in targeted ways that help employees learn faster and improve their performance. In its early years, Toyota used this performance-centric approach to help focus frontline assembly line workers on the challenge of identifying and solving problems. They provided their employees with a work environment that included the tools and support required to be more effective at solving problems. Something amazing happened. Not only did performance rapidly improve, but workers became passionate about their work. They could see that they were making a difference. Just as engaged customers become passionate about the products they use, employees that can see their performance improving and the impact they are achieving tend to become passionate about their work. Then a virtuous cycle sets in. The more passionate employees become, the more focused they become on improving their performance. The more impact they have, the greater their passion.
Learning, triggered by metrics, enabled on the front-lines of execution. It empowers employees to create more value and equips them with a passion for doing so. It’s an intriguing take on how to win the battle for top talent. It’s an even more intriguing take, in my view, on how great talent, once recruited, could win the battle for new customers by discovering new ways to create more customer value.
Just a thought.
For more on this notion of empowering employees via accelerated learning + metrics which enable it, see:
– learning in the absence of coaches
– 7 reasons why learning fast improves B2B sales productivity
– sales productivity is ignited when the learning is personalized