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Why organizations that empower employees can create greater impact

By Ilkka Mäkitalo on Aug 25, 2022 3:10:00 PM , updated on Sep 20, 2022

Organizations today are increasingly focused on purpose and impact. 93% of employees believe companies should lead with purpose, and 88% believe that it’s no longer acceptable for companies to just make money—they should also positively impact society, according to the Porter Novelli Purpose Tracker

Environmental and social concerns affect how Gen Z workers choose employers, according to the Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey. Younger generations now expect companies to drive progress across environmental, social, and governance (ESG) themes.  

Clarifying your organization’s purpose—and living it out to make a positive societal impact—is not something that leaders can do alone. Doing so requires deep engagement from everyone in the organization. That’s why empowering employees and fostering collaboration is so important in today’s world of work. 

In this post, we’ll explore why empowering employees and making space for real collaboration can lead to greater impact.  

What is employee empowerment? 

In many traditional organizations, leaders might say they value employees’ opinions, but their actions tell a different story. Employees quickly learn that they’re better off staying quiet and keeping their head down instead of saying what they actually think. In such hierarchical corporate cultures, employees are treated like cogs in a machine rather than people. The traditional power structures within the organization dictate whose voice matters—and whose doesn't. 

To make a real, lasting impact, organizations need to give people their power back. 

Employee empowerment is all about giving people autonomy and enabling them to contribute to the organization in meaningful ways. Empowered employees have agency and take responsibility for addressing issues. They feel that their thoughts and inputs are valued, and that they can actually help improve the organization. 

Empowered employees can be the best version of themselves at work and use their talent to advance the organization’s goals. 

Empowerment is crucial for true collaboration 

Most of our work today requires collaboration. We spend our days in meetings, take calls, and send instant messages and emails back and forth. 

While people are spending more than 85% of their time in collaborative work, employee engagement remains dismally low at 20% globally. The problem is that most of the collaborating we do isn't meaningful. We go through the motions—reply to that Slack message, send that document in Teams—but don’t see the impact of our work in the bigger picture. 

Only by empowering employees can organizations build practices that support collaborative impact: the magic that happens when people meaningfully come together around a shared purpose to learn and collaborate. 

How employee empowerment benefits organizations  

When employees are checked out at work—just showing up without being engaged—organizations suffer. Here are a few reasons why empowered employees are the foundation of impactful organizations.

Attract and retain employees 

Employee empowerment is closely tied to inclusion. A Deloitte inclusivity report on millennials shows that an inclusive culture is especially important for this generation, making them feel more engaged, empowered, and authentic.  

Besides recruitment, inclusion also plays a key role in retention—one third of respondents to the Deloitte report said they already left an organization for a more inclusive one.

If you’re not empowering employees and fostering an inclusive culture, you risk losing them to your competitors. 

Innovate faster

Employees have a broad range of knowledge, skills, and experience that you’d be missing out on if you didn’t invite them to share their unique perspectives. When employees are invited to share their thoughts, it also boosts the team’s creativity and strengthens their commitment to the company. 

Organizations can innovate a lot faster when employees feel empowered to share their ideas and take action. 

Improve employee wellbeing & satisfaction

Empowered employees are satisfied employees. Above all, millenials and Gen Z want an employer that cares about their wellbeing, according to Gallup. Not just their physical wellbeing, but also their career, social, financial, and community wellbeing. 

If you don’t prioritize your employees’ overall wellbeing, then your organization won’t stay healthy either. 

Make better decisions 

Detached and unengaged employees are less likely to think critically or creatively at work, meaning they’re more likely to make poor decisions—or no decisions at all.

However, when you show employees that their opinions matter and involve them in decision-making, you benefit from the collective brainpower to make smarter decisions that drive progress.  

Gain employee buy-in 

When it comes to organizational processes, how we work is even more important than the final outcome. For example, a strategy document isn't as valuable as the strategy process itself. If the strategy is co-created with empowered employees, then leaders won’t have to sell it internally—employees will already be on board and feel motivated to take action on it. 

The beginning of any process is especially important. By involving people right from the start, you’ll face less change resistance. 

Remember that you don’t need to have the end result of a process in mind before you get started. Instead, trust that the people, process, and reflections will take you where you need to go.  

Build a learning organization

In a collaborative, empowered culture, employees will work together to solve problems and develop new ways of working. People will share their ideas, knowledge, and experiences with one another. This collaborative, inclusive way of learning is more effective than traditional methods, as people can quickly apply what they learn in their day-to-day work. 

A learning organization is a workplace that’s intentional about empowering its employees with the knowledge to perform their job better. By fostering a learning culture, you give your organization a competitive edge and are better equipped to adapt to changing trends. 

Use technology that supports collaborative impact 

To foster a truly collaborative culture with empowered employees, people need to feel heard and comfortable to speak their mind. The right technology can play a significant role in fostering such a culture. 

For example, let’s say you’re in a meeting room with 10 participants. You have an idea, but you have to wait for your turn to speak. During the meeting, you’re not really following what others are saying because you’re mentally rehearsing your own idea so you won’t forget it. 

If everyone does this, the meeting doesn’t involve proper dialogue or lead to any real progress. However, if everyone in the meeting could write their ideas in a shared platform instead, they’d all have the chance to share their thoughts in a way that feels comfortable. Plus, with everything documented, it’s easy to follow up on discussions. Whether there are 10, 100, or 1,000 people in the meeting, everyone will get the chance to contribute.

This is just one example of how technology platforms like Howspace can help create an inclusive culture and power collaborative impact by bringing everyone together to collaborate and learn. 

If you want to see for yourself how you can use Howspace to power collaborative impact, give it a try—start a free trial today.