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EPowermentAchieving Empowerment in the E World
By IZZY JUSTICE
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Dr. Izzy Justice
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhy EPowerment and Why Now?
Sixty percent of U.S. organizations report that they plan to focus more on high-potential employees.
Empowerment means allowing people at appropriate levels of an organization to know that they are capable of, and accountable for, making business decisions without having to fight through layers of bureaucracy and inefficient business processes, both formal and informal ones. Who does not want to feel empowered? What could possibly be wrong with this concept?
When the term empowerment found its way to the workplace, it generated a lot of excitement. The expectation was that adults would be treated as adults, high expectations would be set and achieved, and decision-making and innovation would be accelerated. But putting it into practice proved to be easier said than done, and the excitement soon fizzled out. Why do we fail to achieve empowerment?
The problem isn't with the concept itself or even with support for the concept. There are two fundamental reasons why empowerment hasn't been successful in the past twenty years in our organizations.
First, the information necessary to make decisions never quite finds its way to those front-line managers, leaders, and employees supposedly empowered to make decisions. Either the data is not accessible in real time or it becomes diluted as it trickles its way down from upper management, rendering the information less useful. In some cases, the data is even outdated, causing the decision maker to either make the wrong decision or defer the decision entirely.
The second reason is that without proper training and the right information at the right time, the front-line employees find it too risky to make decisions and throw them back upward. They have not had the opportunity to learn to be resourceful. Both the organizational culture and the level of individual courage fail to support empowerment. Organizational rewards and incentive programs have historically not been aligned with empowerment either. Why risk the visibility of poor decisions and adversely impact one's career? This risk-taking fortitude, or lack thereof, is the core component of Emotional Intelligence, introduced in chapter 3.
As a result of these two factors, empowerment failed to live up to its promise. Companies continued to struggle with poor decisions, too much micromanagement, workplace dissatisfaction, and the "it's not my problem" syndrome. Empowerment was not organically supported in the ecosystem of the organization, nor were the inhabitants ready for it.
"Many companies are attracted by a fantasy version of empowerment and simultaneously repelled by the reality. How lovely to have energetic, dedicated workers who always seize the initiative (but only when "appropriate"), who enjoy taking risks (but never risky ones), who volunteer their ideas (but only brilliant ones), who solve problems on their own (but make no mistakes), who aren't afraid to speak their minds (but never ruffle any feathers), who always give their very best to the company (but ask no unpleasant questions about what the company is giving them back). How nice it would be, in short, to empower workers without giving them any power."
But we are in the second decade of the new millennium now. Organizations have undergone significant changes that bode well for empowerment. The workforce itself has also changed in ways that create a readiness for empowerment. What if empowerment was ready for a comeback? What if now is not only the best time to realize it, but also the most necessary time to realize it? When it was first introduced, perhaps it was just another nice business management concept. Today, empowerment is a business imperative. Harnessing the individual and collective potential of employees is the singular imperative of this decade.
In this book, we will present some very compelling arguments as to why empowerment is finally achievable. More importantly, we will argue why empowerment in 2010 and beyond should be the number one priority of all organizations. We will also discuss how to achieve this empowerment state at both the individual and organization levels.
We will introduce a new term-EPowerment-an amalgam of Empowerment, high Emotional intelligence (EQ), and harnessing the power of the e world (Electronically-enabled accessibility to knowledge, irrespective of where it exists, whether organically in a person, a community, or inorganically in easily accessible sources of knowledge). Collective human knowledge, which allows all of us to live and perform better, is becoming easier to access and will very quickly become freely available.
1. Eliminating barriers to the access of knowledge and information.
2. Creating a fearless, emotionally intelligent workforce that is willing to expand its own potential.
3. Building a culture that practices, nourishes, and rewards employee engagement.
4. Developing business practices that are environmentally responsible and in tune with an age that is coming to terms with global learning.
But why now? Why is now the time for EPowerment?
We will share several reasons, but it is worth noting that, based on the collective set of changes and trends, empowerment has never been more achievable and more necessary than now.
The Changing Face of the Workplace That Was Then
The generations following World War II carved out what was then a new workplace. People went to work and stayed with the same company for years. The cubicle world was born, sometimes resulting in huge rooms filled with faceless workers hunched over typewriters that were eventually replaced by computer screens.
Organizations were marked by rigid hierarchical structures. Careers were considered in terms of climbing the ladder. We measured success by attaining ever-more-impressive titles, expanding our number of direct reports, and, if we were blessed, by finally establishing a foothold in the corner office. Job satisfaction was less important than stability, investing for retirement, and making sure that we never lost our place in line. Staying visible became so important that many people would work for years without even taking a vacation.
Today, things have changed dramatically. The modern employer expects the employee to work within more abstract, undefined parameters, and the employee expects to have all the tools necessary to make better decisions. Waiting for this to occur is no longer feasible: both sides want EPowerment now.
Fifty-six percent of employers in the United States are experiencing a leadership shortage that is impeding their organization's performance. This is not a secret. Fifty-two percent of employees said there were not enough qualified managers in their organizations today and 78 percent reported either that they aren't sure that their companies have enough qualified people to fill future leadership jobs or that they firmly believe that they do not (45 percent of those were of the firm opinion that businesses were going to face a shortage of qualified managers in the future).
If you look at the world today and the world twenty-five to thirty years ago, the rate of change has increased. It's not that things were never changing. The rules were set and established, and if you wanted to be successful in your career or in business, you learned the rules, got good at them, and that was it. That being said, there is a basic set of leadership competencies that continue to be useful and important. They haven't gone away. However, one of the biggest changes is that for many reasons, such as the development of new technologies and the growth of the global economy, the rate of change has continued to accelerate. A world has been created in which the rules are constantly changing. Leaders need to deal with complexity, ambiguity, and rules that aren't clear. The winners will be those who create new rules. There have always been entrepreneurs at the birth of some new technology, but the speed at which this is happening and the constancy of it is astounding. The old model was innovation-plateau-stability-innovation, but now we are in a period where the change is constant and exponential. Our new world requires a whole new level of thinking and operating on the part of leaders in order to thrive in an environment like that. -Bill Hodgetts, VP of corporate leadership development, Fidelity
It is predicted that, moving forward, the average tenure of an employee in an organization will be around five years-this is a rent model. Both employees and employers are essentially renting each other. This is quite different from the ownership model of the past. We all know just how different it feels when you rent something versus owning it. The sense of commitment and ethic is different. Leaders will have to figure out how to create an ownership culture in a renter's world to maximize performance, innovation, and collaboration. They will have to create an empowerment culture. Jane Luciano, VP of global learning and organization development at Bristol-Myers Squibb says to her employees, "While I cannot promise employment, I can promise you employability-you will learn and acquire new skills here that will further your career."
Traditionally, the term "globalization," from a business perspective, has meant that multinational companies have offices and employees all over the world. The meaning of the term then transitioned to incorporate outsourcing. Outsourcing meant that jobs were transferred from domestic locations in the West to other parts of the world because employing workers in other locations was, in most cases, cheaper, faster, and, in some cases, actually better.
Now, globalization is an important issue in a much different context from that of the past fifteen years. Today, globalization must incorporate yet another dimension. It is the idea that we can now instantly connect with more people in more parts of the world with more frequency and in a geographically boundless manner. In many cases, it is not unusual to communicate and collaborate with co-workers, suppliers, vendors, and customers from all over the world on a daily basis in much the same way we historically did when working with fellow employees on a different floor of the same building. And because the playing field (in the context of skills and performance) is somewhat leveled now, there is a tremendous amount of reliance on the ability to work effectively with this tremendously diverse workforce, whose members are all competing for similar goals. So globalization brings diversity. The companies that are going to be most successful will be those whose leaders and teams are best able to work with people from a broad variety of cultures and countries-of-origin in a mobile workforce.
In this century of a global workforce where we interact with not just more people, but more people with diverse backgrounds, our ability to navigate through the complexity of human behavior is paramount. Ruth Kennedy, director of organization development at VF Corporation says, "Leaders will have to have a way to deal with an increasingly global focus. That requires a lot of going with the flow. They must have a foundation to deal with that."
That foundation is our emotions. Embedded in all forms of diversity is the one thing we all have in common-emotions. All humans have the same basic set of emotions that govern thought and behavior. Leaders who understand how to deal with emotion and focus people on a shared strategy will be best able to engage and lead in this flatter global workforce. This will be discussed at length in chapter 3.
Implications of Generational Differences
Any discussion of the nature of work must factor generational changes into the equation. Baby boomers will exert one of the largest demographic influences on the nature of work. This is partly due to their numbers, given that they make up more than 38 percent of the workforce. More importantly, they aren't going anywhere, at least not yet.
The 2008-2009 recession saw huge losses in investment portfolios and retirement accounts worldwide. During that time, major U.S. equity indexes were sharply negative, with the S&P 500 Index losing 37 percent for 2008. As a result, only 13 percent of workers say they are very confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement, the lowest percentage ever recorded. Consequently, huge numbers of people who had planned to retire earlier are now holding on to their jobs for far longer than they had planned. Investment firm T. Rowe Price calculates that the oldest boomers will have to delay retirement by nearly nine years in order to recover what they lost in the market. Research by the Employee Benefits Institute found that just 23 percent of boomers age fifty-five and older have more than $250,000 in savings and investments.
Retirement used to come in steady waves, allowing for smooth transitions as sixty-somethings left the workforce, making room for younger workers. This time, though, the unemployment rate hovered near, and in some states, surpassed 10 percent for the first time in decades-in part because the normal retirement cycle had been disrupted.
Boomers are holding on to their jobs en masse, blocking younger workers from advancing in the workplace. According to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, employment rates for teens and twenty-somethings this past decade have fallen, while the number of Americans aged 55 and older who have jobs has gone up. Just 20 percent of 2009 college graduates who applied for a job during the recession actually found one.
The "War for Talent," discussed heavily prior to the recession, has lost much attention. But studies continue to show that delayed retirement is just that-a delay. There still will be more than seventy million baby boomers who want to leave the workplace and go do something more meaningful with their lives, which in many cases means getting away from corporate America and all the emotional stress that has piled up from that world. These baby boomers still want to be active and even work, but they want to do so under their terms. Flexibility is the key here: 87 percent of boomers say that having flexible work options is important; 83 percent of boomers say that work/life balance matters to them; and two thirds want to work remotely. The boomers' departure from the workplace will have a significant impact on businesses everywhere. Their presence will be missed, creating a void of knowledge, experience, and wisdom. The change will be deeply profound and impact empowerment at both the individual and organization levels. What substitute is there for the hands-on experience and meaningful relationships that take years to cultivate?
By 2019, Generation X (born between 1965 and 1978) will have spent nearly two decades in the workplace. They will be leading a workforce that will have transformed almost beyond recognition. There will be more younger employees in management and leadership roles than ever before. Younger leaders will be occupying roles with an average of nine years less experience than the previous generation. A thirty-year-old must be able to not just tactically perform as a forty-year-old, but to also make sound decisions with the maturity of a forty-year-old. These less experienced professionals will need to find ways to develop this kind of wisdom quickly. Those individuals and organizations that do so will have an upper hand.
Generation Y (born between 1979 and 2000) are just as numerous as the boomers, but that will not prevent the imminent dilemma. Generation Y realizes it is now pointless to put in long years of effort at any one company in exchange for a series of raises and promotions. "Paying your dues, moving up slowly, and getting the corner office-that's going away. In ten years, it will be gone," says Bruce Tulgan, head of the New Haven, Conn. consulting firm Rainmaker Thinking and author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy. It will be less common to discuss success in terms of rank, seniority, or power. Instead, success can be anything that matters to you personally. Moreover, companies are changing as well, making room for more short-term independent contractors, freelancers, and consultants-and fewer traditional employees.
Empowerment for the younger generation is no longer a perk or luxury, it is an expectation. Make no mistake-the best workers will gravitate, consciously or subconsciously, to people and organizations that meet this expectation. This is already happening and is in part what has led to a burst of social entrepreneurship within generation Y. Steve Fritz, president of VF Outlet, part of VF Corporation, recommends, "You need to hear Generation Y out and give them a platform to present ideas." The younger generations are actually smarter and infinitely more resourceful.
The Flynn Effect describes the rise in IQ test scores over generations, across time. This is a worldwide effect representing changes in not only intelligence, but also in certain types of memory. Over the past sixty years, IQ scores have risen by twenty points. This means that a child of average intelligence back in the 1930s would be classified as mildly retarded today. The leading explanation is that environmental changes arose from effects of modernization, things like intellectually demanding work, more use of technology, and more attention paid to children. This means that people get more practice at manipulating abstract concepts. We are evolving to adapt to complexity!
Excerpted from EPowerment by IZZY JUSTICE Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Izzy Justice. Excerpted by permission.
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