Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Every Job Can be Engaging and Empowering

Every job, yes EVERY job, can be engaging and empowering. And every job should be too.

We all have skills and talents no matter how niche or unique. And we all have ideas about how our jobs could be more efficient, easier, faster, more streamlined, more focused, bring in more dollars, get better customers and give better service if we were just given the opportunity.

I'm not sure if you've ever watched Undercover Boss but it is one of my favourite shows. Every time I watch it's the same great story of a boss learning how to engage employees by empowering them to share their ideas and talents.

The show starts with management concerned about something. They believe their employees don't care about company profits or about running an efficient and successful business. They think these things don't matter to their employees. Often they think the employees are to blame for the company's struggles so they go undercover to sniff out the problem...

In every episode the employees say the same things about their company's management: Management doesn't get it. They don't care. They don't know what we go through. We don't matter to them.

So the employees talk amongst themselves, especially with the "new employee" they're training. Because of course, this "new employee" is curious and open to hearing their thoughts. As the CEO listens, he hears new ideas and new ways of working. He uncovers solutions to existing problems and new innovations to forge alternate business opportunities, support disenfranchised customers or bring in more profits. And how amazing is it that these solutions have been there all along, right in his own workforce. Possibly even riding the same elevator. All he had to do was ask... and then listen.

See what I mean? What a warm and fuzzy, feel-good reality show.
What? You think it sounds too much like a fantasy?

Well then, what do you think happens to all those great employees after the fact? I've often wondered. Once they are given permission to be empowered at work and once they complete the training some of them are offered, do they still stay with the company? Many probably do, at least for as long as they remain engaged and empowered in their role. And yes, some probably move on after a while to take the next step in their career path.

But is this kind turnover really a cause for concern in the grand scheme of things? Company problems were solved, profits went up, customers were impressed and most amazingly, an employee's life was forever changed for the better because someone saw the value they could bring to the world and empowered them to share it with the company.

I'm not sure about you, but the last time someone with authority at work told me I was valuable and gave me an opportunity to share my idea with the company, I was on cloud 9.

For weeks.

And I showed up on time.

I stayed late.

And took short lunches.

I'm sorry, tell me again Mr. CEO, what was the problem you were worried about?

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