You may have read the recent Harvard Business Review Blog from Adrian C. Ott regarding Delta and their US Army passengers and the connection with employee engagement.
Adrian makes a clear case of rigidity within management structures that make it very difficult for employees to make their own decisions and choices. She quite rightly points out the performance metrics, KPI’s and such are now so ingrained that managers (at all levels) are focusing too much on these goals and almost forcing their employees to ensure they and only they are met.
Employee empowerment – the hidden gem
This is where, we believe, that the role of employee empowerment comes to the fore in terms of both employee and customer engagement. If an employee is empowered (they have the right tools, authority, autonomy and support) to make their own decisions, situations such as that described in Adrian’s blog may have never happened.
There are some key points that are important for empowerment to happen:
- Employees must have the right tools;
- Their manager must trust them;
- Managers should give them the authority and autonomy to make decision;
- Colleagues and managers must support employees.
To unlock huge potential within your organisation, the first step is understanding how empowered your employees are. I’m sure you will have heard of Gil Perez, Christie’s legendary doorman in New York – this is the person that, after 9/11, Christie’s clients worldwide reached out to, to make sure he and his family were OK. It’s unlikely that anybody contacted Christie’s headquarters to make sure the building was still standing but they did enquire about the person who had made an impression on their lives.
I was talking with a representative of an international hospitality company recently about this very subject – I wanted to share with you his thinking and how they are changing their culture and instilling empowerment from the top down:
“…we are in the service business and as part of the culture of the company we are encouraging our people to take decisions and to do whatever is necessary to exceed guest expectations, we want them to break the rules if necessary (within moral and ethical boundaries) and go the extra mile with our guest.”
I cannot stress enough how adamant he was that, as an organisation, they wanted their employees to do whatever was necessary. How refreshing is that?
If Delta empowered their employees and trusted them to make the ‘right’ decisions, I have no doubt the outcome of the situation with their US Army passengers would have been very different (in a positive way!).