‘Finding our voice’ – a route to greater employee engagement and empowerment?

October 2010

When Elisabeth Goodman first left full time employment after 21 years in a FTSE 100 company, and a previous 4 years in a similar corporate environment, she had an exhilarating sense of freedom and opportunity to exercise her talents and wits in whatever way she wished.  Fifteen months on she’s very pleased with the choices she has made, and the new path she has carved out for herself as Owner and Principal Consultant with RiverRhee Consulting.

However, her conversations with those who are employees and her experience of running work-shops, seminars and training courses on process improvement, knowledge management and change management, continue to convince her that employees will be more ‘empowered’, more engaged and more motivated in their work if, as advocated by Stephen R. Covey1, they are encouraged and helped to ‘find their voice’.

One way we can ‘find our voice’ is by re-thinking our careers2.

Those of us working for employees should think about what career paths we want to steer in life – and engage our line managers in personal review & development discussions accordingly.  Thinking in this way can help us to view our roles within the organisation differently and perhaps take more of a leadership, creative and continuous improvement role within the context of our remit.  It can help us to approach our work with a ‘self-employed’ attitude.

Those of us who have worked for the same employers for a long length of time, and are now branching out into something new, can find ourselves bravely re-examining what unique offerings we can bring to our potential new employers, or customers.  It may be the first time in a long while that we realize we have a choice, and how difficult that choice can be.

‘Do more great work’ by Michael Bungay Stanier3 is a very good, exercise-filled guide to discovering what’s important to us in our work and how we might get to do more of it.

We can / should take responsibility for ‘Topgrading’ 4 ,5ourselves

Bradford D Smart advocates that we should each take responsibility for finding those positions or roles where we can be “A” players, instead of being satisfied with playing a “B/C” role.  He argues that, in the right role, we can all be A players.

He suggests that people perform periodical personal career reviews of their competencies relative to the marketplace, and that we cultivate networks of knowledgeable people as well as reading widely and attending seminars and trade-shows to help us with this.

Managers also of course have a key role in developing employee engagement and empowerment6,7

It’s a sad paradox that in difficult times, many of the people that get laid off are those who have the knowledge that could help the organisation out of recession.

Covey et al make a number of references to how Anne Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox in 2001, managed to turn the organisation around.  One of the key ways she did this was by making fewer people redundant than others might have done, and by appealing directly to people throughout the organisation for ideas.  It may seem obvious but, as the authors point out, “only knowledgeable people can create the solutions you need to succeed in a crisis.”

Closing thoughts

In a recent blog based on 2 articles from the Observer on employee engagement8, Elisabeth Goodman makes the point that companies’ focus on employee engagement and on the tools to facilitate and measure this engagement are important, but will only work if the people involved are: doing the jobs that they enjoy; supported in the skills that they need to do them effectively; ‘empowered’ (or have control over) how they do their jobs and can improve them; and have a belief (endorsed by their managers) that what they are doing is worthwhile.

RiverRhee Consulting approach to working with organisations, and running workshops, seminars and training courses is to develop people’s capabilities and encourage them and their managers to use their knowledge and expertise so that they are ‘empowered’ to be creative, and be leaders in finding ways to continuously improve their work.

Related Blogs & Notes

  1. “The 8th Habit. From effectiveness to greatness”, by Stephen R. Covey. Simon & Schuster Sound Ideas,1980.
  2. Building strong personal career paths
  3. ‘Do more great work’, by Michael Bungay Stanier
  4. Topgrading
  5. “Topgrading” by Bradford D Smart, Portfolio, 2005
  6. Achieving more value with less
  7. “Predictable results in unpredictable times”, by Stephen R. Covey, Bob Whitman and Breck England. FranklinCovey Publishing, 2009.
  8. Employee engagement – some interesting data and perspectives for Lean and Six Sigma practitioners
  9. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting: enhancing team effectiveness using process improvement, knowledge management and change management.  Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, and about Elisabeth Goodman.

1 Comment

Filed under Newsletter, pre-2011 newsletters

One response to “‘Finding our voice’ – a route to greater employee engagement and empowerment?

  1. Good ideas. Thanks and I agree that employee engagement is directly linked to empowerment. The more empowerment, the more engagement, the better the results.


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