Salaries, perks and benefits.

In an article for itbusiness.ca, Empey (2015), points out how a company offers a benefit is “committed towards it’s employees’ “employee work-life balance”.  This company goes beyond offering this app as a perk to embellish it’s workforce’s life and attitude towards work rather than being bogged down by household chores on a daily basis; the company actually gets it’s employees’ engagement by placing it’s trust in their hands by making them shareholders. As such, if the company makes profit, everyone benefits from that work, and the consequential benefits reaped therefrom.

Garcia (2015) in her writeup for the Chicgo Tribune, on the other hand, points out political efforts to weaken the unions and potentially put a referendum to the people of Illinois along the following lines: “”should The paradox in this situatiobusiness employees be forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment?”

n would turn into a conundrum if companies like the example stated in the previous section were to establish throughout the State and were sufficiently empowered to make the State richer. On the other hand, one cannot ignore the possibility of companies with short-term benefit in mind initially estabish office in the State to make a quick buck at the expense of the State and leave the people to pay off the losses incurred in the process. Why unions are required in the first place is another subsidiary question, without having to refer to the mastter as the proverbial can of worms, that we shall return to on another occasion. And yet, companies of the private sector, whose principal benefit it is to make profit, which acts as the oxygen that they require to run, are leaving the State of Ilinois so that they can reduce one of the overheads, namely salaries paid to the workforce. In these tough times of economic turmoil, which greed has brought about in most economies of the world, one feels that if these companies must survive, it is only by moving to safer waters, until the storm is through and the dust settles thereafter. This could potentially take a number of years: a fact, which no one even wants to start thinking about. What cannot be denied in any case, is that whilst empowering local authorites, the move by Governor Rauner of Illinois could lead to legal questions being raised as to the authority and jurisdiction of the laws that are already in place. That said, one must not forget that other States have found ways to institute this law without violating any other law, so Illinois, if it does go through with the passing and execution of this law, be it only in pockets, will be the twenty-sicth out of the fifty, according to Robert (2015).

Whilst Illinois is faced with it’s own issues, companies based in California seem to making newer and more innovative inroads into empowering their employees. In so doing, Harrell remodelling seems to have achieved it’s goal of achieving a 100% Employee Stock Ownership Plan, which was initiated at the beginning of this millenium.

On the 7th of May 2015, Paton of Business Day Live reported that the US Department of Trade and Industry had changed it’s scoring system whereby “broad-based empowerment and employee share ownership schemes will no longer count as much as individual share ownership on the black economic empowerment (BEE) scorecard.” According to the understanding of some legal experts and counsellors, this “turnaround”, to coin a term, will negatively affect many a scheme that organisations initiated following the release of the previous version of the scorecard. Others, however, opine that the newly introduced measure will not have any adverse effect on the companies because the scoring was already done as per the new measurements in the past.

Alexander(2015), in his writings on the www.hrmagazine.co.uk page, has shared a three-step approach to initiate what he terms as an “employee campaign”, and points out that the three pillars of his suggested approach: purpose, empowerment and meaningful reward can only hold together with the “cement” of communication.

Taking that view another step further, Leidwinger (2015) encourages companies to “promote strong securitx practices through employee empowerment”. This, says the author, can be achieved by “switching the focus from preventing security breaches to educating employees and empowering them” as part of her series entitled “Five Important Truths about Digital Workspaces in a Dangerous World”

Inasmuch as empowerment is concerned, it must be noted that such measures introduced with any amount of ulterior motives, which are not clearly communicated to the staff can backfire. And we all know what Murphy said in his law: “if anything can go wrong, it will.” But then again, I ask myself, if the result is wrong because the modus operandi was wrong, then, because negative times negative is positive, is the result right, or because two wrongs don’t make a right, the result is still wrong? Either way, it is fundamental, when communicating the objectives of an employee empowerment initiative within an organisation, no matter how big or small, it is right to be open to the point of transparency about everything. Another thing that is right is that if promises are made whilst bringing about change, and transparency is maintained during the change, then in respect of empowered employees, such promises must be kept.

Reference:

B. Alexander,(2015),”Employees: look after them, and they’ll look after everything else “,HR magazine, MA Business and Leisure Limited, Dinton, UK, available at  http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hro/features/1151294/employees-look-after-them-and-theyll-look-after-everything-else accessed on 02.6.2015

M. Empey,(2015),”How Influitive uses IT resources to powerfully boost employee engagement”,itbusiness.ca, available at http://www.itbusiness.ca/blog/how-influitive-uses-it-resources-to-powerfully-boost-employee-engagement/55382 accessed on 25.5.2015

M.Garcia,(2015),”Gov. Rauner wants Illinois to have right-to-work zones, which unions decry“,Chivago Tribune, available at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-bruce-rauner-union-right-to-work-met-20150208-story.html#page=1, accessed on 26.05.2015.

S.Leidwinger,(2015),”Truth #5 Embracing Employee Empowerment Can Promote Strong Security Practices”,CIO Media, IDG Enterprise, Connecticut, USA, available at http://www.cio.com/article/2919022/security0/truth-5-embracing-employee-empowerment-can-promote-strong-security-practices.html accessed on 02.6.2015

C.Paton,(2015),”BEE Code change shocks Industry“,Business Day BDLive, Times Media (Pty) Ltd., Johannesburg, South Africa, available at http://www.bdlive.co.za/business/trade/2015/05/07/bee-code-change-shocks-industry accessed on 02.6.2015

A. Robert,(2015),”Policy experts line up in debate over right-to-work zones in Illinois“,Legal Newsline Legal Journal, available at http://www.commfidence.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=248&action=edit&message=10 accessed on 26.5.2015

 

 

Is change management more about change of management?

Employee empowerment starts with being an exemplary leader. An exemplary leader let’s go of the control that came with his/her position in the management: the power to decide; and relinquishing the power to decide into the very hands of one’s “subordinates” is called delegating, whereas no delegating in most cases, in our day and age, leads to change of management.

Smothering the decision-making power by closely guarding it, will reveal the insecurities of the manager, who has all to gain by becoming a good leader, but how many managers really do believe in that? How many potential leaders lose their potential by wanting to “do things right, rather than doing the right thing”, in the unforgettable words of Drucker (2001).

So we have seen that change management, employee empowerment, organisational communication, branding and reputation, leadership and much, much more are a lot more interdependent than it would seem on the surface. What’s more, one just has to add the electronic communication facet to it all, and today’s manager’s seat feels much more like a fighter pilot’s seat in the middle of war, in enemy territory than much else!

Childers (2015) cited the well known adage, “the more things change, the more they remain the same”, in her article before going on to concede to the simple fact that realising the truth of that statement is “not a happy thought for a board of directors or an association looking to change (…) management firm.”  The author then goes on to szggest three aspects of change management that are fundamental, she says, to the change being potentially, and decisively positive. The three points are:

– Begin at the beginning;

– Work the details;

– Red flags and Deal breakers. (Ibid)

That said, those are aspects that one must bear in mind whilst looking to change the management. But what should one do to avoid things from slipping down to such depths and from having to take such drastic actions at a substantial expense to all parties involved, without the guarantee that the devil you don’t yet know is better or worse than the one you are so eager to get rid of!

Take a look at this article about Namibian Railways and you will find that this novel idea of employee empowerment seems to start on the wrong foot. The unions seem to be protecting the employees’ (and their own interests) by ensuring that they remain employed by the organisation, whereas the employer is trying to turn them into independent/free lancing service providers who will not be on their payroll and allow them to invest the funds elsewhere.

Shirking responsibility or ensuring ones own subsistence is by far not the way to exemplify oneself as a leader. Without leadership, change management will also be faced with resistance and if views are diametrically opposed, negotiations become that much more difficult. Is a mediator required? The question is: are all concerned parties prepared to selflessly mediate in the best interest of the people they employ and represent? If the answer is yes, at the very risk of the management having to hand over the reins of power to their employees of today, or the representing unions being made extinct due to the adoption of their members of the entrepreneurial solution put forward by TransNamib, then the need for mediation will itself become extinct.

In this article, Dwyer (2015), submits six preconditions which will contribute to the success of a change (programme/ process).  He enumerates them as follows:

– The management and the workforce must accept that change is required and that it should be correctly managed, communicated and all the stakeholding parties must be involved by empathic persuasion rather than coercion.

– Being aware that the change they will undergo is going to affect them. The author points out “Never forget the greatest motivational tool is to be able to respond to the question, “What’s in it for ME?”  For most individuals, motivation is about achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement and personal growth.” and encourages, “the change message address the motivational opportunities.”

– The change message must be announced from the very early stages of the decision being taken and then be repeated very often for all of it’s parts to sink-in.

– Honesty and project management techniques are two of the pillars that the success of any change depends on.

– The change leadership must not only have all the qualities to satisfy the above, but must also be motivated themselves to make sure that they carry out to the end what they set out to do initially and to make sure that all that was promised during the course of the change be duly given.

And when it comes to “Employee Empowerment Zones” as Rauner, the Governor of the American State of Illinois put it, he is not really far from what TransNamib was suggesting for their workforce.  No matter how one goes about it, where it goets suggested, and what name one gives it, the most fundamental objective of such proposals remains to “save money” – from going to the workforce, and redirecting it into the pockets of the handful of decision-making stakeholders.

In all cases of change, there is resistance. In some cases, say in a country like Luxembourg, it will be easier to implement at the national level by breaking it down into local subsections and making the change look like a privilege. I know what you are thinking: I remember my parents doing that with my siblings and me! If you are a parent, you know that you did have to resort to it at some point…with more or less success. In a city like London, or in Illinois or even in Namibia, it might seem a tad more difficult to say the least.

Here’s an example of resistance in change mamagement: Greenwich Time report that “even Town Hall cannot fight Town Hall” as it exposes the difficulties the paper-driven administration is having as it tries to carve a more technological, less paper-driven and decidedly what seems to be like a disgruntling process.

Now there were two approaches in implementing such change: you either force it down the throat of those who will have to undergo change and face the music when their time comes, or you take the project management approach and let the various processes take their course, whilst explaining why the change is good and answering the questions with patience and self-control. Thus, you also dilute the disgruntlement over a longer period by letting new habits replace old ones and dissolving the rumble caused by change resisters into the grind of “positive communication”. What is positive communication, you might ask? That will be answered a little further below.

Whilst industrial giants like Airbus and HP are busy putting themselves through a change at the management level, “Prowers Medical Center tackled a variety of items related to patient care and expansion” (Frost, 2015), it also underwent a huge change programme in 2014, but the CEO of the organisation put employee empowerment, being inspired from the book The Florence Prescription by Joe Tye as “the number one” achievement. The author of the book visited the hospital during the course of the change, and shared his knowledge as to the purpose of the hospital, each employee’s role and how they could take it’s ownership.

From this example to empowerment, it takes only a small jump, I thnk. With that in mind, Kurane (2015), suggests a mneumonic technique to remember the 5 ways he prescibes for empowering employees – or anyone for that matter. In my opinion, empowering is like peeling an orange: there is an ideal place, and it depends on what you want to achieve. For a bare minimum effort, or as a newbie, you will start anywhere and get the fruit out; the more experienced practitioner of the art will challenge himself – or herself, and share the collected/ analysed data. The author’s five-point empowerment mantra is, “Purpose, Ownership, Wins, Entrust and Recognition” (Ibid). Look at it carefully, and you will quickly find POWER in the formula.

Purpose: The purpose of change is usually clear to those who are in it’s favour, but it is invariably missed by those who resist it. Rather than confronting them with the reasons that brought about change, it is easier to get their buy-in by advocating it’s benefits. In doing most things, the involved parties can be persuaded and inspired to join if they know “what’s in it for them” rather than what they can bring to the effort. They know best what they can bring; they also know that unless they get something in ecvhange of their efforts, the extent of their participation will, at most,  be minimalistic. Buy in of all parties can be achieved by proper, positive communication. Positive communication, at any level, I have found, requires:

– active listening,

– positive language,

– concise language,

– specific message,

– empathetic attitude,

– taking of responsibility,, and

– being helpful.

In sum, change, when brought about, must be properly managed with communicational processes that do not reflect the same attitude that caused it to come about.  As governments have to govern well at the risk of seeing their adversaries being voted into power, managements have to manage well at the risk of being confronted with change. Communication is as important to avoid change as it is during or even after change take place; internal communication can be compared to the spine that holds the segments of an orange together, whereas the peel can be seen as the external communication of an organisation.

Reference:

Childers.A.,(2015),”Hiring New Management”, The Cooperator – The Co-op & Condo Monthly, Yale Robbins, Inc, New York, USA, available at http://cooperator.com/articles/2878/1/Hiring-New-Management/Page1.html accessed on 30.1.2015

Drucker.P.,(2001),”The Essential Drucker”,PerfectBound, Harper-Collims Publications, USA available at https://familiapinto.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/drucker-peter-f1-the-essential-drucker.pdf accessed on 30.1.2015

Dwyer,K,(2015),”6 steps to managing change in your business”,Mortgage Broker News.ca – Key Media Pty Ltd, available at http://www.mortgagebrokernews.ca/news/6-steps-to-managing-change-in-your-business-187576.aspx accessed on 30.1.2015

Frost,C.,(2015),”PMC moves forward”, Lamar Ledger, Colorado, USA available at http://www.lamarledger.com/ci_27277447/pmc-moves-forward accessed on 4.2.2015

Kurane, D.,(2015),”Five ways to empower your employees”,Standard Group, India available at http://zeenews.india.com/news/education/five-ways-to-empower-your-employees_1533859.html

 

 

Organisational Communication – past, current and future

The World Bank had a 5-year Program between 2006 and 2011 called the CommGAP (Communication for Governance and Accountability Program).  It was aimed at providing government officials the required assistance to enable them to build “public spheres” on the one hand, and to use communication in governance reform programs. Now, what are public spheres, you might ask, and rightly so!. Well, it is the application of communication approaches by amplifying citizen voice, promotion free, independent and plural media systems in a bid to help governments communicate better with their citizens.  Personally, I find that to be a rather tall order, especially when the communication has to be initiated by the authorities. We all know how much political leaders love to hear the sound of their own voice and it only takes enough patience – if you can muster it – to sit through one televised debate session between two or more politicians of different – not necessarily opposed parties – to understand that no matter how much money the UK’s Department for International Development was going to inject into this program, this initiative would not be able to cover more than a fraction of the world’s countries, all of which require such initiatives on an individual level and for those individual initiatives to be monitored, guided and assisted by this one.  In the 37 events which were organised through this program, seven events (19%) were held outside the United States, and 78% were held in Washington. With such close attention being paid to centralising the decision making process, there evidently is a disconnect between the preachings and the practices – even though the silver lining around that cloud could be the fact that the organisations involved were active in other countries – but were mainly headquartered in the USA or the western world – as if to say, “if you want our money to learn to communicate better amongst yourselves, then you either have to be connected with one of us, for reasons of credibility, or have to come and sell yourselves to us on our turf.” Put in simpler words and loosely translated from Luxembourgish: “What a farmer does not know, he shall not eat.” In the unforgettable sagacious words of Hope (n.d.) “A bank is a place that will lend you money if you prove that you don’t need it.” and Frost (n.d.) “A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain.” And this holds true for all financial institutions which fall under the definition of “a bank”.

CommGAP may well have been a commendable initiative which deserved it’s share of applaud for the noble objectives set forth when it all started, but banks being run by humans, they do reflect their mindset and their approach as well as their prerogatives and priorities. The usual excuse is, “we live in a capitalist society” or “in our day and age, there is no such thing as a “free” anything”. My question is: who is to be held responsible for that? There could only be one answer to that: the west – Europe and everywhere the European has gone: to the American continent, the African continent, the Australian continent. In other words, greed has been spread by the greedy, capitalist initiator and spread by the industrial revolution in the name of progress and civilisation.

Part of civilisation is communication: and progress in communication has taken us to the point of preferring to speak to each other face-to-face via devices such as smartphones, tablets and screens of some sort or the other. I do not advocate the abandoning of all progress, but knowing that you can make the best of the presence of the other in the present moment than to try to catch hold of them through trnasparent screen walls of your own making. What is more, these walls are getting thinner and their sound proofing exponentially better with every passing generation! So much so, that the resulting silence is increasingly deafening and people have to resort to “invade your privacy” in order to know more about you.

Mandeya (2015) advocates working “inside-out” in a bid to project a vibrant image of your brand as he submits that “t is the internal audience that gives that unique expression of who you are as an organisation” (Ibid). He even points out that “Communication is the lifeline of an organisation (…) poor communication affects an organisation’s operations and hinders it from achieving its goals.”

It is therefore increasingly important, in our day and age, when communication is the basis of a (physical or moral) person’s existence, and that it is increasingly difficult for smaller organisations and the vast majority amongst us to control, not only is it important to make conscious efforts aimed at projecting our brand in a positive light, but also to prevent giving lieu to any dependency whereby the above-mentioned brand may be in danger of being soiled with an indellible stain of disrepute.

Let’s all resolve to make a conscious effort towards ensuring and maintaining that our own brand and that of those who are closest to us remain as pure, immaculate and clean as the proverbial “driven snow”.  And unlike most other resolutions made in the beginning of previous years, do something tangible everyday to consciously see to it that our brand (name) avoids disrepute like a triple glazed window prevents us from being affected by the bitterness bite of a cold wind.

Reference:

R. Mandeya,(2015),”The Power of Branding the Human Capital”, Zimbabwe Independent, available at http://www.theindependent.co.zw/2015/01/09/power-branding-human-capital/ accessed on 15.1.2015

 

 

 

Demotivated employees? Who is responsible? Who will pay the price?

Here’s another one of those questions similar to the proverbial chicken and egg question. When the workforce is demotivated to the point of burnout, who is to be held responsible and who will pay the price of prying them out of the trough? Is it the employer who let the situation get this far? Is it the employee, who is contractually bound to fulfil their role notwithstanding the pressures that they are confronted with and subjected to? Is it the union, whose role it is to stand by the employee in situations of difficulty? Is it the state, who have passed laws with suffiiciently large loopholes to allow the employers and employees alike to benefit from?

That said, there was probably some sort of an answer in that Globe was cited as the “Top Company to work for” across the Asian continent at 2014 edition of the Asia Corporate Excellence and Sustainability Awards” in Manila on the 9th of December last.

ACES recognises leadership and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) in companies throughout the continent and Globe has so many programs and initiatives aimed at promoting the employee by staying with the company that one is tempted to ask oneself  why is this only a first for them?! But then again, the old adage says it, “better late than never.”

For those who wish to achieve such levels of performance and competitiveness, Zeinoun  (2014) in his article, provides us with some initial measures for companies who have thus far placed their workforce somewhere near the bottom of the beneficiaries ladder such as offering more positive than negative feedback, being more flexible for employers, giving the employees the opportunity for personal growth, and using monetary gain as the proverbial carrot.

Linders (2014) in an interview for InfoQ gave Belgian VDAB’s CEO the opportunity to voice his belief that organisations can increase their agility by letting empowered employees be the drivers of their own careers. It is basically taking a liberal approach of “commodities market’s” competitiveness approach to the “job market” turning the job seeker into nothing more than a commodity. The question in this case is, what is in the best interest of the job seeker and his employer in any context?  For him to be a resource (read human resource) or a commodity? And who will stand to gain in either case in the longer run?

If we consider the terms etymologically, as per the Oxford Dictionary we get:

commodity: a useful or valuable thing

resource: a A stock or supply of assets that can be drawn on by an organisation to function effectively.

The questions now have changed to:

Is allowing control over one’s own career really a move that empowers the job seeker or is it allowing anarchy to seep through to the job market, as it becomes just yet another case of belief in the old Darwinian theory, i.e. survival of the fittest?  And what will the society do about the less fit then? Banish them? Push them beyonf the borders of “their” economy? On the other hand, is referring to the “human resource” of yesteryear as a “commodity” to be considered a relegation by yet another step on the organisational management ladder?

So is VDAB’s CEO voicing an opinion only a civil servant’s dream that will eventually be lost on the meandering corridors of bureaucratic interpretation allowing employers to make the best of the gaping loopholes left open by the interruption of this, at first novel and noble-sounding initiative?

In responding to VDAB’s CEO, I am tempted to quote Slaven’s (2014) suggested six-step approach to implement strategy:

Now State, Future State,Planning Stage, Implementation Stage, Review Stage and Change Management whilst taking into account the fact that the bigger the organisation, the longer it takes for change to be sustainably implemented, and that duration is further lengthened when the organisation is a Public Service organisation such as the Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding (Flemish Agency for Employment and Vocational Training) .

As in the past, it has been known to most if not all of us that when a leadership team comes into power, as was the case in previous ministerial reshuffles or when changes were provoked by new elections, the entire team of support, adninistrative staff went through a change. An example in case is the ousting of the City Manager of San Jose, California, USA, when a new mayor was voted in by the city’s inhabitants.  In the words of Rosemberg (2014), “Shikada’s eventual replacement was not unexpected, as new mayors often tap their own city manager, but Liccardo surprised some by moving to end the city manager’s contract six months early.” and the author continues further by pointing out, “The move signals the mayor-elect is beginning to line up a team of leaders that would lay out his fiscally prudent, technology-focused and urban vision for the nation’s 10th-largest city.”

However, taking Slaven’s suggestion into account, if the new mayor only gets a single terms, his six-step strategy might have to be compressed within the duration of his maiden tenure at the helm of the city council. However, if he does show promise and/or failing the appearance of a better candidate on the horizon, the foreseen strategy of change shall not only have time to be sustainably implemented but might even bring some results that he undoubtedly hopes will play in his favour at the end of his current term.

However, if things did not go according to plan, and if he, in his turn, were to be ousted by the people in the next democratic voting process, the demotivation will not only be amongst the employees of the council, his own support staff but also amongst the citizens as they will ultimately end up paying for the leader’s miscalculations and absence of the expected results. In extreme cases, the city might well be just another addition to the long list of ghost towns known to the nation as the inhabitants will wander off to greener pastures in search of better opportunity in a bid to minimise their losses of the amassed earnings and/or assets. Sooner or later, it is the State, which ends up paying for such blunders as was also the case with those banks which did end up getting government backing following the sub-prime crisis, but to name one in a series of recent financial crises, which most of us will remember only too well for many a year to come. Another question that arises from this observation is: have these lessons taught us to improve our attitude and approach in any way?

One question has been eternally and universally valid by it’s pertinence at all times: “Was there ever a time that was more uncertain than today?” (Llopis, 2014) The author then continues “Are leaders prepared to manage change in ways that strengthen the teams around them?” And we are comforted by the fact that it is not just another philosophical thinker than yours truly, who will end up asking more questions and thereby unthreading more seams than he has managed to close. But then again, if I were to start sewing the holes back, your garment will only seem to be a lopsided and ill-fitting one.

Being a commodity, the jobseeker becomes passive and lets the government, the ecxonomy and the market take it’s course wherein he will find himself a little niche and stay put for the rest of his career as most civil servants are reputed to do. If the jobseeker will take his career in his own hands, then the entire job market will resemble and ape the economy: they will make hay while the sun shines and leave the economy in need of a drink when the shit hits the fan.  Being entrepreneurial brings it’s own set of features which must be taken into account.  Like most other processes, analogies can be drawn in other management fields, e.g. investment, wherein when you are being passive, you put your money in secure bonfs and stable stocks to reap in a smaller percentage of longer term earnings. By becoming active, these investors take control of the market making it even more unpredictable than the numbers of a roulette to a casino newbie. If that were to be translated to the job market, no one can even begin to imagine the havoc that such erratic market behaviour could possibly cause to the market and the economy at large, especially when the initiative can only be guaranteed a start and not any length of sustainable implementation or existence.

Initiatives such as the appointment of a new management team at the helm of a company after two years of below par results leads to such aborted efforts at the organisational level and can lead to the workforce feeling disorientated in a more or less lengthy transition period even though the successor is appointed amongst the ranks. Experience and points of view being different, it is quite evident that

To add to the Slaven’s six steps, responsible leaders who aim to become change agents must be mindful of the five bases which they should cover with regard to their team in the process of change:

clarity of issues, embrace diversity of thought, strengthening the ecosystem, create a competitive advantage and encourage critical and strategic thinking. (Lloris,2014)

As for the Chief of Marketing of Wendy’s recently appointed, and other marketing experts who enjoy their positions in various organisations, here are a few tips from CEOs and other experts brought to us by Whitler (2014).  The tips comprise of the following points:

– systematically lay the onus on innovation;

– having better access to data and information than the competition;

– putting oneself in the consumer’s shoes;

– driving customers awareness and understanding by maintaining a two-way contact communicative contact with them;

– creating interaction rather than investing in advertising slots;

– systematically analysing anyonymous consumer behaviour;

– making your presentations more professional.

Although the aim of being a good marketer is primarily to sell products and services of their organisation by increasing their visibility, the sales in turn, will have a direct impact on the morale levels of the workforce by keeping them occupied and earning top dollar and increasing the chances of their retention within the organisation. It will still be the consumer who will pay, but he will pay in exchange of quality goods and services rather than to raise the morale of demotivated employees.

It is by being an exemplary team of emplyers that organisations acquire recognition from consumers, increasing their market share but also of their peers and receive awards such as the ABLF Business Innovator Award 2014 bestowed upon Yes Bank of the UAE as per this article.

So, as Murphy (2014) puts it, “At its root, change management is about persuading people to break with the status quo.” Because as he goes on to explain, “getting employees to accept change is easier when the situation is dire. (…) But when employees get comfortable because everything in the organisation is good, they get complacent with the status quo.”

So while innovation is aimed at improving the organisation’s condition, it inherently also improves the workforce’s condition and prevents their motivation, the whole being remunerated manifold by the customer base, whereas if the workforce becomes demotivated, then the same customer base and many more take on their role of taxpayers to finance “remotivation” efforts, whilst questioning in a bid to criticise the organisation’s management, but mainly profit-sharing approach leading to a change at it’s helm.

Reference:

B. Linders (2014), “Emplowered People Control Their own Career”, C4Media Inc., available le at http://www.infoq.com/news/2014/12/empowered-people-career

G. Llopis (2014),”Five Ways Leaders Strengthen And Prepare Their Teams for Change”, forbes.com, PARS International Corp, New York, USA available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2014/12/18/5-ways-leaders-strengthen-and-prepare-their-teams-for-change/

M. Murphy,(2014), “The Status Quo will kill Change Management Efforts”,forbes.com,PARS International Corp, New York, USA available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2014/12/18/the-status-quo-will-kill-change-management-efforts/

M. Rosenberg,(2014),”San Jose city manager ousted as new mayor starts leadership changes”,  San Jose Mercury News,Bay Area News Group, California, USA, available at http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_27156696/san-jose-city-manager-ousted-new-mayor-starts

F. Slaven (2014),”Living the Strategy Dream”, CIO Executive Council, IDG Communications, available at http://www.cio.com.au/article/562582/living-strategy-dream/

K. Whitler,(2014),”Advice for Marketing Leaders From CEOs and Other Experts”, forbes.com, PARS International Corp, New York, USA available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberlywhitler/2014/12/16/advice-for-marketing-leaders-from-ceos-and-other-experts/

P. Zeinoun (2014),”How to inspire unmotivated workers”,BrandPost, LogMein Rescue, Boston (MA), USA available at http://www.pcworld.com/article/2855645/how-to-inspire-unmotivated-workers.html

Employee empowerment erosion: How? Who? Why?

I first learned about erosion in my geography class at school. It was when we learned about how streams find their way, eroding and smoothening rocks, to join other flowing currents to form rivers and invariably find their way into a sea.  So erosion is “the gradually gnawing away”.

When one speaks of employee empowerment being eroded, it is generally caused by it’s replacement by the age-old belief that a company’s only resource is the money it has. Today, we know that this is further from the truth than the furthest galaxy known to us is from us. It does render having other resources, just like these very “other” resources make it possible for the company to have money. So, the circle of this argument is about as vicious as the one about the egg and the chicken.

However, when service is scripted and procedures become more important than the “needs” or as I like to call them desires of customers, without as much as sounding sincere and are merely read or recited by heart rather than enquired by the workforce, the client base tends to become wary of the quality of the service offered by the company.

In days bygone, a car used to be repaired, now spare parts are replaced. The result is a higher cost not only of “repairs”, but also in terms of the consequences of replacing rather than repairing. A mechanic used to listen to the car’s motor and body and not only diagnose the problem but come up with the easiest and most cost-effective and efficient solution – for himself and the customer. Now, it just get’s connected to a computer and the mechanic replaces the part altogether without as much as wondering what could be wrong with it. The onus of the diagnosis has shifted from the person to a machine.

When I was ill and went to the doctor, I was given a thorough auscultation whilst the x-ray machines, blood tests and other gadgetry remained either for the richer patients or for exceptional use; what was better, I usually came away without any medical prescription beside the odd couple of tablets which cured symptoms such as fever or a syrup for the cough. Today, the auscultation mostly consists of x-ray images, a blood test of some sort, and the patient feels insulted if the prescription doesn’t consist of at least half a page of prescribed medicine, another battery of tests and even some other novel and innovative way for the doctor to prove his ability to think out of the box.

What I am trying to get at is the fact that the advent of gadgetry in the professional world has made our jobs so impersonal and the onus shifted so much on to them, with the chains of humans getting longer and longer in the process so that the responsibility that doctors used to take has turned into a slithering blame, and given time, the destination of that blame will be some sort of a freak machine malfunction.

In the meanwhile, Universities have spewed out so many doctors that the number of hospitals has had to be increased, making room for even some hypochondriacs to occupy and financially support the “health maintenance organisation” (Carlin,1997)  of their choice.

Rasmussen (2014), made another point which is interesting by saying,”the next time a politician talks about empowerment, ask the candidate how they are going to give you more power to walk away and make your own decisions.” I would suggest doing that with management within an organisation as well! For having done it previously, I can even suggest asking for deadlines; in most cases, it is Human Resource management who tend to use such terminology with their target group. As such, they do owe specific explanations. By questioning the HR management, the workforce will hopefully, in the medium to long term, lead them to do what Royles (2014) suggests as follows, “HR needs to adapt policies and become more flexible, rather than sticking to compliance and control.” On the other hand, this has to be done in a strategically measured way rather than “argue that every judgement a manager makes about a set of individual circumstances sets a ‘precedent’. (Ibid)

It is by hiding behind terminology that is, for the most part, meaningless to the workforce, that management through HR puts equity – in other words, profit making – before empowerment and let the latter be eroded by the former. The management must be subjected to the same SMART goal setting that it subjects it’s workforce to. For those who might have forgotten what SMART goal setting is all about, here is a link that might help you out.

Whilst we are at it, employee empowerment is, as Johnson (2014) reminds us, “an umbrella term that includes everything that enhances the capacity of people to make decisions and take actions (including about their own work) that lead to desirable outcomes for the organisation.”

As an example, and to illustrate that in countries, and at levels where employee empowerment is only spoken about, there continue to be disparities in salaries and opportunities for women in various fields. A report from Kerala, India singles out a company which empowers women at their workplace, to the point of paying them at par with their male counterparts, ensuring that the atmosphere is stressless, conducive to working productively. What is more, they have taken work to the workers rather than the other way round or cutting them out of the circuit altogether.

If the more developed countries took such examples and followed them, there would be less word and more deed in the ideal world of employee empowerment rather than it’s erosion. There would be progress and responsibility of actions taken rather than blame being shifted from one desk to the next, sending customers to climb up walls and walk on ceilings without any assistance whatsoever from any form of a ladder.

Employee empowerment gets eroded when and only when the onus is wrongly placed on a single aspect of an entire organisation’s operational and communicative process rather than applying it holistically to the entire organisation. The entire process of the required change is described here.

Reference:

G. Carlin (1997), “Brain Droppings”, Hyperion, New York, USA

A. Johnson, (2014), “Why employee empowerment can lead the way to greater success”, How to Growth Strategies, Business Journals, American City Business Journals, available at http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/growth-strategies/2014/12/employee-empowerment-and-business-success.html

S. Rasmussen (2014), “The ability to walk away is key to empowerment”, CovNews, available at http://www.covnews.com/section/122/article/56257/

D. Royles (2014), “HR Policies that empower?”, HR Magazine, available at
http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hro/features/1146363/hr-policies-empower

Regulating employee empowerment … really !?!

Of late, employee empowerment is being used more and more as some sort of a synonym of labour law. The Democrats in USA have introduced a bill to have labour rights constitutionally recognised. On a completely different front, someone once told me, “if you feel that you are losing an argument, start correcting the grammar of your adversary”. One author has added “explaining terminology” to that approach.  Whilst the authors of the articles New Bill Defines Labour Rights as Civil Rights, Congressman Wants to Make Unionisation a Civil Right does inform the reader by reporting political events taking place in a bid to “give labour law additional heft” (Ellison, 2014), the terminology seems to be taking a whole new meaning in it’s political context as compared to the more widely known, albeit rather hazy notions, no thanks to such fads as events of this ilk bring to the forth.

Eidlin (2014) on the other hand, has taken on a more measured approach in his bid to explain the pros and cons of the so-called “Employee Empowerment Bill”. He points out that “the problem is two-fold” in that “legal strategies (…) displace the conflict between workers and employers from an organising context where workers play a leading role and build their own power to a legal one where workers must rely on experts to fight for them.” and goes on to demonstrate “it’s inability to prevent employers’ from interfering with workers’ decision to unionise” but rather “reinforce the very dynamics that have allowed employers to turn labour law in their (own) favour”.

Employee empowerment, in my view, occurs within the organisation and is the result of the management and workforce communicating effectively and working together. This collaboration between the two traditional adversaries unquestionably favours a marked improvement in the efficiency and efficacy of the organisation’s operations, which in turn has a positive impact on the organisation’s ROI and profit.

That said, to improve communication, one has to audit it first to know what is good and should be kept and what is not, and should be improved. Such subtle changes can also bring about a marked improvement in the operations on the one hand, thereby (and almost automatically) weeding out the ineffective processes of the organisation. However, it must also be said that one of the prerequisites of employee empowerment is a mutual goodwill on behalf of both parties: the management and the workforce. The use of force or wielding power or holding the other in contempt is by far the worst manner in which to seek the organisation’s progress. Quite to the contrary, such short-sighted behaviour will very probably lead to it’s downfall by way of falling profits and the resulting “human resource streamlining” that is the management’s usual response.

When Risher (2014) wrote his article It’s Time to Focus on Empowerment and Recognition, he recognises that “engagement and satisfaction are not the same (…) Satisfied is not the same as satisfaction.” The author then explains that each researcher has a different take on what engagement is. Now engagement is directly proportional to empowerment, which entails employees knowing what’s expected, what they can expect, that they are working on something important and related to their employer’s mission, and that their work effort is valued.”

In one of the economic giants of the future and talent and population giants of today, India voted it’s most admired organisations based on “two criteria in particular: corporate governance and social impact.” (Ganesan, 2014)

In communicating with it’s workforce, the management can broadcast these and messages , and from time to time multicast or unicast them by recognising efforts of a site, a department, a team or even an individual.

My years of experience have taught me that communication requires from both all involved stakeholders to talk to each other rather than talking at or about each other. If all efforts have failed, then legal and legislative experts have also to realise that just like communication or financial experts can not come up with the best laws, legal experts cannot be at the source of the best adapted communicational or financial solutions. To get workforce and management communicating with each other; as in most other cases in society, regulating generally leads to people seeking (and often, finding) loopholes. It might do your statistical ego a world of good but may not reflect the whole picture. Employee empowerment, employee engagement, employee satisfaction and employee recognition should be left in the hands of individual organisations to overcome as best they come to terms with each other, whilst recognising that each one of the parties needs the other to exist. And to conclude let me quote the unforgettable words attributed to one of the forefathers of modern America, Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”, which, in my view,  goes hand-in-hand with “We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us.” (Ken Levine). 

Enough said!

Reference:

B. Eidlin (2014), “Latest Pro-Labour Reform Proposal Might Actually Undermine Labour”, Truthout, available at http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/25284-latest-pro-labor-reform-proposal-might-actually-undermine-labor, seen on 6.8.2014

K. Ellison (2014) in B. Vail (2014), “New Bill Defines Labour Rights as Civil rights, In These Times, Institute for Public Affairs, Chicago, USA

S. Ganesan (2014), “ITC, L&T, HUL: India’s most admired companies”,  PTI,  available at http://zeenews.india.com/business/news/companies/itc-landt-hul-indias-most-admired-companies_105568.html viewed on 22.8.2014

K. Levine (n.d.), available from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/350677.Ken_Levine viewed on 24.8.2014

 

Of Mantras and Tactics within the organisation

Most people complain about the rather morose economic situation that we seem to be living in. It is apparent from what Frizell (2014) of Time Magazine has to say  that previous, mostly, micromanagerial practices have not been able to resolve these issues. Instead they have only contributed to the deepening of the rift between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

One might be tempted to argue that it has raised the levels of entrepreneurship in the world, but that is far from the truth when one realises that bankruptcies have risen almost proportionally with the creation of entrepreneurial organisations across the world. That, in turn, undoubtedly has it’s adverse effects on the individuals, society and economy alike.

Pat Owings (2014) in the article Empowering versus Victimising Your Employees underlines the necessity of getting to know your employees and giving them the opportunity to show that they are just as sincere as any other person.

The other day, I heard a speech given about the cultural differences between Parisians and Berliner based on their respective subterranean public transport systems. From the manner in which the speaker delivered his speech, he seemed to suggest that their behaviours were induced by the systems. The Parisian system funnelled their commuters into buying tickets and checked them almost every step of the way, making sure that they would find creative ways in which they would circumvent having to buy a valid ticket.

Berliners, on the other hand, allow  their commuters to freely access their preferred means of transport by empowering them and and carry out random checks.

The result: 10% of Parisian commuters find creative ways in which they freeload the RATP metro system whereas only 3% of the commuters don’t buy their BVG tickets metro.

So what do we learn from it? Simply that if employers allow their employees a little bit of leeway in terms of letting them initiate a thought process, it will end up serving the entire organisation’s cause  in the longer run.  What needs to be said here is that the initiative should not be given to them on one day and taken away the next. Just like the 10% of public transports commuters in Paris and the 3% in Berlin, there will always be those who will try to draw personal benefit from such initiatives and any others that the management will enforce. My question is: why does the management then concentrate on the minorities and ignore the majorities? Why ignore the bigger, better fruits rather than looking to save the peanuts?

Owing (2014) suggests:

– considering the team members’ and even co-workers’ personalities;

– being appreciative of our peers’ and subordinates’ work;

– having realistic expectations;

– encouraging independent decision-making;

– encouraging team work rather than mutual competition.

Shankar, Chief People Officer at Mindtree, in Goswami Bhattacharya’s article (2014) points out, “We want our employees to know that we trust them. We believe that our employees are sensible and responsible enough not to misuse the power given to them.”

The trust mentioned by Shankar can be implemented by means of the Owing’s suggestions above. This brings with itself the sense of responsibility amongst all co-workers, who regard each other with respect – not for their position, but for their collaborative action in ensuring that the organisation takes on an elevated path whereby it’s operational efficiency and efficacy both get a much required boost in today’s rather inactive economic mood that seems to have prevailed long enough.

It is high time profit making through employee empowerment came to the fore and replaced micromanagerial practices in the economic world of today. Especially with all the disasters that those practices of yesteryear have exposed us to.

Of employee empowerment and excellence in service to the customer

What is good customer service? How do you excel’ What do you do to excel? So why does anyone need empowered employees for that? Who will cover the expenses? Is there a way to evaluate those extra efforts objectively?

All of the above are obvious questions that a customer service enthusiast, advocate or guru will get asked at any event. Let’s dive head first into the subject matter and see what comes out of it. We’ll do that by taking each of the above questions, one at a time. If you have any further questions, do write them to me in the comments section below. On to the questions then:

What is good customer service ?

Customer service is a self explanatory term. It entails all the service that a customer receives. Given that a person becomes a customer when s/he agrees to engage in the purchase of good(s) or service(s) of a company. Once that contrat of purchase comes into legal existence by the signature of both parties being apposed on it, the company, in most countries around the globe, become liable to provide that customer with support to make sure that:

1. s/he is able to make the best use of the product they have just acquired;

2. s/he is satisfied with the product and knows enough to independently get the best out of the product for his/her benefit.

3. the service will be such that the customer will want to not only speak well about the product, and through it,  about the company.

Whether the support is provided by having a technician go on site, or by telephone, e-mail or chat is only secondary. What is required of the employee providing support is to constantly think that the person at the receiving end could be him/her, and then to provide the quality of service that s/he would expect to receive. If that quality of service coincides with or exceeds what the company claims to provide at the time of purchase, then that  employee fulfils his/her role as a good customer support provider.

How do you excel ?

As mentioned above, the most basic, first and foremost condition is for the customer support employee to take ownership of the case by putting him/herself in the shoes of the customer and aligning their behaviour with those expectations at least; by being courteous by assertive. A person providing support or customer service reflects what the company thinks of and therefore interacts with it’s customers. That person has to give the impression of knowing what s/he “is on about” even if half of it is only jargon at first, but then they also have to explain what that jargon means.

In short and in pictorial form, the fundamental qualities can be drawn from anywhere in literature which describes the basic needs of a human:

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

 

Figure 1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.           Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs.png

When you satisfy the above needs, you are doing a good job of providing good service to the customers. On the other hand, one look at the above figure, and one tends to think that a customer support employee would only fulfil the needs in the top three segments if at all. But let’s broaden the scope of customer service providing employees and consider any employee in any field who does not sell the product but is in direct contact with the customer as a service providing employee and we start seeing things in a different light altogether: a nurse, a waiter, a receptionist, a technician, a mechanic, a delivery man, onboard personnel of various means of transport are but few examples of people whom we do not think of as customer support providers, but think again!  Their’s is also the degree of dedication that is required by an employee to serv(ic)e the customer requiring the service in question.

What do you do to excel?

What is required to excel in the customer support arena? Quick (re)actions, knowledge base, proactive approach when it comes to receiving the issues and making the service providing process as seamless as possible.

One does excel at providing customer service because one has thought out the process well in advance, and what that brings with itself is the ability to think up new possible situations which might crop up, and ways in which the company can then be prepared to handle that customer in providing him/her with the best possible service in a bid to win his/her loyalty to the brand, and therefore the company. Something that the company must not cringe to do at this time is to invest in the means: the investment in providing for yet unknown situations in customer service should be similar to the level of it’s investment in a contingency plan with the only exception that a contingency plan is meant to be flashed out only in dire situations and in circumstances which put the very life of the company in danger, whereas the customer service readiness plan is a proof of proactive thinking and readiness to acquire the loyalty of a customer to the brand in order to further the company’s life. A similar approach serving diametrically opposite ends of the survival spectrum!

But why not get loyalty to the company? Because the company has already a relation of loyalty towards it’s employees. What the customer wants is a name by which to identify the people working in and things provided by a given company, collectively. Since the company and the employees have a pact between themselves on the one hand, and the customer’s relation with the company is primarily thanks to it’s products, it is but natural that the company and it’s employees be identified by the name of the product(s), i.e. the brand. Thereby giving rise to, I am (un)happy with the Gillette®s, Blackberry®, or British Airways®.

So excelling at customer service providing entails acquiring the loyalty of the customer towards your brand by inventing new ways in which the company can satisfy him/her? Yes, but since the competitors will keep at your toes, the only way in which the customer service provider can stand a head above the rest of the crowd is by acquiring the kudos and by constantly innovating to come up with new ways in which they can differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd.

But, you might well say, where are you differentiating yourself from the others who have told us this? True, I hadn’t thought of that… or had I?

Actually, I had. So how do I differentiate myself from others? I think I made it clear in the very first paragraph of this writing, and at the expense of quoting myself, “If you have any further questions, do write them to me in the comments section below.” Only I did not tell you what I would do with your questions, Well, I’ll research answers and get back to you, of course. Unless of course, you are able to research answers until you either resolve the issue or come to a wall where I will then research a way of helping you… and it will be free of cost for the first shot. Now is that satisfactory? And if you are satisfied, you can also put your comment below and say that you are happy with the service or information or help or support or guidance you got and if you paid money in the process, whether it was worth every juicy penny of it.

So why does anyone need empowered employees for that ?

Empowered employees are the ones who will really take ownership of each case as their own. Take away the empowerment from the employee and you take away the ownership of the work provided, which will adversely affect the quality of work that the employee shall provide.  What is important in this case is for the employer to lead by example and then expect what he wants rather than enforcing micro-measures for each step of each way so that the employee has only to “read the instructions and follow them to the letter”. Take away that sense of initiative from the employee and you might as well replace the employee with a robot, which will be more precise in it’s actions but will not judge the utility of an action.

To overcome that issue, the company has one of two choices: 

–  either have a robot or a computer which will function quasi humanely.

– empowered employees who will take the initiative and overcome all issues on the spot in a bid to satisfy every customer who calls in with an issue.

Going half way between the two possibilities given above will definitely not bring in the best of both worlds; chances are greater that the company will reap the worst of both worlds instead. The truth of the matter remains that when managers are not sincere in what they promise, whether the recipient of that word is a customer or a subordinate, the result is usually the same; the company loses credibility. It is the weakest link that will cause the chain to break, and if that link is an important one, then the disconnect will be felt even more violently and probably lead to unrepairable damage. Empowerment of a subordinate requires power to be relinquished by the one who holds it, and often wields it. It’s first and foremost component is faith, trust, belief, confidence. It is far from “laisser-faire” and has a lot to do with guidance. I know that I have always endeavoured to work in a manner such that my position becomes obsolete within the framework of the organisation that I serve. If I only made sure that the company never let’s go of me, then I am not working in their best interest but my own, and generally two interests in one mind do conflict sooner or later. Empowerment is rather like a firearm; it is not considered to be in the right hands until the recipient knows how, when, why and where to use it – else it is not empowerment, it is just power and that can have a very negative outcome. But once the empowerment initiative begins, the employees then have to manage the vessel on their own without any interference from anyone. If anyone does interfere at any time, the process starts from scratch and costs the company a lot more.

By empowering employees, the company gives them the means to take and use all means and measures required to resolve a case. If a customer service employee is empowered, s/he will make the experience a unique one for that person and increase the chance of that customer’s loyalty not only towards the product, the brand but also towards the company.

Who will cover the expenses ?

Initially, the company does bear the cost of investing in the initiative of bringing about the change within it’s structure and framework and as we know, any change or shift from status quo results in rising eyebrows and questioning looks, Skeptics of any change will not stop at anything to prove it all wrong. That brings with itself the prospect of added efforts being made and added resources being invested to acquire their buy-in.

But the costs generally are quickly recuperated as absenteeism generally diminishes amongst peers, which also renders the introduction of repressive measures to combat undue absenteeism by the management. The introduction of change within the organisation may well lead to a spike in the turnover rate but tends to quickly stabilise and remains constant and usually lower than previous records.  The safety level increases and the compensations decrease which also has an impact on the legal costs which can be quantified by the accounts department in due course.

As such, in the longer run, the cost factor of  the empowerment initiative shall generate it’s own means of functioning and might even be shared with those who have brought the added bonuses to the company: the employees; however, in most cases, that, in today’s world may well be considered utopian at least.

What would be appreciated is for recognition to be given where it is due and for

Is there a way to evaluate the results of such measures ?

But of course. Beside the financial benefits enumerated above, there are a few more aspects which have been covered, such as reduced turnover and therefore reduced induction training hours which can be converted into advanced training hours for the empowered employees. Higher income due to a higher rates of satisfied customers. Knowledge base created with the help of customer support employees and their interlocutors within the company and beyond.

Other advantages can be motivated and committed employees who work cohesively in a close knit, independent team of leaders who resolve issues in the best interest of the customer and the company, leaving their line managers to indulge in the company’s strategic development.

Reference:

C. Elliot, (2014), “The High Cost of Great Customer Service”, Newsfactor Business Report, USA Today, available at http://business.newsfactor.com/story.xhtml?story_id=10300BSB77G4 accessed on 20th March 2014

 

How empowered does an employee feel as an owner?

Can an employee be empowered to the point of acting as the owner of an organisation? Is empowerment all about relinquishing control? If not, how can the leaders of the organisation actually keep the power whilst empowering the subordinates?

Holmes (2013) touches on the subject somewhat squarely by alluding to “training employees to take full advantage of new sales opportunities” So in essence, the investment is manifold in that the employer provides the training, invests in the time of his employees that undergo the training, and what goes without saying, will incentivise any efforts made by sales force to up the sales figures’ and market share ante. All of it, at the very risk of seeing them walk away to the competition and employ his training to his own detriment.

As such, if the employer does make them aware of their responsibilities (empower, I’m told), by treating the company as their own, but fails to make them feel that they are running their own company and has them running to him better job involvement, suggestion to improve or even every operational decision, give-away, then the employee will be right to feel disinherited by his employer who only feigns to adopt the leadership path. At the advent of the first best opportunity beyond the known pastures of the organisation, and into the greener pastures of the outside world, the employee is bound to seize it and run with renewed energy, albeit a more circumspect approach.

So you might well ask, what stops employers and managers from empowering their subordinates? Because most of them have only thought of it without really considering it any more seriously. Bowen and Lawler III (1994:422) point out “Many lessons have been learned in manufacturing about how to best use quality, circles, enriched jobs, and so on. And the added good news is that many service businesses are ideally suited to applying and refining these lessons.”

Let us just hope that current managers, and employers of service businesses, especially multisite ones, will be able to take ownership of the situation and adapt empowering approaches to their specific needs on the one hand, but that there will be studies carried out to get the information out into the world to prove that employee empowerment, employed correctly, will bring unexpected results with itself.

Can empowerment be quantified? If so, how much empowerment is good, how much is satisfactory and how much is insufficient? If, however, it cannot be quantified, how does one then go about getting dependable and objective data from a field of subjective practices amongst others?

Quantifying employee empowerment is best possible within the context of its application to a business, a site or a department. Let me explain: if employee turnover was the issue that triggered the measures, then one can evaluate the reduction of employee turnover. If employee empowerment was introduced to improve sales figures, then either the sales team needed to be empowered with added responsibilities but also the authority to decide what works best for each salesperson. The diversity of approaches will bring not only a better understanding through varied market analyses which are all going to be based on individual analytics. If, on the other hand, the empowerment was introduced to improve communication within the organisation, various tools can allow a very objective evaluation of intra-organisational communication

Reference:

D.E. Bowen and E.E. Lawler III (1994), “The empowerment of service workers: what, why, how and when”, The training and development Sourcebook, Ed. C. E. Schreiner, Human Resource Development Press Inc. Massachusets, USA, available at http://www.google.lu/books?hl=en&lr=&id=vnyFFWL0loEC&oi=fnd&pg=PA413&dq=employee+empowerment,+profit&ots=ag_EOFicdw&sig=T6MndRsvcdwgsz7ZvbpcCETaan4&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=employee%20empowerment%2C%20profit&f=false accessed on 1.4.2014

C. Holmes (2013), “Growth coaching must balance technology with employee empowerment”, the Chet Holmes Method, availabe at http://www.chetholmes.com/tips-and-advice/?p=29#sthash.EvRtCBvq.dpuf accessed on 1.1.2014

Of increased earnings and empowering employees

MacDonald and Macknight (2012:122), present that, “Workers co-operatives’ organisational structure can be argued not only to bring increased productivity, employee empowerment, trust and loyalty, but also to produce a more equal income distribution than the comparable investor-owned firms, and a less conflict-prone industrial relations environment.” They also conclude the chapter by stating that the above is based on measurements using a “CoopIndex tool which provides a transformative approach to co-operative performance. Linking organisational effectiveness to co-operative principles and values, it enables worker co-operative to balance their social and economic goals without compromising them in research, diagnosis and intervention.”

Pitting the above against the generally accepted corporate practices and the prevailing two-classed social set up with it’s investors on the one side and the proletariate on the other, one has come to observe that, the latter tends to present a better success rate in the bigger countries across the world. Most small countries somehow, generally get pushed in to giving in to the pressures exerted by their bigger neighbours in the name of “co-operation”.

One has to recognise that the aggressiveness of an ‘investor-owned firm’ (Ibid), is generally absent in co-operative workers’ environments. One then does tend to ask oneself the question: why is that so? Why is there less apparent aggressiveness in co-operative workers organisations than in conventional, commercial, investor-owned organisations? Is it just the marketing and communication techniques which project them as such? Is it possible that they might consider one as an individual initiative and want to make the best of what comes at them whilst realising that the more they invest of themselves the more profit they will make whereas, in the co-operative model, there is more self-satisfaction and some comfort in realising that the quantities add up to make a bulk and that the involved parties or stakeholders take comfort in the false feeling of abundance generated until the point when the cake (or profit) has to be shared, which then turns out to be only a fraction of what it really is?

We know that most people working in investor-owned organisations do tend to pursue the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) mantra to the letter. How about the stakeholders of the co-operative model? Well, in most cases, according to studies carried out previously, the emphasis is equally laid on the WIIFM and WIIFT aspects of providing service.

O’Neill (2013) in Holmes (2013) points out that “investments in hardware as well as a nuanced internal training processes” leads to ” a better exploitation of sales opportunities” (Ibid). Holmes also cites an example of how  “sales teams can use Web Analytics to gather important information than can ultimately inform effective search engine marketing strategies that generate more inbound leads.” If the sales teams are trained in reading the data generated by various search engine optimsation (SEO) techniques. With that, the sales team are then considered to be empowered to take the data available to them and come up with strategies aimed at converting potential leads into effective clients.

Whilst applying the WIIFM and WIIFT filters to what Holmes has to say, if the sales and marketing teams work hand-in-hand, they will be able to get a better understanding of the consumer behaviour, which can be better achieved by means of the WIIFT approach. Whereas with the WIIFM approach, they might acquire knowledge on their own, but not sharing it will end up being tantamount to the organisation’s growth.

The above application can be adapted to all walks of an organisation’s life and will provide us with similar answers. It thus becomes important for all leaders to not only preach but practice WIIFT in their team, organisation and beyond to ensure that they achieve success.

Churchill (1947) “It is wonderful what great strides can be made when there is a resolute purpose behind them.”

References:

L. Conrad (2006),”If Earnings Slip in 2007, Training Budgets Will Take the Hit”,Mains Street Community Banking and Finance, available at http://ehis.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=4&sid=5350f9c7-fe62-4754-984e-53747844b5cd%40sessionmgr115&hid=105 accessed in May 2013

C. Holmes (2013), “Growth coaching must balance technology with employee empowerment” available at http://www.chetholmes.com/tips-and-advice/?p=29 accessed in January 2014.

D. McDonald and E. Macknight, (2012), “The Co-operative Model in Practice: International Perspectives”, CETS, Aberdeen, Scotland, available at http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=OKETjQp3SUAC&pg=PA122&dq=increased+earnings+and+employee+empowerment&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oU8oUYePF6HW0QXrsYD4Bg&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=increased%20earnings%20and%20employee%20empowerment&f=false accessed in February 2013

P. O’Neill (2013) “Understanding how customers buy will better inform your sales and marketing system” in C. Holmes (2013), “Growth coaching must balance technology with employee empowerment” available at http://www.chetholmes.com/tips-and-advice/?p=29 accessed in January 2014.

Considering Employee Empowerment and some practices

During the past week, whilst I was speaking to an acquaintance, we agreed that some middle-managers would rather protect their own position and take their subordinates’ ideas and the credit meant for them as their own while other middle managers prefer to turn their back on the ideas and live in a world of their own, detached from the reality of day-to-day operational life, as they emit more and more notes to regulate any “liberty” that the workers may be tempted to exploit as unscrupulous criminals do with loopholes.

Elbo (2011) said,”Even Steve Jobs, management maverick and incurable tyrant knew that the best and time-tested strategy is none other than regularly securing the best possible ideas from workers than follow the dictates of a corporate hierarchy.”

And yet, there are not many corporate giants of this world who believe more in the dictate than betting on the ideas that employees, with their grass-roots knowledge for their employer’s benefit.

Thamizhmanii and Hasan (2010:207) state,The decision taken by an  individual was a decision taken by the organization. This empowerment will bring happiness to the customers.” What the top management must bear in mind is that whilst they are busy signing the contracts with clients is that it is their employees who are in daily contact with them; as such, they are singularly dependant on them to provide the client base with the service that was promised. This implies that the employees have to be aware of the service that the contract has been signed for, and they should implicitly consider the necessary training to be provided within those costs.

Knowing from the very outset that no operation ever will be completely free of blemishes, for reasons which are beyond human control, it is for the middle management to be prepared for such situations and be ready to implement the processes aimed at preferably detecting mishaps and preventing them or if they do occur, to reducing their repercussions to a strict minimum.

The authors also mention,”An employee empowerment is necessary for the effective functioning of the

skill of [the] employee. Each employee in a team should be given a chance to act (…) to achieve their goal or targets.” (Thamizhmanii and Hasan, 2010:209)

As such we are faced with three levels of employees within an most organisations: the decision making top management, the policy implementing middle management and the executing force at the grass-roots. It is also known that a company will only succeed if the decisions taken by the top are clearly communicated to throughout the organisation as fast as possible. This implicitly considers that all information must be made available to all parties involved and susceptible of being involved in the execution of the deal must be informed and sufficiently train to face the reality of the field work.

If certain middle managers are unscrupulous and work with the singular aim of protecting their position, then lest they also have the support of someone in the top management, sooner or later, they will end up on the ejection seat.and the button be pushed. Why is this? Rather simple: if a middle manager is more interested in keeping his/her position rather than delegating responsibilities to subordinates for fear of empowering them and seeing them supersede him/her., then the department will eventually end up suffering due to too much responsibility ending up on the manager’s plate and insufficient information flow within the department. The situation can be compared to eating a huge chunk of badly cooked meat ending up on the manager’s plate with insufficient sauce to accompany it.

In a study carried out with regard to the effects of employee empowerment on job satisfaction amongst employees who are in contact with clients as compared to those who are not. One of the results of that study points out, “The results of the study support that the effect of empowerment on job satisfaction is stronger for customer-contact employee groups than for non-customer-contact employees.” (Lee et al, 2011:9) and as a result they follow the recommendation of Hansen, Sandvik and Selnes, 2003 as follows, “Consequently, service firms need to properly empower employees who actually deliver customer services and often represent their organization.”

The questions then arise are along the lines of the following:: “How does one empower employees?” Even though the answer to such queries have been discussed more often than most middle managers would want to or have the time to read, one tends to ask oneself: “Are these people so deeply engrossed in their quasi non-existent responsibilities or have they busied themselves with aiming for higher office so much that they have forgotten where the best interests of their organisation lie?

Spreitzer (2008:61) presents the results of her study as follows: “When people feel empowered at work, positive individual outcomes are likely to occur.”

In recent years, strikes have become legion in France and Belgium as growing dissatisfaction amongst the grass-root-level workforces has led to growing and widespread discontent elsewhere within and beyond the national borders on the one hand, but also a marked decrease in productivity than the economy can handle in an increasingly brittle economy and the growing conscience that the Euro is overvalued (as are the US Dollar and the Pound Sterling).

Bergmann et al (2000:21) in a seperate study of their own point out that “Satisfaction with advancement and growth, salary, and organisational policies” as well as “employee empowerment” are “positively related to organisational commitment.” The authors go on to confirm what has been put to question with regard to the lack of conscience on behalf of middle managers as they state, “The only human resource component that did not exhibit a significant relationship with commitment was supervisory satisfaction.” (Idem)

With all of the above studies spread over a decade, which point out in a single direction: employee empowerment promotes organisational commitment, improved productivity and professional association commitment to some extent.

Middle managers, in most cases, seem to be most interested in personal promotion and concentrate on positive financial performance so much so that they forget their leadership role with regard to the workforces’ organisational commitment, which actually  leads to better profitability over an appreciably  longer term than supervisors and middle managers can muster in their combined efforts to rise amongst managerial echelons.

Reference:

Bergmann.T.J., Lester.S.W., DeMeuse.K.P., Grahn.J.L., (2000), Integrating The Three Domains Of Employee Commitment: An Exploratory Study, The Journal of Applied Business Research, The Clute Institute, available at http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/JABR/article/view/2050/2239 accessed in November 2011

Elbo,R.A.,(2011), The Importance of Employee Empowerment, Business World Online, available at http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=23&title=The-importance-of-employee-empowerment&id=41430 accessed in November 2011

Lee.G., Kim.B.C., Perdue.R., Magnini.V., (2011), Time-Verying Effects of Empowerment on Job Satisfaction for Customer-Contact versus Non-Customer-Contact Employee Groups, Scholarworks at UMassAmherst, 16th Graduate Students Research Conference, available at http://scholarworks.umass.edu/gradconf_hospitality/2011/Presentation/55/ accessed in November 2011

Spreitzer.G.,(2008), Taking Stock: A Review of More than Twenty Years of Research on Empowerment at Work” in The SAGE Handbook of Organisational Behaviour:Volume 1, Ed. Barling.J, and Cooper,C.L., Sage Publications, London, available at  http://goo.gl/2I2sN accessed in November 2011

Thamizhmanii.S.,Hasanm.S.,(2010), A review on an employee empowerment in TQM practice, Journal of Achievements in Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, Vol. 39(2), pp 204-210, International OCSCO Word Press, available at http://www.journalamme.org/papers_vol39_2/3928.pdf accessed in November 2011

Adapting employee empowerment to evolving technologies and changing times.

Peacock (2011) has provided us with the following chart which presents us with a view that aims to provide  ”enterprise architects with a better understanding of how to manage their investments over time.” The author then goes on to state, “By recognising how best to integrate and manage empowered technologies, enterprise architects can take ownership of their innovation management process and can enjoy becoming empowered themselves.” .

Forrester_Empoweredtech.png

Oliverio, Pasewark and White (2007:26) state that “empowerment requires for the company to be understood (…) every aspect of the job will be of greater interest (…) better understanding the job will allow the privilege of the use of empowerment successfully.”

Before we go any further, it is worth noting that Potterfield (1999:6) examined several reasons why employee empowerment should be critically examined and enumerated the following:

“Empowerment is:

– a popular concept that influences powerful institutions (…)

– an enigmatic concept, related to a range of organisational development and business management theories (…)

– a controversial concept (…)

– an ideology.”

Whilst developing each of the above reasons, the author pointed out that we are all “affected by new management practices designed to bring changes in corporate behaviour”, (Potterfield,1999:8). As such , if management practices affect the stakeholders within and beyond an organisation, which in its own turn affects the corporate behaviour, and if these actions and reactions are oscillatory and cyclical without being predictable, we must regard all types of empowerment, including employee empowerment critically with regard to all aspects of evolution.

With regard to employee (or any empowerment for that matter) being enigmatic, the author states that it ” not only lacks a precise definition but also contains ideas and practices that are embedded within a wide range of related management approaches.” (Potterfield, 1999:10)

As for its being a controversial concept, the author postulates that if an organisation aims to simply provide its customers with “a high volume service or goods at a low cost”, (Potterfield, 1999:11), the only means of achieving this goal is to implement a traditional “production line approach” (Ibid) whereas if it aims to “provide highly personalised service”  then the best adapted approach would imply empowerment of front-line employees so as to make quick decisions adapted to the customer’s changing needs. (Ibid)

Finally, in terms of empowerment being an ideology, the author reasons that because employee empowerment literature is researched, analysed and written by experts in collaboration with, if not based on management measures, whilst presenting “a liberatory promise”  (Potterson, 1999:12) addressed to the workers may suggest a misleading if not a presumptuous character in some cases.

Now, lets take all that has been said above in due consideration and ask some specific questions pertaining to the various empowerment-related statements and assertions with regard to technology, which seems to be advancing at a rate that no organisation can possibly keep up with and the reasons why that is the case.

Lets take the case of small- and medium-sized enterprises first. Whilst most of those that remain are either family-owned and family-run enterprises, communication within the workforce and the management mainly remains informal and principally verbal. It might well involve the purchase and use of a more or less sophisticated smartphone or a tablet in some cases, a laptop or a desktop suffices in most cases with less technologically advanced means being preferred by the older and less technology-savvy or technology sceptical generations of the enterprise.

Taking the reflection a step higher, to a start-up in its initial or more developed phases, the enterpreneur’s final aim being to sell the enterprise once it achieves its ‘cruising speed’, all technological investment is justified for the enterprise to reach its apogee within as short a lapse of time as possible. This requires for the personnel and the management to work hand-in-hand, but also for everyone to be aware of the latest developments. This, in most cases, dictates for the hierarchical structure to be as horizontal as possible and for the employees to be empowered in terms of decision-making to best satisfy the customers’ needs, desires, whims and fancies as long as the enterprise is able to recuperate its investment along with a premium.

When such start-ups or smaller entrepreneurial units are absorbed by bigger organisations, they undergo profound changes in their operational and management structures because the aims then change from a flat hierarchical structure to a more vertically pronounced hierarchical structure on the one hand, and the productivity approach changes from placing the onus on the client’s satisfaction to more productivity-based effective and cost-efficient operational methods. This more or less automatically filters out the “out-of-the box leaders” of the start-up and leaves space for more classically minded management-oriented to take over.

Finally, lets look at the bigger organisations – be they national or multinational – which take over the smaller ones we mentioned above. They could broadly be categorised in two columns:

– those who depend on their stockholders, financiers, investors and balance sheets to evaluate their ongoing strategies;

– those who have a more democratic way of deciding their policies by involving their stakeholders including the ones enumerated above.

When it comes to technology and its advances on the one hand, as well as the national and multinational organisations’ approach towards them, something that cannot be ignored is the fact that all organisations have to progress with their environment. Barker and Angelopulo (2006:122) were referred to in a previous post (Organisational Communication / Corporate Communication – The five questions, when? why? what? where? how? – 9.10.2011) with the following terms: “Without exception, changes in the external environment(s) necessarily require changes in the internal environment(s) of an organisation, thus having a direct bearing (positive or negative) on the communication networks with employees.” So we realise that the approaches in response to the changes in environment due to the technological advances of both types of organisations would be different.

The more conservative organisation which bases its policies on financial results will guard their finances and only invest in technological advances for the benefit of the employees when they have no choice left. Till such time, technology shall be employed, as all other resources are, to the singular aim of making more money. The more democratic of the organisations, on the other hand, I think, would tend to invest in the technology, principally with the aim of empowering their employees and promoting employee motivation.

We know from reading specialists in either or both fields or through experience of our own that change management and technological advances have requirements of their own. This makes it somewhat difficult for any of both types of organisations mentioned above to find too varied approaches whilst merely (trying to) react and adapt themselves to the changing times that environ them. Given that technology has been advancing in leaps and bounds in recent times, and that no one organisation is able to either keep up with or control the velocity of technological progress, we still have to find ways in which we can protect the organisations from being damaged by either excessive behaviour because, as Hippocrates is said to have said, “Everything in excess is opposed to nature.”

One might then argue that the excessive velocity at which technology advances today is also contrary to nature. I would only like to state that this is just why organisations should ideally keep up with the technological progress on the one hand without having to compete with it or having to resist adapting to the changes that occur in their internal and/or external environment(s)

Reference:

Barker,R and Angelopulo,G.,(2006),Integrated Organisational Communication, Jutta & Co., Cape Town, RSA, available at http://goo.gl/0z11n accessed September 2011

Oliverio, M.E., Pasewark, W.R., White, B.R., (2007), The Office Procedures and Technology, (2007), 5th ed., South Western Cengage Learning, available at http://goo.gl/A1GjX accessed in October 2011

M. Peacock (2011), Top Sixteen Technologies for Empowered Employees, CMS Wire, available at http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-20/top-16-technologies-for-empowered-employees-013176.php accessed in October 2011

Potterfield, T.A., (1999), The Business of Employee Empowerment: Democracy and Ideology in the Workplace, Quorum Books, Greenwood Publishing Group Inc, available at http://goo.gl/rdhT9  accessed in October 2011

Organisational Communication / Corporate Communication – The Five Questions: when? why? what? where? how?

Corporate communication and organisational communication are sometimes interchangeably used, as is the case with van Riel and Fornbrun (2007:14) who stated, “we propose the concept of corporate communication as an integrative communication structure linking stakeholders to the organisation” but also state van Riel and Fornbrun (2007:13), “Not all of the communications in an organisation are work-related, nor are they necessarily relevant to fulfilling organisational objectives.”

Are Corporate Communication and Business Philosophy really only oxymorons? Goodman (1994:4) points out, “organisations of all sorts and sizes which are committed to communicating with their employees have a communicational philosophy.”

Hargie and Tourish (2009:25) also ask a fundamental question in business ethics (another oxymoron?), “what can be gained from a proactive focus on communication, both internally and externally (…) when staff are treated as dispensable liability, customers as little more than a damned nuisance and suppliers as potential industrial spies?”

As with most things in life, when a change has to be brought about within an organisation, one has to be prepared to be confronted with opposition to such change. Lets not forget the adage,”better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”

However, it is also a known fact that if an organisation continues to progress with the above cited facts and sayings, then it is, sooner or later, going to run into troublesome times which are going to be directly

proportional to the size of the company and the amount of time that such beliefs are put to practice.

Barker and Angelopulo (2006:122) point out, “Without exception, changes in the external environment(s) necessarily require changes in the internal environment(s) of an organisation, thus having a direct bearing (positive or negative) on the communication networks with employees.”

So we can safely deduce that as we evolve in time, the outside environment of an organisation evolves too, and the inside of the organisation has to evolve too. The best way for an organisation to keep evolving with the times and to make sure that there won’t be any “black sheep” or “spin off” organisations, the communication has to be up to date and in tune with the times.

Another aspect that affects the communication and can be tantamount to the organisation’s progress is the multicultural aspect of it’s human resources. As more and more multinational companies take over or run out local businesses, locals are in a constant tussle with executives out to preach the multinational’s gospel which originate from the headquarters.

We have also to consider, as Blundel and Ipolito (2008:43) point out, “the danger of relying on shorthand, stereotypical accounts of cultures that ignore local and individual-level factors and the reality that cultures are  dynamic and constantly changing.”

As a result, we now not only have times to evolve with but dynamic cultures to adapt to. This means that communication has to have a common denominator – the message – as the words are adapted to the environment’s times and culture.

“Designing the workplaces have placed more emphasis on the technical systems, the tools, techniques, procedures and devices used by the workforce and have tended to overlook opportunities to redesign technologies to meet the needs of people” argue (Pasmore, Francis, Haldemann and Shani, 1982; Goodman, 1994:45).

In conclusion, we can say that:

– corporate communication and organisational communication as a whole should be proactive, that it has to evolve with the times, the environment and the oirganisation’s dynamic culture as its demographics and human resources evolve, and in continuing with this last point, that technologies should be adapted to the people who use them rather than trying to adapt people and their tools to the organisation’s evolving processes.

Reference

Barker,R and Angelopulo,G.,(2006), Integrated Organisational Communication, Juta & Co, Cape Town, RSA, available at http://goo.gl/0z11n accessed September 2011

Blundel,R and Ipolito,K.,(2008),Effective Organisational Communication:Perspectives, Principles, Practices, 3rd ed, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK, available at http://goo.gl/vKABv accessed September 2011

Goodman, M.B.,(1994), Corporate communication: theory and practice, State University New York Press, available at http://goo.gl/hEs8N accessed October 2011

Hargie,O and Tourish,D,(2009),Auditing Organisational Communication: A Handbook of Research,Theory and Practice, Routledge, Hove, UK available at http://goo.gl/SP9Va accessed October 2011

van Riel, C.B.M., and Fornbrun, C.J.,(2007), Essentials of Corporate Communication: implementing practices for effective reputation management, Business and Economics, Routledge, Hove, UK, available at http://goo.gl/ybf4z accessed September 2011

Employee Empowerment – What does it cause? How does it work?

Employee empowerment has been the main subject of the past two posts on this blog and we will not stop at that – although the next one might well be directed at organisational (and/or) corporate communication.

Lets consider the subject at hand: how employee empowerment works, and what does it cause to happen?

For one, in most cases, if the organisation which considers employee empowerment as a measure to progress, it is bound to bring about change and has to manage it..

Thakkar (2011), states that “successful balancing [in an organisation] requires employee trust [and] employee empowerment. The author goes on to define employee empowerment as “giving the employee a reason to be proud of be doing what s/he does” and goes on to point out that “loading employees with responsibility without empowering them is like making them fly without providing them with oxygen”.

If these practices have been known to exist in an organisation, then employee empowerment is going to lead toa radical change, which will originate amongst the employees and needs to be managed as all resources do. If the HR managers of your organisation are confronted with the above-mentioned mistrust or distrust, then they have to undergo training themselves in order to learn  how to manage such a change prior to making it occur on the one hand, and to adapt the processes to the organisation’s needs rather than vice versa as mentioned in a previous contribution.

Communication plays an important part in handling the change. “Ultimately the success of any change effort depends on how effectively the strategy for and the substance of the change is communicated to those who are the targets of change.” (Witherspoon and Wohlert, 1996 in Frahm and Brown (2003:3)

The authors go on to quote other specialists in the field as they state, “within the implementation phases, communication is often a top down sales pitch” (Okumus and Hemington, 1998) which is “argued to lead to cynicism about change” (Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997; Wanous, Reichers and Austin, 2000 in Ibid)

Such cynicism has to be overcome in the organisation so as to allow the management with an opportunity to lead by example as they bring about a coherence between that which is ‘broadcast’ to the outside world, that  what is ‘preached’ within the organisation and that what is practised by the ‘preachers’. (Thakkar, 2011). Incoherence is known to be rampant in organisations “where there is a lack of communication between the departments governing the organisation’s internal and external communication policies.” (Motiani, 2010).

Nayab (2011 a) points out that in order “for employees to be given the responsibility, the organisation’s culture  :shares information openly, encourages open communication with regular [constructive] feedback, facilitates leadership by guiding the empowered employee, involve the employees in strategic planning exercises so that  they are aware of the organisation’s vision and objectives, and apply that knowledge to strategic work.”

The other question asked above is, How does employee empowerment work?

Nayah (2011 b) points out that “organisations that engage in providing empowered employees with the means to carry out their work, will gai, thanks to: better employee performance, novel and better adapted ways to overcome operational issues, exploit opportunities and improve products and services.”

As we have seen, employee empowerment requires engagement on behalf of the organisation which wishes to reap its benefits. As in any case, employees only given responsibilities without the necessary resources to carry them out will only end up frustrated and that can only take all persons involved in a downward spiral.

As I  close this section on employee empowerment, I’m reminded of Archimedes Principle which states “an object, immersed in a fluid shall be buoyed by a force equal to that of the fluid displaced by the immersed object.” Similarly, an employee who is empowered and when the organisation is sufficiently flexible to let him act, will reap from the benefit of his work (which can be compared to the buoyancy).

Reference:

Frahm, J. and Brown, K.,(2003), Organisational Change Communication: Lessons from the Public Relations Communication Strategies, ANZCA03 Conference, Brisbane, available at http://www.anzca.net/conferences/anzca03proceedings.html

Motiani, K (2010), A Study of the Correlation between improved Intra- and Inter-Organisational Communication and Operational Efficiency and Efficacy in Luxembourg’s Non-Profit Organisations, University of Liverpool

Nayah, N., (2011 a), Overworked Employees Are not Empowered. Learn Why Here, Bright Hub: Business-Team Building and Empowerment available at http://www.brighthub.com/office/human-resources/articles/123587.aspx

Nayah, N., (2011 b), How Employee Empowerment has pushed Companies Ahead, Bright Hub: Business-Team Building and Empowerment, available at http://www.brighthub.com/office/human-resources/articles/123676.aspx

Thakkar, H., (2011), How to manage change from Employees?, Learning and Development, HR Planning, available at http://www.hrgyaan.com/how-to-manage-change-from-employees/

Resources, what why, which one, and how?

Kumar and Goyal (2011) have stated that “Over the last two decades, the ERP market has grown from strength to strength , and the ERP system has almost become an integral part of any part of any enterprise worth its salt.” The authors then go on to report that “the ERP market is currently about $ 40 billion in total revenue, consistently ranks among the top IT spending priorities for enterprises, and is expected to grow to more than $ 50 billion by 2013.” (Ibid)

With such figures flying around, I, for one, am obviously going to ask some basic questions and share the outcome of my thought-process and research with you in the course of what follows:

– who is spending the money?

– whom is the money being spent on?`

– to what end is the money being spent?

– what exactly is “ERP” (Enterprise Resource Planning) and did it exist previously – in other words, have we not yet realised that this wheel had already been invented and was in use prior to being baptised ERP by some marketing and/or management gurus and/or priests?

– that the ROI is worth the effort seems obvious – I do not see any enterprise “worth its salt” (Ibid) to pick it up from the authors cited above – but then the question is, why has it gained importance today of all other days?

The same authors also quote the Project Management Institute in saying that “70 per cent of all ERP deployment projects fail, are late or go over budget.”

Now, wouldn’t facts such as these not send you raving mad and running amok? I was on the verge of the latter when I was distracted by a more pleasant sight that led me to a rare and brief moment of lucidity in which I asked myself the following question and its subsidiaries as follows::

– why did the ERP deployment fail though?

– is it because the leadership is not qualified enough?

– is it because the ERP deployment was not adapted to the enterprise’s needs?

– is it because, imposed on the resources, they did not understand how, why, when to best use them?

On the other hand, if the enterprises have spent $ 40 billion and are going to increment that spending by a further $ 10 billion, with $ 28 billion being lost thus far, the enterprises are planning a further loss of $ 35 billion by 2013. These facts sent me of my rocker all over again!!!

Another day, another line of thought: if processes as simple as “IDEA Board (Improvement Driven by Employee Action)” (Johnson, 2011) were to be deployed, and the billions of dollars spent on employee empowerment with initiatives of this type, then, not only would the improvements in those organisations’ operational processes be best adapted to themselves, but it would also mean that incoming managers would have to adapt their methods to suit the existing operations rather than twisting the organisation’s operations to suit their needs.

The above reflection would lead anyone worth his/her managerial salt to ask a him/herself a fundamental question: when an organisation employs a manager, is it to manage the resources as it best suits that specific organisation or is the employment based on adapting the organisation to the manager’s modus operandi?

Alleyne (2011) quoted Murray (2011) who shared that, “unless you train your managers and executives, [they] are not going to be able to speak the same language… [or] be able to lead by example… [even] sustain the program.” The author also quoted Beckles (2011) who referred to “the success of the Survey/Feedback/Action program within his company” (Ibid). Through my own experience, I have been able to learn that both of the above are based on efficient measures of communication within the organisation.

Robertson (2011), argues that “When done wrong, it [employee empowerment] can be devastating for both, the business and the workforce.”  In keeping with this train of thought, any financier worth his/her salt will definitely be very hesitant to relinquish any part of his/her control that s/he enjoys. That is the case of most corporate executives who have a lot to lose and not enough in terms of guarantee – as any banker would (re-)act.

As such, we stand confronted with the best interests of the business and it’s operation whilst safeguarding it’s resources versus the stockholders’ interests and the guarantee that they require to get competitive returns on their investment in the organisation.

Barnes (2011), points out “it is (…) fitting to give back to them [employees] what they rightfully deserve, especially those who have become the most loyal to the company.”

Polonsky (2005, 1063-4) defined stakeholders as  individuals or groups thereof who present “three features, namely:

(1) interdependency;

(2) affecting/being affected by the organisation;

(3) the sense of an interest or right in an organisation.”

Therefore, if we group stockholders and employees as stakeholders (as marketers like to label them), then we can deduce that it is in the best interest of the organisation to protect the interests of its investors as well as those of its employees.

While paying dividends to investors is one way of protecting their interests, rightly implemented employee empowerment measures are paramount to protecting the employees’ best interests. Both can be achieved by  means of better communication which will raise the organisation’s credibility amongst its investors and improve its operations carried out by its employees.

These are just two aspects in which better communication can help in improving an organisation’s reputation amongst a more or less random cross-section of its stakeholders..

Reference:

Alleyne, R., (2011), Top Employers share Pearls of Knowledge, The Barbados Advocate, available at http://www.barbadosadvocate.com/newsitem.asp?more=business&NewsID=19543

Barnes, W., (2011), “Encourage Employee Empowerment Through Corporate Gifts”, Management, available at http://articlesbeacon.com/business/management/encourage-employee-empowerment-through-corporate-gifts

Johnson, M., (2011), Lean Leadership and Employee Empowerment, Michigan Tech – Continuous Improvement Blog, available at http://blogs.mtu.edu/improvement/2011/08/08/78/

Kumar, K., and Goyal, A., (2011), Best Practices for Successful ERP System Deployments, Supply Demand Chain Exevutive, available at http://www.sdcexec.com/article/10282391/best-practices-for-successful-erp-system-deployments

Polonsky, M. J.,(2005), Stakeholder thinking in marketing, Business & Economics, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 39, Number 9/10, Emerald Group Publishing, available at http://goo.gl/pXjnw

Robertson, T., (2011), Negative Effects of Employee Empowerment, Chron: Small Business, Demand Media, available at http://smallbusiness.chron.com/negative-effects-employee-empowerment-18691.html

Questions about job satisfaction, employee empowerment and communication

Mani (2010, 136) writes that “People are the most important asset of any organisation.” The author then goes on to state that “It is found that factors like stress, job climate, training, supervisor-relationship, employee benefits, job, compensation, employee empowerment, communication and company are the major contributors of employee satisfaction.” (2010, 137) What one usually wonders about when one is at the bottom of the chain in some organisations, especially international ones, is that where do these studies really get carried out? And who participates in them?

I am not questioning the truth in these studies, but just want to underline the fact that there are many more organisations in this world which not only believe in nothing more than financial gain and incrementing dividends for shareholders than the benefit of one and all stakeholders involved in the organisation’s operations.

One cannot deny the fact that politics plays an important role in all multinational organisations in view of the impact they have on a given economy’s unemployment rate, foreign trade balance, currency, stock exchange, and the number of millionaires that it counts over a financial exercise. Now whether politics plays a role in the organisation or is it the other way round hardly makes a difference to the wage-earner of an organisation because one way or the other s/he will invariably  end up paying more taxes over the next financial exercise – lest s/he gets married, procreates and/or pays through his/her nose to charity or stashes money away into a hidden, numbered account in one of the numerous fiscal havens of the world.

Marrelli (2010,9) writes, “A strong sense of the value of one’s daily work facilitates engagements and creates a foundation of high performance.” But how is it inculcated, if not indoctrinated into the employees? In my opinion, it is the reputation of the organisation on the one hand, but also the image of the work that the employees do, which guarantees such feelings. The fact of the mater is that in today’s overly media dependent world, most jobs are linked to an image which leads them to prejudged in the public eye.

According to the author (2010,19), “Non-supervisory employees’ perception of managers and executives are much less positive. They do not believe that their senior leaders are communicating openly and sincerely with them.”

So, if an organisation’s most important resource are the humans who work there, then why the discrepancies so often observed in so many of them? Why do shareholders still have the upper hand even if all management specialists have said and learned and preached that considering stakeholders in a holistic approach as more important than the only group of investors who expect ever-increasing dividends at the end of every financial exercise? Considering that the human resource of an organisation is included amongst the stakeholders, why do they have to continue to “fight for their rights” rather than just be given them – as naturally as investors get their dividends? These and so many more questions need to be answered in today’s society. Satisfactory answers to be found which will be applicable to all organisations of all shapes and sizes, in all fields of business, anywhere in the world.

Reference:

Mani, V., (2010), “Development of Employee Satisfaction Index Scorecard”,European Journal of Social Sciences, Volume 15, Number 1, pp 129 – 139 available at http://www.eurojournals.com/ejss_15_1_12.pdf

Marelli, A., (2010),”Managing for Engagement – Communication, Connection, and Courage”, Diane Publishing, available athttp://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RgPtJXTBQzkC&dq=marrelli+2010+employee+empowerment&lr=&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Inter- and Intra-organisational Communication

Communicate well to serve better: Most issues within and between organisations and/or persons arise due to lack of a suited / suitable communication-strategy/ies within and emanating from them.

Doing the right thing is good, but it is equally (if not more) important for the personnel to know how to go about it, and for the consumer of your goods and services to know how best to benefit from them.

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