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What is an Empowered Employee?

VMware director of employee experience solutions, Josh Olson, shares his insights into today’s employee expectations and what employee empowerment can look like.

In today’s digital age, customer expectations are high – and the pressure for organizations to deliver the next best customer experience is even higher. There’s no denying that digital transformation is critical for creating top-notch customer experiences that drive improved customer satisfaction, growth profit and market relevancy in an increasingly competitive business landscape. But often overlooked is what – or better yet, who – is behind the curtain of an organization’s digital transformation: its employees. 

Employees are at the root of every process and every transformation within an organization. So, to be the best in the business, you need the best employees. But attracting and retaining the best employees – those that bring innovation and creativity to the table – is not an easy task in today’s tight talent market. 

VMware director of employee experience solutions, Josh Olson, compares the talent market to the real estate market. Just as the real estate market fluctuates between being a seller’s market or a buyer’s market, the talent market fluctuates between being an employer’s market or an employee’s market. Right now, the talent market is most definitely an employee’s market. With a plethora of opportunities available to today’s job seekers, organizations must take action to empower employees in order to attract and retain top talent. 

What does it mean to empower employees? 

Let’s break this down. First, it’s important to understand the characteristics of the employees making up the workforce and what they expect from employers. 

Fifty percent of today’s workforce is comprised of digitally native millennials who expect a seamless digital experience in the workplace and will avoid companies that can’t deliver it. Not to mention, by 2025, they are forecasted to make up 75 percent of the workforce. With baby boomers phasing into retirement and millennials becoming the future of the workforce, it’s important for organizations to appeal to this generation. 

“Those populations – baby boomers, millennials and Gen Z – are so big and so massive that it’s moving the needle for all companies,” Olson said. “If companies aren’t aware of it and focused on it, they won’t capitalize on it in the right way. They won’t have the right talent and they will lose tribal knowledge that boomers have that they didn’t get a chance to transfer to millennials.”

Now, let’s talk empowerment. Empowerment is defined as “authority or power given to someone to do something.” Employee empowerment is specifically related to providing the right tools, processes and technologies that allow employees to work seamlessly, efficiently and effectively in their jobs, wherever they may be.

To understand where there are empowerment opportunities, Olson suggests getting to know the ins and outs of employees’ workdays. This can help organizations identify areas where they can simplify or remove mundane tasks, enable self-service options and remote service or incorporate ways to streamline and accelerate processes. By shadowing employees from various departments, it provides insight into how they work, what devices they prefer and which applications are most important to their role.

For example, at VMware, Olson said they discovered employees were spending a total of two weeks every quarter signing off on a compliance document. The process was cumbersome and only compatible on desktop, causing issues for their large population of traveling employees working on mobile devices. VMware converted the approval process into a streamlined, mobile-friendly format that now allows employees to sign off on the document when they’re on the go. This reduced the time spent on this process to just two days per quarter for global compliance.

“By removing those mundane tasks and making them mobile-friendly, for example, you enable people to do it while they’re standing in line at the airport, or on the train, or coming into work,” Olson said. “That allows employees to very quickly get those mundane tasks out of the way so when they’re in front of their big screens – their PCs or Macs – that’s the creative space. And now they feel better about their job because by the time they get to their desk, they’re not having to fight through all of these layers of compliance. They can just be focused and creative driving customer value.”

Below are a few questions to consider when identifying areas to empower employees: 

  • What hurdles surface throughout an employees’ workday or work week?
  • Are there cumbersome or time-consuming processes that could be improved with technology or automated processes?
  • Where are employees working, and on what devices? (i.e. A salesperson works primarily from their mobile phone when traveling to customer sites, while an office-based employee is typically on a desktop.)
  • How easy it for employees to switch between devices while still having access to the applications they need? (i.e. From desktop to mobile.)

Watch our video below for more insight into the day in the life of an empowered employee and the efficiency it can deliver.