What I mean is, most organizations and leaders would likely say they want or already have empowered employees. If you were standing in the front of a room of managers or executives and asked them to provide words to describe their ideal employee, the word empowered would probably pop up on that list. If you explore the Careers section of many corporate websites, there will be some mumbo-jumbo saying they empower their employees.
Further, if you pay attention sometimes, you’ll notice that organizations appear to be trying to convince their employees that they’re empowered. “We want you to know that you’re empowered to make decisions,” they’ll say. Or, “You’re empowered to make things happen for the customer.” Or something.
Unfortunately, most of the time employees call bull, and more unfortunate still, they’re often right.
What seems to happen a lot of times is that we–leaders and organizations–like to say or think our employees are empowered when in reality they’re really not all that empowered to do much of anything. At least nothing significant. Sure, maybe they’re empowered in theory, but when it comes down to it–when they’re in the heat of the battle–they have to get seventeen different approvals before they can do anything substantive or different or meaningful. It’s a huge cultural disconnect when you say something is true about the work environment but the reality within that environment says something entirely different.
That’s why this ad from Enterprise grabbed my attention. I’ll give you a second (actually 32 seconds) to go watch it.
Ok…are you back?
Did you pick up on the message there? “If there ever is a problem, we all have the power to make it right.”
And then, “I don’t have to find a manager. I don’t have to make a phone call.”
Oh my gosh! How often have we all been standing there on the other side of the counter at [insert a random retailer here], and we need something done; and the poor sales associate has to call someone, or talk into that wonky-looking headset, or turn on some flashing light over the checkout lane, or wave her arms wildly in the air hoping to get someone’s attention, or whatever. The fact is, sometimes folks can’t do simple things for customers, and that comes from a lack of legitimate empowerment.
Now I don’t work at Enterprise, so I don’t know if that ad is BS or not. But what did strike me about that commercial is that that’s what empowering employees should look like. That’s what it should feel like to them. Basically, you’re making it easier for them to carry out your mission of, well, whatever that mission is for you. For Enterprise, it’s serving people; so they appear to be trying to remove some of that super-annoying bureaucratic stuff that makes it more difficult for their employees to do just that.
I wonder what our employees would say if they had to make similar commercials for our respective organizations?