How to Win the Talent Game by Building an Empowering Workplace Culture

September 7, 2021
3 Minute Read

Workplace culture, shaped by shared beliefs, values and behaviors, has always been an important competitive advantage and an important factor in recruiting and retaining talented employees. But the pandemic has played a big role in shifting the talent landscape and reshaping the world of work. Culture is now more critical than ever.

In 2021, we’re seeing the most competitive talent marketplace in decades, with the balance of power shifting to employees who can be more particular about who they choose to work for:

  • 47% of employees are likely to look for another job if their employer doesn’t at least offer a hybrid work model (Envoy, 2021).
  • 52% would prefer a more flexible post-pandemic working model (McKinsey, 2021)
  • Even before the pandemic, 52% said they not only want greater flexibility in the way they work, but also better communication (SHRM, 2019).

In this environment, organizations that nurture a culture of inclusiveness and employee empowerment will have a competitive advantage in retaining or attracting talent, especially when employees feel they are trusted and respected.

Organizations that empower employees have higher employee engagement scores, reduced employee turnover and higher productivity.

Employees want more than just a workplace. They want a workplace they feel part of, where they can contribute to the greater good—and where they are trusted, respected and given the ability to make decisions and feel accountable for their decisions.

People become more invested in their role when they can complete their tasks or make decisions without excessive management oversight. This doesn’t mean eliminating or diminishing management oversight. It just means identifying responsibilities that allow employees to have a degree of autonomy, empowering them to take ownership of their work and its impact while creating a space for growth.

Organizations that empower employees have higher employee engagement scores, reduced employee turnover and higher productivity, impacting the organization’s overall success. When employees have ownership, they’re more determined to do a good job.

Reimagining Work and the Workplace

Today’s workplace has many challenges and will continue to face these and other transitions well into the future. That means leaders must reimagine the future and make decisions about problems that were non-existent in the past. Each of these decisions will have an impact—positive or negative—on employees and their organization’s culture.

Employees also face challenges in today’s environment. They’re reassessing their priorities and what’s most meaningful to them, as well as how their employer managed the pandemic disruption. Personal challenges and employer decisions about the future of work are impacting their career choices—and what they want and expect from their employers.

Ordinarily, workplace culture changes slowly over time, but the pandemic changed leadership and employee behaviors almost overnight. Sustaining a positive organizational culture during this time of disruption has been a challenge for many organizations. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as we now have an opportunity to reassess and reimagine the future.

What Today’s Employees Want

Traditionally, employees have considered competitive pay and benefits as key factors in joining and staying with an organization. But new generations joining the workforce have different expectations. A 2018 Mercer study found that the modern workforce places just as much, if not more, emphasis on higher job satisfaction, career advancement, workplace flexibility and working with a purpose.

Today’s workforce is demanding a culture of autonomy, empowerment and accountability. Studies have shown that organizations with high levels of empowerment have high levels of employee engagement. And that results in higher retention.

When leaders are willing to prioritize trust over performance, performance almost always follows.

Simon Sinek

How to Build a Culture of Employee Empowerment

Building a culture of employee empowerment means fostering an environment with a high level of employee trust, openness to new ideas, open communication and a positive work environment, as well as decision-making that occurs at every level of the organization. This gives employees the authority to make decisions and learn from those decisions. These decisions and behaviors start with the leadership team.

As SHRM put it, a culture of employee empowerment “embraces value over blind obedience and gives workers the latitude to serve those who really hold the key to the success of the business.”

A great way to build a culture of empowerment is within the context of the decisions organizations are making for their back-to-the-workplace strategy. Enabling flexibility for employees as they return to the office is a great step. By allowing them to choose what works best for them, you not only show an openness to ideas for new ways of working, but also build trust and empower them to make the right decisions. In fact, organizations that offer a flexible workplace see 55% of their workforce are high performers (Gartner, 2020).

Whether you’re planning for business transformation, expanding capacity, or integrating your workforce after a merger, our HR Services team can help you build the human connections needed to implement organizational change.

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