We’re moving along in our journey toward employee empowerment. So far, we have talked about some of the essential steps, including Creating Autonomy Through Boundaries and Teams Become the Hierarchy, to fully empowering your team.
And last spring, we explored what may be the key for successfully empowering employees: sharing information. At that time, I talked about what to share, and the importance of training employees to understand and use that shared information.
But it’s clear that many executives still hesitate to share information about revenue or balance sheets or even the company’s vision for the next five years.
Because they’re afraid.
They’re afraid there might be someone in the company who will share the sales pipeline, or pricing analytics or marketing plan with an uncle or brother-in-law who works for a competitor.
Of course, that could happen – that’s why it’s important to educate people as to what is confidential, and the risks of sharing it, as well as the potential legal consequences of revealing confidential information.
But the reality is that it simply isn’t fair or practical to ask your people to make good decisions without providing them the same information we as business leaders rely on to make sound business decisions. As leaders, we’re failing because we’re asking people to take ownership of their work and of the company’s success, but we’re not giving them the tools they need to do that.
What actually happens when we share information with our employees is that we build trust. We are saying to them, “I trust you not to share this, and I trust your judgement enough that I want to empower you to have a voice in our company’s decisions and its future.”
And the result is that your employees will feel valued, and they will feel invested in your company. They will act and make decisions as though they have a stake in the company – and they do -- not just because it is the source of their paychecks, but because it is something they are helping build.
And an added bonus: Empowered employees will be less likely to be lured by a competitor who offers them a bigger salary.
Let’s assume that one of your valued employees is contacted by a competitor who is offering to double her salary. Even the most loyal employee is going to consider that. But you’ve educated your employee about your company, and now she expects the same transparency anywhere she works. So, she goes to that interview and she asks if she’ll be able to see their sales pipeline. And she’s told no. She asks about the balance sheet. And she’s told no. She asks about how much visibility she’ll have into cash flow and is told: “We share that only with the board and leadership and the shareholders.”
That potential poacher has just told your employee three times, “I don’t trust you.”
That employee has a decision to make. Does she go for the higher pay – assuming you can’t match the competitor’s offer – at a company where she knows she won’t be trusted? Or does she stay with the company whose leaders trust her with key information and empower her to contribute to its success?
But fully empowered, invested employees aren’t the only advantage you’ll gain when you share information.
You also benefit from your employees’ ideas and solutions – and they are more likely to offer workable, viable suggestions when they fully understand the company’s opportunities and challenges.
I recently experienced this first-hand. One of our team called from Belarus with an idea he thought could save us $25,000 in international monetary transfers. I listened to his suggestion, tried it, and it worked.
That savings came because we shared information that made him aware of the situation, and he started thinking about ways to improve it.
The bottom line is: When you share information with employees, they feel empowered and trusted. And they develop a sense that they can actually make a difference in the company.
And, in fact, they can.
About the Author - Thomas Ajspur
Thomas is a seasoned entrepreneur who began working with Microsoft Dynamics 25 years ago as an ERP user and implementer, and then utilized it as the system to run his own business. In 1999, Thomas joined the Microsoft Dynamics Professional Services industry with a focus on building ERP high performance organizations in Europe and the US and is known in the industry for selling large international AX deals. He is CEO of ENAVATE Holdings, LLC.