Empowerment to the people

Empowerment to the people

The Empowerment – Transparency Binary

Are empowerment and transparency always mutually inclusive?


In most democratic countries we give our elected officials the empowerment to run government and make decisions that can affect our lives. But we EXPECT that they will make those decisions transparently. Sometimes unfortunately, there is less transparency than we expect of course, and we then need corruption watchdogs and the judiciary to uncover this…sigh.


What about employee empowerment?

Ricardo Semler (Maverick) took this to its’ extreme by allowing pretty much all his workforce to decide their own conditions, but ON condition they were visible to everyone else. Ricardo is attributed to this quote which I find difficult to argue with.


“People are responsible adults at home. Why do we suddenly transform them into adolescents with no freedom when they reach the workplace?”


I can see his point. As a consultant visiting numerous different workplaces, I often hear comments from employees clearly indicating a perceived lack of trust in their management. An adage that seems to ring true is, that the more ‘rules’ imposed, the more likely it is that they will be tested to their limits.


Give people guiderails rather than rules and most of them will self-moderate.
We at SkillsTx, are more guiderail thinkers rather than strict rule based.

Some questions to get you pondering:

1. Should all Job Descriptions across the organisation be visible to all workers, including the JD of the CIO?
2. Should employees be allowed to select their future job from this list?
3. Should employees be able to manage their own skill profiles?
4. Should employees be allowed to create their own career action plan to build towards their aspirations?
5. Should you remunerate workers based on the skills they can apply rather than their position in the hierarchy?

Now, let’s make this a little more empirical. Re-read the questions above, and answer them using the following 5-level Likert scale:

• Strongly Agree (5)
• Agree (4)
• Neutral (3)
• Disagree (2)
• Strongly Disagree (1).

Calculate your score by summing your answer values.  (Answer = X)


Now review and answer the following last question:

6. Should managers ALWAYS verify an individual’s skill profile?

This time using the following answer values:

• Strongly Agree (1)
• Agree (2)
• Neutral (3)
• Disagree (4)
• Strongly Disagree (5)

(Answer = Y)


Now add X+Y to get a Total = Z

If your Total score (Z) is between:

• 24-30
 You are a guiderail thinker (Ricardo will no doubt would be proud of you)
• 18-24
 You are on your way to guiderail thinking and open minded (If you haven’t already, give his book Maverick a read)
• 12-18
 Suggests more traditional management thinking…and there is nothing wrong with that
• 6-12
 We believe you’ll be facing some challenges as the workforce profile moves towards an expectation of empowerment. Listen to Simon Sinek, the millennials already do.


Just a bit of fun to get you engaged. But, talking of engagement, that’s another aspect of the modern workplace that cannot go unaddressed. It could be argued that an empowered workforce by its very definition, will be more engaged.


On the flip side

However, there is a flip-side to employee empowerment.

While it’s all very well to empower your workforce, with no oversight, no guiderails and no consequences, it can all go very wrong very quickly.

And this is where transparency makes its’ entrance. Empowerment and Transparency, the yin and yang of workforce engagement and experience. Transparency is the key to self-regulation. So here are a few more questions to ponder and score. (Use the same scale you applied to the previous questions 1-5 for all of them):

1. Should relevant leadership be able to see the workers skill profiles and future job choices?
2. Should someone, like a career coach or manager, have access and sign-off for career development actions?
3. Is it reasonable to measure skill gaps between a workers’ skills and their current and future jobs?
4. If someone claims to have mastered a skill should they expect they may be asked to apply it without too much support?
5. Should a skill gap be seen as an upskilling opportunity?
6. Should workers that opt-out of their employers’ career development framework be identified?

Without getting into too much analysis, we are hopeful that your total score for these answers are within 10-15% of that of the first set. Otherwise your yin/yang is out of whack.


In conclusion

I hope you enjoyed our little experiment, and there are of course, no right or wrong answers or scores.


BUT, we do firmly believe that in this age of unprecedented change, where there is recognition that data is the new oil and digital transformation is a key to surviving. Then we ignore employee experience at our peril, and we’d prefer you have higher scores than lower ones.


Our customers in general see the future through the guiderail lens, which is encouraging, because that underpins the Empowerment/Transparency binary. Why not join our tribe by putting your toe in the water with a FREE Trial for your organisation.



Oh, and just don’t take my word, here’s a parting quote from the man himself:


“If you look at any kind of modern organization and you think, ‘What are the foremost tools of power?’ You will find that it is information.” – Ricardo Semler

….and may I add, making it TRANSPARENT.


If you would like to discuss your digital skill management requirements in more you can book an online meeting HERE

Paul Collins