Monday, May 22, 2006

The Quickest Path to Irrelevance: Empowerment

Out of the many things an organization can do on a consistent basis to become irrelevant, I think one of the biggest is this: not empowering your own employees to do what is necessary.

What do I mean by this?

Let's take the example I used in an earlier posting. Throughout the whole experience, the one thought that kept leaping up in my mind was that this large retailer didn't empower its own employees to do anything necessary to make customers happy. The same thing kept coming out of each employee's mouth: "It's store policy, sir. We can't do anything about it."

...Can't do anything?

In essence, what the organization is saying to each employee is that it doesn't care about happy customers who offer repeat business. Rather, it values saving a few bucks here and there at the expense of its brand.

Many of you have heard that legendary story about Nordstrom and the man who returned a tire. Here's another great example of how far this company goes in order to please its customers.

Tell me one thing: if an organization went to these lengths to make you happy, would you not become a fanatical evangelist for them? Would you not find every excuse to shop at their stores instead of a competitor's?

I wonder how this problem of empowerment might play out in recruiting or HR?

What about when a recruiter, after sharing their passion about the company to a candidate, goes on to find out after an initial interview (or two) that the company has decided to close the position indefinitely? What about when an employee asks the HR department to rectify a situation in the workplace, and HR really can't do anything because they don't have "power" to discipline a high level VP?

In each of these cases, people are left feeling helpless and at a loss for an explanation for the candidate or employee involved. And in each case, people walk away...respecting the organization and its brand a little less.

What's worse, those affected by this lack of empowerment will never become evangelists for your organization.

...And when you don't have people willing to evangelize for your organization, you eventually become irrelevant.


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