In the past few blogs, I have been building a model to understand and improve employee empowerment and engagement Is there something even beyond those? Read on to find out!
An organization should work on the lowest level in the hierarchy that needs it first, before trying to work on something up higher in the hierarchy. If I am being harassed at work, any talk my supervisor gives on being more engaged is going to fall on deaf ears.
We started the base of the hierarchy with Basic Job Needs. The company needs to provide fair compensation and a safe work environment to their employees.
Once these are met, we can ask if the employees are Empowered. Empowerment here is just, “do they have what they need to get the job done?” This is within the control of the supervisor or other management, and so can be both measured and targeted for improvement with a simple survey.
Once employees have what they need to get the job done on time and with quality, we might ask if they are willing to go beyond just doing the job to add value above that of the job alone. This is Engagement. But this is something that both employee and manager must work on together to make happen. It doesn’t matter if I want to add value if the organization has no way for me to do that. Conversely, if I don’t want to add value it doesn’t matter if the company has a great process to take such ideas to reality. Engagement is more personal, but the results of having an engaged workforce are easier to measure since the value that is added is trackable.
So, take a moment to think about the progression: If I have my basic job needs met, I then ask, “Can I do the job?” (a management task called Empowerment) then I ask, “Can I add additional value to the job?” (both management and employee task called Engagement). What might be next?
It seems fair that if Engagement is me finding ways to add value to the organization above that of the job, the next step is the organization finding ways to add value back to me, the employee, above that of the compensation I receive from working there. That I find personal fulfillment in the job I do. Let’s add that to the top of the hierarchy:
The full progression looks something like this:
Basic Job Needs
Safe and fair work environment
Systems to allow the employees to do their jobs
Employees want to, and are allowed, to add value above that of their jobs
The organization wants to, and has systems for, adding value to the employee above that of the compensation itself
How would Fulfillment work? Imagine such a job for yourself. It returns value to you every day you do it, and you work your hardest to keep that going by doing the job and adding additional value. If we go back to the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy (where we started) we see that the top of the pyramid is “self-actualization” which Maslow described as achieving their true potential. Similarly, such a job would achieve your full work potential.
Let’s map Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to our new Job Fulfillment Hierarchy:
Basic Job Needs maps to Maslow’s Physiological and Safety steps, Empowerment maps to Belonging, Engagement to Esteem, and Fulfillment to Self-Actualization.
The Job Fulfillment Hierarchy is a translation of Maslow’s Hierarchy within the scope of a job.
Fulfillment is even more dependent on the individual rather than the company. The company could target any number of things to work on to enable their employees to be fulfilled. Perhaps your company has signed the “Statement of Corporate Purpose” of the Business Roundtable, committing to:
- Delivering value to our customers.
- Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers.
- Supporting the communities in which we work.
- Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate.
(Business Roundtable, 2019)
Even when they achieve all of these goals, if an employee hates being a database administrator and that is the job they have, I don’t imagine they will ever be fulfilled doing it.
While not everyone can be fulfilled by the job they have now, I do believe everyone could be engaged in their job if the organization works really hard to make that possible. And I believe that every single person in a job should feel empowered, but a distressingly large number do not. Empowerment is something that management must target for improvement in order to have even a hope of getting anything done efficiently or effectively at their company.
The good news is that Empowerment and Engagement can be easily defined in a logical way, as I have done here, that does not depend upon proprietary models or non-actionable results of an expensive survey. They are both real, measurable states of a job, and as such can be targeted for understanding and improvement.
All it takes is being willing to devote the time and effort of managers to achieve Empowerment and Engagement. If not, you will be faced with ongoing problems in the business that cost time, money, and customers while losing the opportunity of having your employees adding the true value of which they are capable.
Business Roundtable. (2019, August 19). Our Committment. Retrieved from Business Roundtable Website: https://opportunity.businessroundtable.org/ourcommitment/