The advantages of building your organization to maximize employee empowerment are well known. Commonly cited benefits include increased employee engagement, improved client relationships, and better allocation of leadership resources. When it comes to actually empowering employees on a practical level, however, difficulties can arise. Competing interests and a lack of available resources can hinder the changes that are needed to shift from theory to practice. However, by using the concept of crowdsourcing, empowering employees is possible with less organizational change than one might initially assume.
What it Means to Use Crowdsourcing for Employee Empowerment
The concept of crowdsourcing in business has been around for some time, but it is typically used in such limited contexts as collecting customer feedback. However, many business leaders are missing out on an enormous opportunity to leverage the insights of their own employees. Companies of all sizes, from the 50-person startup to the 25,000-person multinational corporation, have the opportunity to ask the crowd (employees) questions about critical issues facing the company. By crowdsourcing the workforce, companies can gain many useful insights while at the same time empowering employees.
How Crowdsourcing Can Drive Employee Empowerment
1. Collect the Valuable Expertise of Employees
The disruptive changes brought about by the increasingly connected workplace and business community – be it Software as a Service, or cloud computing technologies, have led many leaders in the business world to understand the value of connecting with the workplace. Front-line employees experience day-to-day interactions with the customer much differently than management does. Front-line workers likely know the customer needs and pain points better than an employee who is three or four levels removed from the customer. Collecting those insights are critical to building a successful business. But it also serves the practical benefit of building employee input into strategic decisions. Crowdsourcing empowers employees with the ability to influence key decisions through their expertise.
2. Change the Conversation in an Organization
The expertise that employees share with their leadership can lead to insights that may not have otherwise been considered. Crowdsourcing has the potential to shift entire conversations in the organization based on the data collected from the employees. Where perception and sentiment pervaded, data and information now control the center of the conversation. The outcome is no longer a matter of who has political clout or who holds advocates their perspectives the loudest. Instead the conversation becomes an issue of how to act based on the data collected. If there is a conflict of opinion, it can easily be compared against the available data. Guesswork, conjecture, and preconceptions disappear once employee empowerment becomes the norm.
3. Give Employees a Stake in the Strategic Process
One of the major problems that organizations encounter when they collect survey data is that employees tend to disregard the usefulness of surveys because they think their responses are largely ignored. While you might say that surveys are a type of crowdsourcing, there are better ways to collect insights. Remember, the focus of any crowdsourcing initiative is to treat the employee as a key strategic partner. If the right questions are asked to elicit detailed information, then employees can contribute detailed ideas to developing strategies. Embedding employee feedback into strategic decision-making sends a clear message to employees that their perspective is valued. They can see that the input is valued based on the way it is utilized. Once the employee sees how their input is valued, they will begin to see that they can meaningfully influence decisions. Crowdsourcing is no longer an obligation, but a chance to positively contribute useful feedback. Employees are not empowered by crowdsourcing unless they are incentivized by the potential outcomes.
4. Make Every Perspective Count
Too often, employee contributions are colored by personal perceptions of those individual employees. Whether the association is positive or negative, a person will alter his or her evaluation of an individual’s ideas based on his or her disposition, likability, and personality. It is a natural human tendency to attempt to comprehend the motivations behind specific ideas. However, attempting to determine the motivation for specific ideas might actually undermine the usefulness of the idea. Crowdsourcing in the digital realm solves this problem almost immediately. Instead of letting an individual perception influence the interpretation of an individual’s word, crowdsourcing collects user comments and the comments can be analyzed without subjective second-guessing. The data is data. It is Clear, Honest, and Unbiased. Furthermore, crowdsourcing empowers employees to give their perspective no matter where they are on the organizational chart. This actually helps improve employee honesty. Whereas employees might be nervous to share their opinion at a strategic offsite with everyone involved, they will be less hesitant to provide anonymous feedback.
5. Maximize Creative Potential
The collective power of employee creativity helps fuel an organization’s innovation. Top performing organizations have discovered how to leverage the collective brainpower of its employees in increasingly useful ways. While more creative insights are definitely valuable, there is a point of saturation when too many people contributing to the same project, or working on the same strategies becomes unmanageable. Balancing the value of added input with the cost of using of employees’ time requires sensitivity to employees’ skills and knowledge. However, crowdsourcing is an excellent way to collect employee insights without significantly decreasing productivity. Gaining insight through crowdsourced information enables organizations to tap into the collective brainpower of employees without draining too much time from their schedule. The employee is able to provide input and the organization is able to react accordingly to the useful input provided. This is a great form of employee empowerment because it minimizes cost while maximizing returns on useful ideas.
Crowdsourcing Services Employee Empowerment
Crowdsourcing is not simply a matter of collecting ideas. The ideas have to be collected as part of a continuous process of improvement with the intent to drive insight. Successful crowdsourcing requires using the employees’ collective ideas to drive results. It might seem counterintuitive to suggest that insights are essential to employee empowerment, but to empower means that employees must first have a voice. Once employees have a voice, they can influence decisions. Consider empowering employees by integrating crowdsourcing into your organization.