Why companies should empower employees
Across South Africa, many young men and women enter the working world with adequate qualifications to secure them a position but not to advance them professionally. They are largely bound by their limited experience and skills and lack the tools necessary to develop and grow into the next generation of business leaders. But why is this important? Why should companies focus on empowering their employees?
The answer points not only to the development of businesses themselves, but also to the means by which sustainable transformative change can be achieved in South Africa. Here's why employee empowerment matters.
It's the difference between business success and failure
Nurturing young staff members can be the very thing that tips a company from failure to success; failing to do so can cause the opposite. Employees who feel that their personal development is a priority for their employers are more motivated and confident. They feel engaged and imbued with a sense of belonging. And this energy is contagious: those who perform their work capably and are equipped with good leadership skills quickly inspire others.
It creates an agile, innovative culture
As a generalisation, young employees today are fairly cynical about the corporate machine. They're coming from a place of emotional intelligence, questioning hierarchies, critiquing their leaders and striving to restructure contemporary business models. Rather than resist these impulses, businesses should take them to heart: the result is often a company that is full of fresh ideas and sufficiently agile to compete in the global market.
As businesses across a range of industries become more technologically advanced, the need for emotional engagement and clear communication becomes even acuter. More than ever, we need to know how to interact with others and how to manage miscommunication and conflict. For this, we should look to young, empowered leaders.
It's a way of righting educational wrongs
Many South African employees in junior positions haven't had the opportunity to study beyond matric. They have gained work experience, are competent employees and have the desire and the potential to become great managers and leaders, but lack the resources and tools to do so. They are in need of workplace training; on-the-job learnerships that provide them with both the theoretical knowledge and practical experience necessary for them to achieve their goals.
There are many qualities that can be attributed to an exceptional leader, two of the most important of which are authenticity and courage.
There are many examples of such learnerships that are designed to help aspiring employees become great leaders, and not only are they fully accredited qualifications, but some of them only require a matric as a starting point.
It's a key component of sustainable transformation
By empowering South African employees to become leaders, businesses are helping to challenge and dismantle the status quo. Programmes such as these should provide valuable skills to the people who need them most. This will help to build their confidence, so that they can contribute proactively to their working and personal lives, their communities and society at large.
Through empowerment programmes, companies are also able to meet the government's mandate for change and transformation, fulfilling four elements of the BEE Scorecard: skills development, enterprise development, socioeconomic development and preferential procurement.
It's a mechanism for making great leaders
There are many qualities that can be attributed to an exceptional leader, two of the most important of which are authenticity and courage. Being real and being able to lead from the heart, from a place of kindness, differentiate a great leader from the rest. Fortunately, these traits can largely be taught, provided they are accessibly communicated and that their benefits are clearly demonstrated. Programmes that empower employees are in a position to mould such leaders.
For employees to feel empowered, they need to be passionate, committed and determined. They need the support of their managers and employers. And they need the knowledge and tools supplied by programmes that will assist in upskilling them. The combined outcome of these efforts not only benefits businesses, it is also an ethical responsibility and a way of creating long-lasting and meaningful change.
Dr Lee Kingma is a leadership and coaching executive and a facilitator of the Effective Leader learnership programme.