• December 9, 2015

Empowering Employees to Improve Business Outcomes

Most, if not all, organizations understand the importance of empowering their employees in order to achieve improved business outcomes. Whether it’s driving higher sales, increasing profit margins, enhancing customer satisfaction, reducing employee turnover or any other goal, businesses are looking for new approaches and tools to help employees do more to contribute to organizational success.

Although employee empowerment can mean different things to different people, a common fabric to most organizations’ definition is the ability to provide relevant, actionable information to employees in order to achieve better outcomes. Providing that information is done through a combination of more efficient workflows, improved collaboration among workgroups and technology tools.

For organizations of all sizes and in all industries, the focus is on creating better opportunities for employees to carry out their work with greater ease, wiping out inefficient work practices and spot opportunities to create new products and services.

There are countless management theories about the ideal ways to empower employees to do their jobs better and more efficiently. However, it is important to remember that even innovative new technology is not enough. Instead, organizations need to actively foster a culture of innovation and calibrated risk-taking— some of which is facilitated by technology advances, some by better work processes, and many by both. Increasingly, organizations have adopted what can be called a “New Style of IT” that effectively merges workflows and technologies such as cloud computing, social media, mobility and big data in order to meet employees’ needs and enable them to do their jobs more effectively.

Improving Outcomes Through Employee Empowerment

There are three key areas of improved business outcomes that can result from increased employee engagement:

  • Workforce productivity
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Employee satisfaction

In each area, technology can certainly be an important enabler in accomplishing business goals—but technology should be seen as a tool, rather than a goal in itself.

Whether they adopt generally accepted key performance indicators such as increased production per unit of time or embrace customized measures, all organizations are looking for ways to improve workforce productivity. For instance, some manufacturing companies may make it a priority to improve inventory turns to exceed industry averages, or services companies may want to focus on selling higher-margin consulting engagements. Whatever the motivation or the productivity measurement, employees who have essential information at their fingertips and the responsibility and authority to make well-informed decisions can be vital to an organization’s productivity.

Another essential role for employees is ensuring that they help to improve customer satisfaction. Numerous studies have repeatedly pointed to the economic benefits that accrue from higher customer satisfaction, such as increased purchasing frequency, higher average order size and making credible recommendations to peers. The role of employees in helping to improve customer satisfaction is a vital one in both personal interactions with customers and managing customer relationship systems.

Finally, employee satisfaction is an important element in ensuring positive business outcomes. Scarlett Surveys, which conducts employee surveys, defines employee engagement as “an individual’s degree of positive or negative emotional attachment to their organization, job and colleagues.”¹ The benefits of employee satisfaction come in many forms, such as improved employee retention rates, a stronger ability to attract higher-quality job candidates and an enhanced sense of collaboration and information sharing among peers and managers.

Technology Tools for Improved Employee Empowerment

Putting the right technology into the hands of employees can go a long way toward improving business outcomes. While technology isn’t a panacea, it accomplishes several of the key goals already discussed:

  • It can improve productivity by allowing employees to work nearly anywhere at anytime, and enabling them to make decisions faster by having all relevant information available when and where they need it.
  • Customer satisfaction can be enhanced when employees have all necessary information on customers and prospects (order history, credit terms, service requests, event activity, etc.). This provides important shortcuts to employees so they can deal with customer challenges and opportunities without putting the customer through a long interview process for information that may already reside inside the organization.
  • Technology—from personal devices, innovative software and tightly integrated systems—can help drive employee satisfaction by making workforce members feel like their employers are giving them every opportunity to succeed. But technology’s benefits in this area go far beyond emotional gratification; it also can allow employees to make greater contributions to the organization’s performance.

Mobility, cloud computing, big data and social media are some of the most important technologies that form the underpinnings for the New Style of IT. When combined with more efficient, streamlined and interconnected workloads and with an organizational commitment to empowerment and innovation, these and other technologies can become key components in a strategy of employee empowerment.

Mobility is a high-impact technology in employee empowerment because it allows workers to do their jobs outside of traditional office environments and normal business hours. Mobility is embodied in organizational strategies such as bring your own device, telecommuting and extended organizations that embrace trading partners, suppliers and customers. By making available mobile devices and applications in mobility-centric workflows, organizations empower their employees to better serve their customers.

Cloud computing is a much-discussed topic among CIOs and other technology leaders, but it is every bit as relevant to business leaders as a way to improve organizational flexibility and agility. Cloud computing—either to supplement or replace in-house systems—empowers employees to focus on business outcomes without being limited by financial, technical or operational limitations of legacy IT infrastructure. In the world of big data and advanced analytics, employees not only have access to a wealth of information they need to do their jobs, but they also finally have the ability to make sense of all that data rather than be overwhelmed by it. Big data empowers employees by applying consistent, highly automated steps that uncover often-overlooked or unexpected glimmers of information that may be vital to an organization’s success. As the volume, variety and velocity of data continues to increase, big data tools help employees make the right decision at the right time, for the right reasons. Finally, social media is fast becoming an essential tool in empowering employees to do their jobs better.

From marketing and sales to research and development and manufacturing, nearly all of an organization’s operating teams are benefitting from social media in some way, primarily by having real-time information from customers, prospects, partners and industry influencers in an often-unfiltered environment. For businesses, social media has become an important tool to help employees engage with customers and other partners. A recent study indicated that nearly 80% of consumers would be more inclined to make future purchases because of a brand’s presence on social media.²


Executives from both business and IT disciplines are looking for new ways to integrate more efficient workflows and innovative technologies to improve employee productivity for enhanced business performance. This requires business leaders to take a long, hard look at what information their employees need to do their jobs better, and it also necessitates tight collaboration with IT leadership to implement the right systems to help contribute more to the organization’s success.

From a technology perspective, business and IT teams must build an engagement layer on top of their legacy systems that surfaces vital information for smarter and faster decision making, while also preserving and protecting underlying systems and data. However, while technology investments can be important steps to empowering employees, it is essential to keep in mind that technology, in and of itself, is far from sufficient in order to accomplish the goal of better business outcomes. Organizations in both private and public sectors need to develop a culture of innovation and empowerment that incents prudent risk-taking by employees.

1. “Quality Employee Engagement Measurement and Its Effect on Business Success,” Scarlett Surveys, 2012
2. “Unlocking the power of social media, Internet Advertising Bureau UK, 2013