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Providing Employees Empowerment and Direction: A Performance Paradox

Empowerment-ParadoxIn the first blog post of our Performance Paradox series, we managed the competition paradox, navigating the tension between individual contribution and cooperation to achieve business outcomes.  But as you may recall there are 4 paradoxes standing in the way of employees becoming true enterprise contributors, and achieving that breakthrough performance organizations want.   

The second is the empowerment paradox, balancing individual autonomy with direction.

Lately, the press has enthusiastically covered news of HR policy manuals “going out the window”, and companies treating employees “like adults” with full transparency into the business.  This increased emphasis on employee empowerment and transparency though is not enough.  

On the One Hand…

Eighty-one percent of Heads of HR agree that their organization needs greater employee discretion and autonomy in day-to-day work.  The benefits to talent and business outcomes are clear—Empowerment can drive innovation, allow for quicker decision-making, drive employee satisfaction and engagement and increases productivity.

…And on the Other Hand

Most employees—71% of over 10,000 surveyed— say they find it difficult to prioritize their work.  Additionally, employees do not think it has become easier in the last three years to prioritize their tasks or to focus on one task at a time.

The Results

Many HR functions have doubled down on transparency.   More than half of employees report that their organizations share operational and financial data with them at least once a quarter.  But despite efforts, only 37% of employees agree that they are able to understand how their individual work relates to overall Empowerment-Paradox-Member-Quoteorganizational performance, and only 39% of employees understand the relevance of organizational objectives to their daily workflow.

In fact, too much information can actually decrease enterprise contribution up to 13%.  Employees struggle to see the relevance of the information handed to them and how their work relates to strategic goals. 

Worth Managing?

Absolutely.  An organizational environment that builds context through consumable communication that actually helps guide employees and prioritize can increase the percentage of enterprise contributors by up to 30%.

What to Do

HR teams should look to move the aims of their firm’s performance management process beyond transparency and towards improving employee prioritization through context building. 

CEB can help HR managers and thier teams:

  • Improve employees’ line of sight to drive impact on business success
  • Prioritize business communications to drive understanding and ownership of metrics
  • Embed key data in employees day-to-day work
  • Modify goal setting to enable employees to create bottom up goal linkages

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