How to Empower Your Employees & Provide Opportunities for Growth

Susan Hunt Stevens is the founder and CEO of WeSpire, the employee engagement platform company that empowers forward-thinking global organizations to reach their greatest potential. WeSpire partners with Startup Institute to gain access to the talent in SI’s passionate alumni community.

Engaging employees has never been easy – especially in today’s always-connected world where it’s harder than ever to ensure employees are focused, empowered and engaged. But this isn’t an issue to be taken lightly. Much of the research and industry analysis being published today proves organizations that are able to successfully engage their workforce are higher-performing and more profitable. Beyond that, an engaged workforce can also drive increased shareholder value, productivity, innovation and bottom-line performance, all while reducing human resources costs related to hiring and retention.

As the workplace modernizes, employees expect and demand that their employers provide opportunities for empowerment and personal growth, leading to more fulfillment in and outside of the workplace. But if you’re like many of the organizations WeSpire works with, getting started on the pathway to employee engagement is often the hardest part. Here’s how you can take a page from the most successful organizations’ playbooks. These companies understand the increasingly important roles of purpose, positive impact and great managers in driving engagement:

1. Implement tools that improve the work experience.

As much as organizations would like to have engagement just “happen,” employees need tools, solutions, and programs that support their efforts in and outside the workplace, and that help transform one-time actions into committed habits for long-term positive impact. The options here are endless, but one that has worked particularly well with WeSpire clients are robust sustainability programs.

Solutions that promote recycling, composting, green commuting alternatives and more, as well as enable employees to track their actions and be rewarded or recognized for their efforts, positively drive employees’ workplace engagement, satisfaction and overall productivity. Ultimately, it’s critical not to underestimate the power of purpose and positive impact–employees who are able to get involved in activities that contribute to the greater good (whether that be connected to their company or outside communities) are often happier in their jobs and better contribute to their organizations’ bottom lines.

2. Make it social.

It’s no secret that people respond well to positive feedback and group learning. By encouraging employees to connect with each other through employee engagement platforms, they’ll be able to get advice, share ideas and support one another’s efforts. The power behind this is the network effect – or the idea that even small, individual actions can snowball to create an enormous cumulative impact that affects the company and the world.

Moreover, by introducing programs that encourage employee socialization, the greater the chance that organizations will achieve long-term positive impact. One example of this is manager interaction – which can enable managers to better connect with employees and create a two-way dialogue. Research indicates that employees with managers who communicate and care about them feel more engaged, so if you’re able to facilitate an environment where everyone can share thoughts and ideas, and managers can easily deliver frequent and regular recognition, employees are more likely to identify and appreciate the meaning in their work.

Another great example of the power of social interaction is when working toward a common goal. Think about this: if employees are being encouraged to wash their clothes in cold water (maybe as part of a sustainability effort) and can share those actions with other employees, the chances that this will become a repeat behavior increases. Regardless of how you adopt this at your organization, the social aspect of employee engagement is a key driver in improving relationships and satisfaction at work.

3. Don’t overlook individual passions.

Every organization is made up of intelligent, unique individuals, so it only makes sense that each employee is also going to have their own personal passions and interests. Work to tap into them. A great way to do this is by implementing a comprehensive volunteering program, which enables employees to participate and contribute to efforts that resonate with each of their personal goals. This could extend across everything from local park clean-ups to animal shelter visits to mentor programs for at-risk students.

These types of volunteer programs are also excellent catalysts for empowering employees to drive comprehensive, company-wide activities–such as yearly fundraisers benefiting local causes or more robust recycling efforts at company offices around the world. By giving employees the tools to take action on their passions, not only is there a greater chance that they’ll be more open to participating in new programs down the road, but they’ll have a more enhanced work experience and better add to the existing values of the organization.

To really empower employees and support personal growth, organizations need to invest in engagement programs that help individuals achieve more purpose at work and satisfaction in their relationships. While there’s no arguing that employee engagement programs will be different for each company, the most successful organizations, today and in the future, will be able to bridge the engagement gap by giving employees the resources they need to be more motivated, productive and empowered.

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Susan Hunt Stevens
Susan Hunt Stevens
Founder & CEO

Susan Hunt Stevens is the founder and CEO of Wespire, the employee engagement platform company that empowers forward-thinking global organizations to reach their greatest potential. She is a recognized expert in the use of social and game mechanics to drive positive behavior change. Previously, Stevens spent nine years at The New York Times Company, most recently as senior vice president/GM of, one of the largest news and information sites on the Web. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University and The Tuck School of Business. She serves on the board of Xconomy, the New England Clean Energy Council, the emeritus board of the Center for Women & Enterprise and the Sustainable Brands Advisory Board.
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