Forrester_logo_2009.jpgAre you a hero? That’s the question Ted Schadler asked at Forrester’s Content & Collaboration Forum today in Washington, D.C.

The Empowerment Manifesto

Ted Schadler as you may recall recently wrote a book (with Josh Bernoff) called Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business. which examines the role of the empowered employee and how they use new technologies to boost productivity and company innovation. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As technology grows more popular and affordable, more and more individuals are purchasing them. As consumers they engage with smartphones, flip cameras, cloud computing services. As consumers they are drawn to these type of products because they help them get work done, simplify and organize their lives in a way nothing has before. When these consumers show up at work, they are asked not to use any of these things because it violates company policies and procedures. Says who? Usually IT does.

After awhile though, employees started using these devices and technologies to do their work and they noticed something -- they were more productive. So why doesn’t the enterprise want them using them? Good question.

What's Driving Empowered Employees?

Mr. Schadler and his team of Forrester analysts discovered that because more and more employees are using new and social technologies to collaborate, share and connect with others, the enterprise would be keen to adapt accordingly. The power that internet technology has given the general consumer can also be used to empower employees, and in some places it already has.

In his book he outlines the four groundswell technologies influencing the behaviors of both consumers and employees:

  • Mobile: smartphones, tablets, 3 & 4G connections
  • Social: Facebook, Yammer, LinkedIn
  • Video: Skype, YouTube
  • Cloud: Saas, Dropbox, Amazon

All of these have a usefulness for connecting companies with their constituencies; sharing information faster, better and easier. Taken together, they boost productivity and help people work smarter.

Yet, when most of us ask to implement any of these at work, there is usually some pushback. Either the company doesn’t have an infrastructure to support new technologies or it just doesn’t want to. Too bad, Schadler says. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a company to empower its employees. That means everyone, even IT.

It Takes a Company to Foster Innovation

And as your company changes, especially IT, so does your role within the company. Your role, according to Forrester, is to innovate and to empower others. In his keynote, Schadler outlined four companies who once they embraced technology, were able to develop ways to help them help themselves, not to mention their employees and customers. From Best Buy, to Sunbelt to Black & Decker, companies are learning how much happens when you hand your sales team a flip camera or an iPhone app designed to get work done faster.

Schadler calls these empowered employees a HERO: Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives. If you’re already one, you need to empower others. If you don’t know if your company has any, you need to find them. Start by asking questions, listening to the answers and understanding what you can do to cultivate their ideas.

A HERO’s most important role, Schadler says, is to orchestrate people, policies and technologies to support HERO Innovation. This means evaluating initiatives to understand how much effort they require in return for how much value they hold. Forrester even developed an online tool aimed at doing this for you.

Ultimately, the Empowerment Manifesto isn’t about promoting chaos and encouraging employees to run amok. Rather it’s about learning to stop saying no, and start saying yes. For too long companies have chosen to ignore rather than to shape the actions. At present, approximately 37% of your employees are already using technology without your permission. Think you can stop them? Think again. You’ll have better chances accepting, adapting and updating your policies to reflect innovation. If you don’t like what your employees are doing, try providing an alternative rather than shutting it down. You might be surprised what you find.

Follow Us

We're live tweeting from the Forrester Content & Collaboration Forum 2010 on Twitter and Facebook. Join the conversation!