How To Embrace The Era Of Talent Empowerment

We have to stop sending employees down a destructive path of burnout or boreout.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

During its conception, work was designed by humans as an act of community. But in my lifetime, work has been a workout—a race to the top of the corporate ladder. As I climbed this ladder, leading a team of 75 talented people in my twenties, work was purely a catalyst for achievement, acquisitions and other materialistic gains.

Success brought many positives into my relatively young life including status and stability. But as I prepared for leadership meetings, it also brought sweaty palms, high levels of stress and eventual panic attacks.

When work becomes less human and more transactional, we send ourselves down a destructive path of burnout or boreout; in my case, it was acute burnout. So why does this happen to so many emerging leaders?

The Era Of Talent Empowerment

Seventy-seven percent of employees are currently suffering from some form of burnout. Equally concerning to business, 52% are actively looking for new jobs. Why? The old leadership styles surrounding talent management practices no longer work.

Talent management has long been considered the overarching strategy behind aligning individual and organizational goals and fulfilling employee expectations in exchange for their loyalty. The pillars of talent management include employee assistance programs, learning management systems, workplace hierarchies, group training and compliance.

To survive the aforementioned statistics, organizations need to move away from a culture of talent management to talent empowerment, where all people have the necessary tools, resources and support to develop the competence, confidence and well-being to thrive at work and beyond. The five pillars of talent empowerment are as follows.

Personal Growth And Well-Being

Empowerment starts with feeling good and functioning well. Growth and development opportunities must improve an employee’s well-being to then improve performance. In its simplest spectrum, personal well-being can be broken down into three zones: struggling, surviving and thriving.

About one in five Americans will experience some sort of mental health illness in a given year, with one in 25 suffering from a serious mental illness such as major depression or bipolar disorder. To address this group, many organizations have already implemented or increased their mental health services, including, for example, access to therapy within certain medical plans. But what about the majority of employees—the four in five—who are “surviving” or “thriving?”

Individuals feeling work-related anxiety or who are on the edge of burnout fall into the “surviving” category. It's imperative for organizations to offer these employees access to preventative mental health resources, following a wellness-before-illness mentality. Still equally important, employees who are “thriving” have the capacity to excel in their professional lives. These individuals are current high-performers who would benefit from professional development opportunities, keeping them fulfilled and satisfied.

Ongoing Skill Development

Empowerment is when you have the confidence and competence to contribute cross-departmentally. Rather than boxing in employees to designated titles and departments, organizations should help them develop new skills in their chosen areas of interest. To encourage employees to develop new skills, consider the following.

  • Develop a learning and development team or budget. Whether you have the resources to hire an L&D Director or know someone on the current HR team who has expressed interest in this area, you can always ensure someone at your organization is a champion for learning and development.
  • Leverage online resources or platforms. There are many resources and platforms available to encourage or support your employees' personal and professional development. From digital courses to virtual book clubs and professional coaching, there are a plethora of credible vendors satisfying a range of budgets.
  • Gamify skill development. Eighty-nine percent of employees felt gamification made them feel more productive and 88% said it made them happier at work, according to a study by Talent LMS. Furthermore, nine out of 10 employees said when a specific task is gamified, it makes them more competitive and more eager to complete it. Reward your employees for prioritizing ongoing professional development and they will be more likely to reward your organization with stronger performance and increased job satisfaction.

Inclusive Work Environments

Empowerment thrives in a company culture rooted in community, connection and contribution. To understand how we can create a more inclusive workplace, we must first understand who we’ve excluded in the past. When people feel they don’t belong, there are serious business consequences from poor work relationships and ineffective communication skills to high absenteeism and turnover.

To ensure your organization does more than “check the DEI box,” consider these options:

  • Create a company DEI mission statement. Be sure to include a specific commitment, mention underrepresented groups and use positive and inclusive language. Need help getting started? Check out some companies with above and beyond DEI statements.
  • Practice inclusive leadership. Inclusivity initiatives need to start from the top. Ensure your leaders and managers complete DEI training including how to use inclusive language, how to create psychological safety across teams and how to effectively support affinity group leaders.
  • Expand company holidays. Is your company only acknowledging Christian and secular holidays like Christmas and New Year’s? Revamp your calendar to include holidays representing the religious beliefs throughout your organization.

On-Demand Support

Empowerment is the ability to receive the proper support when you need it, where you need it. Whether someone struggles with leadership skills or depression, employees don’t need support 24/7, but they do need the ability to access support 24/7.

When selecting new partners, vendors or medical plans, it’s important to consider their on-demand resources before finalizing the deal.

Personalized Programs

Empowerment is all about personalization. To reduce turnover, absenteeism and medical expenses, enterprises need to bring in economically viable one-size-fits-one programming. In turn, organizations will likely see increased utilization, conversion and adoption. Examples of personalized programming for the above pillars could include:

  • One-on-one professional coaching or mentoring for ongoing skill development
  • Creating and supporting affinity groups for inclusive work environments, and
  • Health management platforms that enable employees to set custom goals and objectives and track their activity and progress

The end goal of talent empowerment is not solely retention, but fostering a happy, healthy and productive workforce.

Tom Finn

Tom Finn

Entrepreneur & Podcaster

Through his work as the co-founder and CEO of LeggUP and host of the Talent Empowerment podcast, he helps people find and create company cultures rooted in community and defined by comfort, connection, and contribution.