The Empowered Employee is Coming; Is Your Agency Ready?

I wanted to draw attention to a recent piece at, authored by my Deloitte colleagues John Hagel, Suketu Gandhi, and Giovanni Rodriguez.

Their post, The Empowered Employee, looks at the emergence of technologies and best practices that are enabling employers who are actually struggling to fill a growing number of highly-skilled jobs, and employees now and in the future who are competing for those jobs. The premise is that employers need to stop thinking of employees as costs to be managed, but as assets that can help grow the top and bottom line (or in the case of government agencies, meet mission more efficiently and effectively). In short: investing in empowered employees can pay off big with performance gains.

Giovanni is planning a follow-up post at Forbes to more specifically answer “what’s the role of government in this debate?” and I told him a discussion with govies here on GovLoop may be helpful. General thoughts he outlined to me are below, and I’m going to point him to this post so he can engage directly.

“First, leaders in government might think of engaging in dialog with business leaders about a path to growth that does not involve job-cutting. Second, there’s the opportunity to get more with less in the public sector by empowering – in fact, liberating – civil servants for a more engaged and productive government workforce. Finally – and perhaps the biggest opportunity – government leaders at the federal, state, and local level might rethink their approach to job creation. A nation whose population is better prepared to deal with the realities of competing for work is a nation that is more competitive. Employee empowerment represents the other side of job creation.


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Peter Sperry

At a certain point the “do more with less” mantra becomes silly. There are diminishing returns on productivity enhancements that place very real limits on the ability to produce quality results with fewer and fewer resources. It is time for government, and the private sector, to do less with more. Instead of underfunding and under staffing 20 programs producing disapointing results; focus on the 5-10 most critical and give them the people and money required to be successful. At one point, General Motors produced everything from washing machines to rifles and lost focus on building quality cars. We all saw where that ended up. Federal, state and local governments across the globe operate multiple programs ranging from artistic support, cradle to grave nanny nagging, space exploration etc. It is hard to think of any range of human endeavor government is not involved in. Our resources are streched too thin and no amount of positive thinking, productivity enhancements or wishful thinking is going to produce quality outcomes in this environment. Governments across the globe must clearly define their core missions, eliminate “nice to have” programs and focus resources to provide world class results from “need to have” programs. The best way to empower employees is to focus their efforts on a small number of high priority goals and give them the resources necessary to actually achieve those goals.

Stacey Swanson

For government groups that have implemented Results-Only Work Environment, ROWE, they get exactly what you are discussing. Employee empowerment has so many benefits to the employee as well as the agency. Go ROWE, and make government “the” place to work.

Altin Paulson

You are right on with this empowerment discussion. Every organization… government or private sector… must develop empowered employees…. it has many benefits for both the organization and the employee. Empowered employees make decisions without fear of being reprimanded or fired if they make a wrong decision… this makes for a more productive and engaged team. And, if employees are in contact with the customers… teaching employees to make empowered decisions in favor of the customer makes for a happy, loyal… and growing customer base.

A friend, who is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and service strategist has recently come out with his 6th book entitled, EMPOWERMENT…. A Way of Life. To see more on John Tschohl and his books, go to his website at

Dorothy Ramienski Amatucci

I’m a big supporter of ROWE and BYOT when possible (I have been happiest at the jobs that allow me this freedom and flexibility) … but I really liked that this article pointed out the need to move outside the enterprise (pg. 4). I am a firm believer that true innovation comes from fostering a community that supports diversity. Empowering and supporting employees’ abilities to have open discussions with others (when appropriate) can really go a long way.

Kerry Ann O'Connor

Thanks for the great article!

I’m interested in exploring that nexus where employee engagement, empowerment, internal use of social media, and innovation meet. How can social media mix with other tools, techniques, and practices can we employ to engage and empower employees?

Here’s a list of bookmarks that I’ve collected on that nexus social media, innovation and employee engagement: I’m also a big fan of the book Empowered, which has some good advice for empowering employees using social media. But how do we refine and spread this practice in government to bring the most value to managers, employees and American citizens?

I’ve dedicated the last three years to this topic. In my job at the State Department, I’ve been working on developing one social media tool – an employee ideation program which was started by Secretary Clinton, called The Sounding Board. It’s difficult bringing a new program like this into fruition when you don’t have a lot of lessons learned and you have to make it up as you go along. To quote the Beatles, I get by with a little help from my friends in navigating this new concept by collaborating with an interagency ideation community of practice with colleagues from TSA, NASA, EPA, FAA, HUD, HHS, NIH and others. We all run similar programs both for internal ideation with employees and external ideation with citizens. You can see some of the information we’ve collected and shared with one another over the 2 years at’s page on Employee Ideation Programs.

Our early research with companies that do ideation – My Starbuck’s Idea, Dell’s Idea Storm and others – we learned that many organizations have been successful connecting with the public, but everyone is still learning how to connect with their employees.

As we look toward the future of ideation programs in government, we’ll be exploring over the next couple of months how employee ideations tools fit into a broader strategic employee engagement strategy.

If you’re interested in exploring this topic, drop me a line. We could use a speaker for our March 10 meeting to discuss specifically that aspect of employee engagement to brainstorm how ideation fits into that larger picture.

Steve Lunceford

Thanks for the links @Kerry @Altin. I wish we could get an “awesome button” for comments, not just posts!

Giovanni Rodriguez

Thanks for all the comments and ideas, folks. I will be writing my next article soon. Will come back to this group before I post.