The internal social responsibility of all businesses is to empower their employees. It’s simply the right thing to do, plus it’s good for business. Employees are an organization’s most important stakeholders and most valuable investment. Research has regularly demonstrated that when employees feel empowered at work, it is associated with stronger job performance, job satisfaction, and commitment to the organization.
Two requirements for employee empowerment include (1) providing a safe and respectful workplace and (2) promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.
Checklist for Employee Empowerment:
- Zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment.
- Includes clear processes for reporting and investigating policy violations
- Includes prohibition on retaliation
- Provide Bystander Intervention Training. Empower employees to handle uncomfortable situations and help prevent harassment and discrimination.
- Understand the law and company policies regarding harassment and discrimination
- How to recognize early/subtle warning signs
- What to do and say to intervene
- How to confidentially report policy violations
- Be flexible for families. Offer flexible working hours, the option to work from home, or affordable on-site childcare for both men and women. Mandated maternity leave is not correlated with more female leadership, but stronger paternity leave policies are, as such policies spread the burden of childcare more evenly.
- Establish policies that ensure that everyone is compensated equally for performing the same work and treated equally in recruitment, training, hiring and promotion.
- Remove names from the resume screening process and select candidates for interviews based only on education, experience and other required qualifications
- Perform annual salary audits and correct pay inequality immediately
- Create formal avenues for employees to access mentorship as well as to connect and support one another. If your goal is to create gender parity in upper management:
- Ask senior leaders to sign-on to a mentorship matching program for women inside the firm.
- Support or spearhead the creation of women’s groups within the organization.
- Make female role models visible – Because of the relatively small number of senior women in corporations, there are few role models to emulate. Increase the exposure of senior women, and you’ll have greater success moving women to senior positions.
- Ensure everyone has the opportunity to be heard and addressed during meetings.
- Set ground rules for meetings: Everyone talks; no interruptions.
- Interrupt the interrupters: “I’d like to hear the end of what Sarah had to say…”
- Provide safe avenues to routinely check in with employees about diversity, equity and inclusion goals.
- Formal: Surveys, interviews, organizational evaluations
- Informal: Peer counselors program – Having diverse employees who champion this goal means they can oversee short-term, and sustain long-term, actions towards equality.