What Is Employee Enablement? (+7 Ways to Embrace It)

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8 minutes
Last updated:
December 21, 2021
Time to read:
8 minutes
In short, employee enablement is the next evolution of engagement. It brings actual measures to the table. Here's how it works.

“The secret to great customer experience is a great employee experience." - Paul Marriott, President of Customer Success, SAP Asia Pacific Japan

We couldn’t agree more. Employee Experience or EX has become of great strategic importance as employees are finally being recognized as fundamental to building an agile and successful company. 

But great EX cannot be designed merely through engaging employees. Employee engagement strategies focus on motivating people to put their best efforts in at work.

While that’s still important and will continue to be, motivation is a finite resource. In fact, employees can still be engaged in their work but fail to live up to their potential.

The solution? Invest in employee enablement.

We must define these terms before moving ahead because most organizations have a different understanding of what these terms mean, and it impacts how EX is designed. 

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What is employee enablement?

Employee enablement is best defined as a strategic practice to provide employees with everything they need to do their job to the best of their abilities and creating an environment that allows them to perform optimally. 

Wait a minute. Aren’t we doing that already? 

Here’s the thing: We set expectations based on the resources that employees already have instead of meeting them where they are to provide them with the tools and resources they need to ramp up productivity. 

What is the difference between employee enablement vs. employee engagement?

According to SHRM, “the term employee engagement relates to the level of an employee's commitment and connection to an organization.”

Employee enablement is the next-gen evolution of engagement. 

Enablement allows employees to continue producing quality output through tailored learning, guidance, and training. In contrast, employee engagement focuses on maintaining productivity levels and ensuring employees are aligned with the company’s goals. 

employee enablement vs engagement vs experience

And organizations are taking notice of the impact enablement has on employees. NTT’s 2020 Intelligent Workplace Report suggests that 86.6% of organizations will design the future workplace around employee enablement. 

What is the difference between enablement and empowerment?

Empowerment is about giving employees the authority to take risks, solve problems and make decisions using the organization’s resources to achieve results. 
Technically, empowerment should be a part of your engagement and enablement strategy. But put together, organizations can use this powerful trio to create a phenomenal EX in the modern workplace.

Why is employee enablement important?

Employee enablement is a shift from assuming what employees need to knowing what they need and then giving them those resources to succeed in their role.

Aside from the apparent benefits, enablement positively impacts revenue and productivity. It also improves job satisfaction and leads to lowers the cost of turnover.

While many surveys focus on how engagement impacts a business, management consulting company, Korn Ferry, investigates the impact of both enablement and engagement. The survey puts employees into 4 segments, based on relative levels of engagement and enablement compared to Korn Ferry’s global benchmark.

How to go from engagement to enablement: 7 key steps

It all sounds good in theory, but how do you facilitate employee enablement? Here are 7 key steps you need to follow to put it into practice.

engagement vs enablement drivers

#1. Set SMART goals + intended outcomes

If you decide to make enablement a part of your strategy to improve EX, you must set SMART goals.

How will employees, teams, and the business benefit from shifting to enablement from engagement.

smart goals to go from engagement to enablement

Think about the qualitative and quantitative outcomes in all three scenarios and map those to the plan. 

#2. Uncover individual learning needs

You may have already done this before to understand what skills the company needs to grow and then identifying gaps in employees’ current skillsets to provide them with the necessary training.

But for this exercise, you’ll have to focus on employees and their individual learning needs. 

An excellent place to start is by asking employees the following: 

  • What tools and resources do you already have? 
  • How are those useful to you to perform your job?
  • What are they incapable of doing? 
  • Do they hinder your ability to function optimally?
  • What tools or resources would you like to enable them to do their best work?

#3. Identify areas of improvement in the workplace

The second part of the enablement equation is providing a collaborative, open work environment where employees experience psychological safety and a sense of community. 

Enablement amounts to nothing if employees cannot wield the tools and resources due to a lack of collaboration, team structures, or other issues. 

Run a company-wide anonymous survey to understand persisting problems and how you can work those solutions into the enablement process. 

#4. Eliminate roadblocks from existing processes

Once you identify potential hurdles, optimize your workflows and processes to give employees the right environment they need to succeed. 
Consider the following:

  • Which employees and teams are thriving? Why?
  • How can you expand that experience to the rest of the company?
  • Which employees/teams are falling short? Why?
  • Which factors drive sub-optimal performance?
  • Which factors contribute to high-performing individuals and teams?

These new and improved workflows should become the SOP going forward to help both current employees and new hires. 

#5. Empower employees to deviate from the SOP

Your SOP shouldn’t box employees in and prevent them from thinking about problems creatively. Instead, it should empower them to act autonomously when necessary. 

Enablement doesn’t work without you telling employees, “I trust you.” 

No matter how many circumstances you account for, your SOP can fall short on many occasions. One way around that is to involve employees in its creation and review it every quarter. But it’s even better when you show them you have faith in their abilities, and they’re encouraged to go off-script every once in a while. 

#6. Invite open discussions and collaborative learning

Enablement isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing. Continuous open conversations can help improve existing workflows, introduce new ideas, and even pave the way for collaborative learning. 

Google’s g2g (googler-to-googler) is a peer learning program that operates on the principles of collaborative learning. 

This is a far cry from setting up pre-requisite training on a clunky HRIS and hoping employees will grow. The 70-20-10 learning rule also demonstrates that individuals only obtain 10% of knowledge from formal learning. 

#7. Create an open knowledge base for your team by your team

Internal knowledge platforms exist but with a fundamental flaw - they’re built on the assumption that this is what employees need. For true enablement to occur, you need to give back the power to the people that it directly impacts—your employees. 
Encourage them to build a knowledge base that is open to all to view, edit and update. Create a process to define when and who can edit/update resources to prevent mishaps. 

#8. Tailor L&D programs to meet learning needs

No two employees learn the same way, but they’re almost always expected to go through the same L&D programs.

You’ve already done the heavy lifting by identifying individual learning needs. Now it’s time to tailor your learning and development initiatives. For instance, some employees prefer project-based learning while others like on-demand courses. 

Map L&D goals to their preferred learning model to truly enable employees to learn when they want and how they want.

How to measure and improve employee enablement 

Use your pre-enablement surveys and research as the baseline when measuring employee enablement or thinking about improving it.  
But what should you be measuring? A good place to begin is by asking employees the following questions:

  • Do you have access to tools and resources to do your job well?
  • Do you have access to tech to perform optimally?
  • Do you have access to the information you need to succeed in your role?
  • Are your workflows and processes efficient?
  • Do you have the autonomy to make choices and decisions to perform your job effectively?
  • Does your role make good use of your skills and abilities?
  • Are you involved in decisions that impact your work?
  • Are you receiving the learning, training, and development necessary?

Coupled with performance evaluations and data you collect through engagement surveys and 1:1s, you’ll have a clear picture of how enablement is helping employees and the business grow.

These extensive surveys will also reveal areas of improvement that you can study to improve ongoing enablement. And if you set up enablement right, employees will tell you themselves without you having to prompt a response. 

At Zavvy, we understand that people are our greatest asset and must be treated as such. So to support the future of work, we’re offering free consultations to companies looking to embrace employee enablement. Book your call now.


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