New technologies that can help companies be more effective, productive, and efficient are being created every day. This is faster than most companies can evaluate and implement them. But while companies may be slow to innovate, a highly select few of your employees are not. Ted Schadler and Josh Bernoff (authors of Empowered: Unleash your employees, energize your customers, and transform your business) have coined a new term: HEROes. This is an acronym for Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives.
“HEROes are those employees who feel empowered to solve customer problems and act resourcefully by using whatever technology they need to use… individuals harnessing readily available social, mobile, video, and cloud technology to solve customer and business problems,” is how he defines HEROes in the Harvard Business Review blog post, IT in the Age of the Empowered Employee.
HEROes are a competitive advantage for their companies. According to the authors’ research on the issue, HEROes comprise 20% of the U.S. information workforce. These employees are using free or relatively low-cost third-party technologies–such as QuickBase, Google Docs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Ning, and others that have not been officially endorsed by their company IT department–to make the customer experience better. They may also download software to make their job easier (such as video editing tools) or use their own mobile devices for work purposes when it is more convenient.
How to Identify Current and Potential HEROes
- Know that they exist in your company. According to the book, “one in three of your information workers already use easily accessible technologies that your company does not sanction.”
- Employees who have and use their Twitter account.
- They have been with the company long enough to fully understand the company and its customers’ needs.
- They are new enough to the company that they are not entrenched in current procedures or mindsets.
- They come up with refreshing ideas to solve problems that have continually plagued your organization.
- Look outside of IT. Technologies and services that enable HEROes are designed for business users who are not necessarily technical. Where you find your HEROes may surprise you.
How to Create an Environment that Encourages HEROes
- Encourage the use of social media technologies during and after work. A personal use of technology can spark an innovative business idea.
- Communicate current business needs or dilemmas; but don’t provide insight on how to solve them. Providing less guidance often frees people to think outside the box.
- Reward successes with useful gadgets (iPhone, tablet PC, new software).
In my next blog post, I will throw around a few ideas on how to manage HEROes without dimming their spark but also without allowing operational chaos.