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November 03, 2010

How many HEROes are in your company?

by Josh Bernoff

Some companies have more highly empowered and resourceful operatives (HEROes) than others. We can actually quantify this, as we did in Empowered and in a recent report called "The HERO Index: Finding Empowered Employees"

Here's how we do it. We surveyed information workers at US companies. We ask them two things:

  • How empowered are you? We asked these workers if they agreed with the statement "I feel empowered to solve my own problems and challenges at work." Naturally, most people agree with this to some extent. But we count someone as empowered only if they rate their agreement as 8 or above on a ten-point scale.
  • How resourceful are you? Since we're looking specifically for resourcefulness with technology, we measure this based on action, not words. We count someone as resourceful if they have downloaded and regularly use two applications unsanctioned by their IT department (such as Google desktop search). They can also qualify if they regularly use two unsanctioned Web sites that require a login (such as Linked-In or Twitter).

Looking at the whole US information worker population, this yields a fascinating division:

Empowerment index

Notice the four quadrants. HEROes come from the 20% of people in your company that are both empowered and resourceful. 34% of those information workers are Locked-Down -- they are ready to help, but IT won't let them use the apps. 13% are rogue -- they download the apps or access the sites, but don't feel empowered to create change. And another 34% are disenfranchised -- they neither feel empowered nor act resourceful.

What's really interesting is to see how this chart looks different in different industries. For example, here's the chart for government workers:

Empowered index government

Only 16% of government workers are ready to be HEROes. They've been beaten down and told what they can't do, and sure enough, innovation is only really an option for one in six of them.

Finally, have a look at how this chart looks for marketing and non-retail sales staff:

Empowered index marketing

Marketing and sales staff are almost twice as likely to be empowered and resourceful as other information workers.

Looking at all this, you may be asking "How can I make a difference?" It's all about culture. First, you (and your IT department) need to make it possible for people to use the innovative technologies they'll need to reach out to customers -- relaxing the rules for what technology use is permitted at work is a first step in this direction. As for empowering workers, it starts at the bottom, by identifying people who are innovating, supporting them, and then shouting to the rest of the company about what they've done. This is how management can make more HEROes possible.


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The HEROes index is especially helpful for seeking out employees for smaller businesses. Smaller businesses need flexible yet creative individuals who can take on diverse roles. Great article!

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