Radoslaw (Radek) Nowak received a master’s degree in Human Resources Management at the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. specializing in Human Resources Management and strategic management at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He worked as a human resources manager and consultant at Fortune 500 companies in the United States.
Employee Empowerment and Corporate Change
For a company to achieve long-term success, it must recognize and adapt to external change.
My research concerns absorptive capacity, which is a firm’s ability to recognize the value of new information, to assimilate it, and to apply it to commercial ends. Absorptive capacity includes two distinctive functions: 1, being sensitive to external developments such as new technologies, managerial practices, or government regulations that might impact a company; and 2, using these developments to update internal processes to enhance productivity.
A major impediment to a firm’s absorptive capacity is size. The larger the firm, the more difficult it is to share important information across departments and teams, and to decide what processes should be implemented. Companies often become more political and more bureaucratic as they grow larger, and communication barriers and conflicts of interest tend to become an established part of corporate culture.
My research shows that large firms can improve their internal effectiveness by allowing qualified employees at low levels to make decisions in their areas of expertise. Such employee empowerment diminishes the negative impacts of size and lets frontline employees drive positive organizational change. Empowered employees may identify and focus on key tasks; for example, they can solve unexpected customer problems. When employees don’t feel micro-managed, they can improve processes or suggest new applications to improve efficiency.
My findings propose that companies should identify key positions within teams, and they should hire highly qualified employees who can assume responsibility on the front lines. Empowered employees originate change at the grass roots to enhance firm performance.