And . . Grant Your Low-Level Employees Some Autonomy. You May Be Surprised by the Results.

In keeping with my earlier blog on autonomy in the workplace, another study has now found that, to innovate, large firms should let their employees choose how to do their jobs.

But we're not just talking managers. reports that companies that can quickly respond to external changes are more likely to achieve long-term success, and by this measure, small firms already  excel.

New research by New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) School of Management assistant professor Radoslaw Nowak suggests a fix for this drawback: empowering low-level employees, according to the website.

An organization’s capacity to absorb new information and to implement corresponding changes, known as “absorptive capacity,” declines as it gets bigger. In this sense, large companies are advised to take a cue from comparatively laid-back start-ups. “As they grow,” says Nowak, “organizations tend to become more political and bureaucratic. That creates structural barriers to communication.”

Nowak recommends a grassroots solution for big organizations: allow low-level employees who are experts at what they do to make their own decisions about how best to “get the job done," at

While confirming the inverse relationship between size and absorptive capacity, Nowak’s findings also show that firms with empowered employees are less likely to display the expected negative effects.

Now I'm sure he's not saying to let your receptionist decide your salary for next year.  But granting authorization to ground-level employees enables them to be alert and solutions-oriented, allowing them to identify next steps and take action to address challenges, thus moving the organization forward, the site quotes him.

“Empowerment is about delegating authority,” says Nowak. “Allowing qualified employees at low levels to make decisions could effectively reduce the negative impact of an organization becoming a big political system. They will be driving positive organizational change from the bottom up.”

The study states that “a high degree of employee empowerment could be viewed as a source of a sustained competitive advantage as it may continuously challenge a firm’s core rigidities.” In practice, “empowered employees can become a change agent.”


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