Better Conversations About Autonomy

Global leadership expert Halley Bock says employee empowerment is key to success in the beauty—and any—business.

By Halley Bock, president/CEO, Fierce, Inc.

The dynamic beauty packaging industry requires exceptional levels of nimbleness and communication between multiple vendors, partners, clients, and especially employees. In such a fast-paced environment, the key to a more productive beauty business is empowering employees to be autonomous. By fostering transparent, results-driven conversations, employees can begin to trust their instincts and become more independent and proactive, offering solutions rather than problems in their discussions with management.

By working with beauty-related companies including Bumble & bumble, Sephora, and the Kohler Academy, an innovative beauty school in Scottsdale, AZ, one aspect of success has become clear—employee empowerment. According to Jill Kohler, founder and president of the Kohler Academy, “I’ve empowered my people even if they have no one underneath them, no direct subordinates. They still have to find their voice and become a leader.”

The Importance of Autonomy
Organizations that address employee needs for autonomy experience higher retention levels, and job satisfaction increases as employees do not feel constantly monitored by controlling supervisors. For example, Crate & Barrel’s long-standing investment in autonomy has resulted in industry-leading associate longevity and low turnover.

Consider shifting the paradigms of the past where autonomy was offered exclusively to higher-level employees by offering increased autonomy at all levels. Start by defining clear decision-making responsibilities with each employee so they understand which decisions are theirs to make, which decisions need to be jointly made, and which decisions should be passed along to others. Providing clarity not only empowers individuals, it also creates roadmaps for professional development.

One way to improve clarity is to build a cultural expectation of feedback. At the Kohler Academy, Jill says team members praise publicly and coach privately. “I would pull the person off the floor and give myself that space to give the feedback.” Jill also encourages the staff to talk about what is happening that day. This level of open communication allows employees to better understand their roles within the organization, paving the way for a more autonomous team.

Autonomy also provides the freedom to employ creative problem-solving skills—all while avoiding the trap of “group think.” When employees are entrusted to take on challenges, they are fully engaged in outcomes instead of blindly following protocol.

For example, HAVI Global Solutions, a leader in global packaging and supply chain solutions, wanted to foster organization-wide transparency and inclusion among its business units, as well as break down corporate silos, and improve the overall quality of decisions throughout the organization. The company has invested heavily in problem-solving training for its employees, with 95% of the U.S. workforce and 75% of international employees having received training thus far.

Through workforce training, HAVI Global Solutions has developed a common language and toolset for increased collaboration, leadership development, and a culture of autonomy resulting in smart risk taking.

If you’re searching for new advantages to make your beauty packaging business more efficient, more effective, and more profitable, look no further than your employees and the autonomy you can give them to help build the business.

About the author: Halley Bock is the president & CEO of Seattle-based Fierce, Inc., global leadership development and training experts.