Empowerment Can Mean a Turtle, Snow White and Some Pizza

The HR literature is full of studies and research and examples of how empowering employees is good business. None of these are as compelling as the three stories Stacey Rodgers tells of a costume, a turtle and pizza at midnight.

She is an organizational development specialist at Canada’s WestJet and might have used statistics and data to make her point about empowerment. Instead, she tells her Vancouver DisruptHR audience of a little girl with cancer on her way to Disneyland who was greeted at the airport by a WestJet employee dressed up as Snow White.

In story two, Rodgers tells of Amanda, a gate agent, who saw a family preparing to board with a child excitedly carrying Steve, her pet turtle, in his bowl. Thinking how to avoid ruining the girl’s vacation, she offered to care for Steve until the family returned.

Mark, a WestJet pilot, is the star of the third story. He was a passenger on vacation bound for Nova Scotia when weather diverted the flight to the small, Fredricton airport in New Brunswick. It was after midnight and everything in the terminal was closed. “When Mark looked around what he saw were a group of people that were tired, frustrated and hungry. And he thought to himself, ‘I can do something about this’.” He called a local restaurant and had pizzas delivered to the airport.

Empowerment isn’t expensive. “Two out of three of these stories didn’t cost anything at all,” Rodgers points out. “What they did take was creativity and a real human connection.”

How do you get that?

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“When you’re hiring people, look for people who’s personal values align with your organizational values. And then give them the training, support and resources that they need to do their job,” says Rodgers. “Hire people who know when to follow the rules and when to break them,” she adds, then, “Allow them to become the CEO of the moment.”

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