Employee Empowerment: Are You Doing it Right?
The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things. – Ronald Reagan
Empowerment is the first step to leadership. At the core, employee empowerment is the management philosophy of giving employees the freedom and authority to make independent decisions and act on them.
Why is employee empowerment so important?
Most human beings have a natural craving for power. It is more prevalent when it comes to the workplace.
Here is an example.
When employees gain the knowledge and experience of doing a certain job, they develop an approach of doing it. If they are not given the liberty to use their approach or make the call, it translates to employee dissatisfaction. It is a common cause of stress and conflict in the workplace.
On the other hand, when employees feel empowered, they become more responsible, more invested and hence more efficient at the job.
Empowerment at the workplace is a topic that has always been under discussion. However, it is a job that managers often struggle to fulfil.
It is an elaborate process that needs strategic planning and moulding of the company culture.
Let’s take the example of the World’s leading online retailer, Amazon.
While Amazon's culture is nowhere near perfect, they have definitely got one thing right. And that is empowering employees.
Amazon’s approach for their employees is to “Make employees think like owners”.
Their 14 Leadership principles put emphasis on “taking ownership” and autonomy at work. Their idea of offering stock options while hiring puts another feather on the cap.
"We know our success will be largely affected by our ability to attract and retain a motivated employee base each of whom must think like, and therefore must actually be, an owner.''- Jeff Bezos
What is Empowering employees?
Empowering employees is more about supporting employees, rather than uplifting them.
It is simply the transfer and distribution of power from the employers to the employees.
The four major aspects of the definition of employee empowerment are as follows:
Including employees in the company decision-making process
Sharing important happenings and results with all the members
Inviting employees for input
Assigning clear and specific tasks to everyone
However, empowerment is not something that you can force among your workforce.
Some people naturally respond to empowerment better than others. Empowerment should be about enhancing employee’s moral and not a burden on them. It is a manager’s duty to identify people who would embrace empowerment.
How can we make employees feel empowered?
Trust and respect:
Foster a culture at work where employees feel respected and trusted. Attitude is an important part of the environment. Empowerment is not a one-step process but a continuous one. It requires nurturing and grooming of employees from the very beginning.
Trust provides a secure place for people to share their struggles and achievement. It helps them unlock their full potential and thrive as individuals and teams.
Robust Communication :
Communication is the most crucial element to spark empowerment. Employees shouldn’t feel they are last to know about any development in the company. When the management makes sharing information a norm, it makes all the difference.
People love to be let in on important issues. It enhances the feeling of belongingness in the company.
Simultaneously, the management should also be receptive of inputs coming from the employees. Listening and making them feel heard are proven boosters of employee morale. And hence empowerment.
Conveying vision and goals of the company:
Alignment is an important part of empowerment. The goals and objectives should be clearly spelt out to the employees. This leads to clarity in understanding. They can then align their personal objectives with their job role.
Also, it will boost their confidence in contributing to the ultimate goal of the company. Hence enhancing empowerment.
Providing Tools and Resources:
If you want to empower your employees, you must also give them the means to grow.
One of the biggest challenges that employees often face is the lack of tools and resources. It is necessary that these are readily available for employees to deliver their best.
Moreover, companies that are early adopters of technology are better at dealing with changes. Both the employees and the company become better prepared for future obstacles. It creates an empowering work environment.
The role of leadership in employee empowerment is huge.
To facilitate empowerment, feedback should become a day-to-day affair in the workplace. Empowerment is all about supporting and guiding employees in their journey. It includes helping them in their growth and success.
With frequent and timely feedback you can tap into their performance graph.
Constructive feedback, offering suggestions and encouraging good work is crucial to keep the process running.
Rewards and Recognition:
Empowerment is a slow process that unfolds eventually. Offering rewards and demonstrating recognition almost instantly uplifts employee morale and boosts confidence.
On the other hand, when employees feel ignored they will never feel empowered. Timely recognition and meaningful rewards give employees the much-needed push. It motivates them to put in their extra effort and take ownership at work.
Inspire creative thinking:
Innovative thinking is a key trait of a good leader. You must encourage your employees to explore their potential and think out of the box. It unlocks the opportunity for business innovation and growth. Creative thinking boosts problem-solving, a quality that any future leader must have.
It improves the overall workflow. It helps in finding alternative solutions to problems and break assumptions.
The catch here is that the problem is not lack of creativity but the fact that the ideas are not heard. As managers, you should promote a work environment where employees proactively participate in idea sharing.
Engagement and empowerment go hand-in-hand. Empowerment boosts engagement and engaged employees often feel empowered. The very premise of employee engagement is to nurture an environment where employees feel emotionally invested. It promotes a degree of autonomy at work and attaining job satisfaction.
When both empowerment and engagement come together in a workplace, they lay a pathway for profitability and productivity.
Employee empowerment is the global buzzword at the moment. Empowering employees can help an organization in many ways. And its impact in improved customer experience notable.
Allocating empowerment to the right individuals can help in improving productivity and cost reduction.
However, like every other concept, it has its own limitations. Empowerment can sometimes lead to additional stress and burden among employees. It can also cause arrogance and abusing of power by some. It is important to find balance while implementing the above mentions points.
If you have any more suggestions and inputs, do let us know in the comment section below. I’m excited to hear from you!