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.
It is impossible to take a business to success without empowering the employees. To empower employees you must first foster an empowered organization.
So what is an empowered organization?
Business dictionary probably summed it up in the best way.
An empowered organization is one where individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to the success of the organization.
Human beings have a natural craving for power. As managers, tapping what makes employees more productive in their job is extremely crucial. Employees want to have a certain degree of freedom and it is something you must give to them.
With the rise in the gig economy and also growing number of opportunities for job-hopping, retaining employees to their job is quite tough.
If employees don’t see a fast-rising graph in their career path, they lose interest at work and productivity falls.
On the other hand, when you empower them, 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 got one thing right. And that is empowering employees.
Amazon’s motto 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?
Before we go about the strategies for employee empowerment, let’s try to understand the aspects of the definition of it.
The first step to empowerment is creating an inclusive work environment. Sharing information and including staff members in small and big company decision making processes is crucial for empowerment.
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.
However, empowerment is not something that you can force among your people.
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.
Be clear about Company Core Values and Goals:
Alignment is an important part of empowerment. The goals and objectives of the company should be clearly spelt out to the employees. Your employee should be aware of what is expected of them.
They can then align their personal objectives with their job role. 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 are building blocks of a supportive work environment.
Rewards and Recognition:
Empowerment is a slow process that unfolds eventually. One that needs culture-building from the very beginning. Offering rewards and demonstrating recognition is a proven way to uplift employee morale and boost 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!
A complete guide to employee engagement