Employee Empowerment: Are You Doing it Right?
There is a lot of evidence that empowering employees is directly linked with increased productivity. Not only that job satisfaction and loyalty to the company are also improved.
One thing is for sure, the success of your company is directly linked with the success of your employees. When your employees are successful, so is your company.
So, let’s get down to basics, shall we? What do we exactly mean when we say empowering employees?
Empowering employees is simply giving your employees more freedom and thereby making them more accountable in every task they handle. It means giving your team members and your employees permission to take decisions and actions that affect your company.
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.
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.
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. The idea of offering stock options at Amazon 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
6 Hidden Benefits of Empowering Employees
Before going any further, let us take a step back. We know what employee empowerment means. But how does empowering your employees translate into better organizational performance?
Let’s have a look at a few ways empowering employees benefits your company.
1. More Productivity
This is one of the direct benefits of employee empowerment. Your employees become much more productive when they are involved in all the key decision-making issues.
You will never feel motivated to work for a company where you have little autonomy and are often ordered what to do, right? In the same way, your employees don’t really enjoy it when you order them to work on a certain project or work in a certain way.
When employees make decisions on their own, they generally achieve a sense of empowerment and not only increase their productivity but also improves the work environment with their positivity and energy.
2. Employee Satisfaction
It is a proven fact that when we make our own decisions, we tend to be more satisfied. Having an environment of accountability encourages your employees to take more decisions on their own. This trickles down into them being happy and satisfied. And of course, satisfied employees are likely to be more productive, energetic and more loyal.
When a project goes well, your employees feel a sense of accomplishment as they had autonomy over the project. This encourages your employees to take on even more bold decisions and projects in the future. When your employees are satisfied you automatically make a case for a dynamic employee branding.
3. Improved Employee Branding
One of the ways in which empowering employees can help directly is making a case for employee branding. When your brand is known for empowering its employees, you can make a great case for superior employee branding.
Wait, what is employee branding you ask?
The core idea of employee branding is that you have such a superior work culture that your employees act as brand ambassadors and present your company in the best light possible.
When employees feel empowered, your company becomes an ideal place to work for job seekers. Having a great employee brand serves various purposes. First of all your company becomes desirable for all the top talents.
Also, since you have a bustling employee branding you don’t have to invest too heavily on recruitment processes. Making your company desirable also serves the purposes of reducing your employee attrition. Since your employees are already working for a desirable company, they are less likely to leave.
4. Flattening the Hierarchy
One of the hidden benefits of empowering your employees is flattening your hierarchy. In a flat hierarchy, there is little to no micro-managing.
A flat structure can eliminate the excess management layers to improve communication and increase transparency in the workforce. Fewer management levels can improve productivity and decision making among your employees.
Of course, there is some risk of flat hierarchy too. There is a good chance for generalization and confusion if the desired results are not achieved. It becomes unclear as to who would be responsible for the failure of a certain project, the guy who worked on the content or the guy who worked on the voiceover, etc.
What you need to do is understand the level of “flatness” you want. If you have a huge company, maybe going too flat might not be the best idea. If your company is small, then a flat hierarchy can give you optimum results.
5. Career Development
Career development is one of the most crucial factors for employees when they consider a job.
In fact, according to a 2018 survey, 75% of employees are looking for opportunities for skill development. Empowering your employees is one of the most efficient ways to develop their skills. Since they will be taking most of the decisions involving their work, it is likely that they would put extra effort into the project.
When employees are empowered, it gives them a sense of accountability and responsibility for developing their own skills. They usually go to lengths for optimizing their efforts and nailing their work. It is one less worry for the human resources department when employees are fueling their own skills and developing themselves.
6. Customer Handling
Good or bad customer experience is largely dependent on one thing and that is what is happening in the inside of an organization.
One of the major advantages of empowering employees can be seen in the quality of customer service. According to a Gallup study, organizations that empower employees experience 50% higher customer loyalty.
Empowered employees take personal pride in their work and they take the responsibility for doing a good job. As a result, organizations reap the benefits of empowered employees as they deliver superior products and services.
Additionally, empowered employees can address day to day challenges of customer handling much more efficiently. For example, while dealing with an unsatisfied customer if your employees have the tools and authority to make a decision, they can fix the issue there and then.
How can we make employees feel empowered?
Build 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.
Facilitate 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.
Provide 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.
Timely 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.
Foster Employee engagement:
Employee 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.
The fundamental way of working is going through a continuous change. People no longer see their work as a way of earning money. They see it as a part of their lifestyle and obviously don’t like people bossing them around. Empowering employees is not a one day process but a perpetual one. You need to set it motion progressively and not with a giant leap.
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. We're excited to hear from you!