Employee empowerment gives employees a voice and fosters an environment of ownership and independence. If management can hand over some of the power, there will be increased personal investment by employees.
With greater responsibilities and opportunities created by an empowering leadership style, employees are encouraged to take on greater challenges, benefit from opportunities, and progress more effectively in their careers. This promotes a positive employee experience, and the company benefits from the constructive spin-off.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at how to empower individuals and the benefits and challenges of this process. We’ll look at factors that influence empowerment, how to measure progress, and list some actionable tips.
What is employee empowerment?
Employee empowerment happens when a company gives its employees autonomy over certain everyday activities in the workplace. Enabling and encouraging employees to make independent decisions and act on them is important because it gives employees a voice, drives an improved employee experience, and builds loyalty and trust in the workplace.
In an empowered workspace, employees are equipped with all the tools and resources needed for making the required decisions and ensuring they are correct. An empowered employee will feel they have the ability to achieve something and that they have the confidence to succeed.
Employee empowerment does not embrace micromanagement or high levels of supervision from management. If employees are given independence and freedom, they will become more aligned with the company’s mission and goals.
Benefits of employee empowerment
Enabled by the correct support and resources, employees will experience higher levels of motivation, and this will result in greater input.
Increased creativity and innovation
When employees have the freedom to be creative and develop ideas, this greatly improves confidence and fosters initiative. If employees are allowed more freedom to be innovative, they will be willing to give more.
Improved performance and productivity
Employees powered by autonomy are more engaged, and this drives greater confidence which in turn leads to increased productivity and, consequently, profit. A happier workforce will always be more profitable compared to one where employees are disengaged because of micromanagement. Also, work is completed faster where people don’t have to be checked constantly by a manager.
When an individual has ownership of their work, they will feel more responsible for and care more about process, progress, and outcomes.
When employees have control over their work, they will more often seek input and share ideas with colleagues. This drives a culture of open collaboration in the workplace.
With more freedom to make decisions, an employee will experience a higher level of job satisfaction. People being constantly watched or checked will be distracted and have low levels of trust, negatively affecting their day-to-day progress and happiness.
Customer satisfaction and loyalty
Customers would rather interact with someone who knows what they are doing rather than someone who needs to constantly refer back to a manager for a decision. If employees have the authority to act with assurance, this enables the best customer experience. Good experiences will foster customer loyalty.
Good company reputation
Empowered employees are usually engaged and happy in their jobs. They will speak positively to coworkers, colleagues, and friends and on social media. This drives a great company reputation and puts the company in a good position to attract top talent.
Trust in leadership
Where departments, teams, and individuals are micromanaged, trust in leadership tends to be low. If employees are given autonomy, they feel valued and trusted and will, in turn, trust leadership more.
Healthy leadership potential
Empowered employees will take on bigger challenges and use their initiative toward greater skill development and leadership advancement opportunities.
Factors that influence employee empowerment
Leadership style and management practice
If leadership holds all the power, employees won’t have autonomy. If there is pushback from management, this will influence levels of trust and confidence. If teams and individuals are micromanaged, this will often prevent employees from doing anything beyond the basic minimum expected.
Where creativity and new ideas are discouraged by rigid routines, there will soon cease to be any. However, when leadership and management are on the same page with regard to delegating tasks and responsibilities and being open to new ideas, this results in an empowered workforce across the company
Company culture and values
If a company’s culture fosters an environment of inclusivity and equality, employees will feel confident in taking responsibility for what they do and being accountable for it. They will be familiar with the company’s ethics, values, and mission and be included in defining the goals they need to achieve. Employees excluded by a culture with weak values won’t be inclined to collaboratively strive toward achieving company goals.
Employee skills and abilities
Employees need the abilities, skills, tools, and support to do their everyday jobs as a basic step to empowerment. If these are absent, out of date, or withheld, there is no foundation for independence or initiative in the workplace.
Poor internal communications result in disconnection and inefficiency and will kill the best intentions even if employees have been encouraged to have autonomy over what they do. Employee empowerment depends on consistent, relevant information distribution so each individual or team can work independently.
Education and training
Education and training will open up opportunities for employees to further their personal development and careers. Being able to improve skills and capabilities in the workplace will lead to a greater sense of empowerment. Where there is no chance of career development, employees will feel invisible and look to the competition for better career opportunities.
If working hours and workplace locations are set in stone, then individuals won’t have autonomy in their own lives, let alone their work. For most people, life outside the office doesn’t start at 5 p.m., so a culture of flexibility is essential to allow employees to give their best when they are best suited to do this.
Recognition and reward
When employees are recognized for work well done or achievements of any sort in the workplace, this will benefit mutual trust and respect across all levels of the company while driving a deeper culture of empowerment. Rewards and recognition can enhance the employee experience by fostering a sense of appreciation, boosting motivation, and reinforcing a positive workplace culture.
How to empower employees in the workplace
The benefits of employee empowerment are far-reaching, as we have seen above, and also contribute to aspects of the work environment like work-life balance and well-being. Thus, it should be encouraged in every company today. Here, we look into the best methods to promote empowerment in today’s workplace.
It’s wise to ensure that the company vision is shared by all who work there. Without a clear idea of what the company goals are and why they must be achieved, employees will not understand the role they play in the structure of the company or why it is important. If the company mission and goals are clear, employees will more easily see the value of empowerment and how their independent initiative and contributions will help drive profitability.
Create clear expectations and boundaries
Empowerment isn’t a free-for-all where everyone does their own thing or only what they feel like doing. Though it sounds counterintuitive to empowerment, it is important to set parameters and boundaries within which employees can use discretion and common sense to operate independently.
If management holds onto all responsibilities, then no empowerment can take place. The delegation, wherever possible, is an essential basic step to giving employees a chance to prove themselves and will foster a culture of honesty and trust in the workplace through all levels of the company. Give employees a chance to use their voices to suggest improvements, new systems, or methods, or encourage them to manage a small section or department without undue oversight from management.
Shared decision-making and problem-solving
When decision-making and problem-solving are shared between teams or individuals, this not only leads to new ideas and input but also encourages an empowering sense of inclusion. When decisions and problems are handled collaboratively, employees are able to strengthen connections and understand their place in the bigger picture.
Empathy is fast becoming one of the most valuable leadership skills with regard to empowerment. If you can relate to the mindset of an employee, it will be easier to approach and handle work-life issues with a clearer understanding. If an employee knows they will be listened to and handled with compassion, this builds a culture of trust and confidence to take on greater challenges.
Provide resources and support
Make sure the right tools and backup are provided for people to do their best work. Employees feel inadequate if they have poor support and keep having to refer to a manager for help or permission. Give employees the best means to succeed.
Encourage input and feedback
Fostering an open-door management style where input and feedback around strategies is welcome will allow employees to feel necessary within the processes upholding the company mission. They will feel confident that their contributions influence the wider function of the company.
Recognize and reward
No hard worker likes to be ignored. People work better when they know they are appreciated and feel more confident when leaders voice their support by recognizing and rewarding efforts. Confidence stemming from this leads to feelings of trust and security.
Foster a culture of trust
By being generous around the delegation of tasks and responsibilities, providing the support required to execute these effectively, and accepting feedback without bias, management will be able to build on a two-way culture of trust.
Promote learning and growth opportunities
Provide opportunities for employees to develop personally and in their careers, through mentorships, education, job shadowing, job exchanges, team building exercises, employee-only conferences, relocations, and others. Research by LinkedIn shows that opportunities to learn and develop will drive empowerment within the company culture. Employees who have chances to improve are less stressed, more productive, able to accept greater responsibilities and challenges, and are generally happier and more confident.
Embed empowerment in company culture
Make employee empowerment an integral part of company culture. Given that many prospective employees look to company culture during the process of applying for jobs, a healthy empowerment strategy is likely to attract and retain star performers.
None of the above will have any positive effect on the company or its employees if internal communications are absent or poor. Poor communication leads to disconnection and inefficiencies, so ensure you have a state-of-the-art intranet in place for your employees to stay well-informed. Without the correct support, most people will be unable to take the initiative or act independently, and this will negatively affect engagement and slow productivity. Empower your employees to do their very best with consistent, clear, relevant communication.
Challenges presented by employee empowerment
While employee empowerment can have a powerful impact on a company’s performance, it is helpful to be aware of some of the barriers to success.
Sometimes managers don’t want employees to have greater autonomy. This can be because of a lack of trust and confidence and a tendency to micromanage. Managers and employers need to know what the talents and capabilities of their employees are. Once they are familiarized with individual skills and abilities, it allows for easier delegation of duties according to potential.
Sometimes managers fear competition or loss of control, and this can lead to the discouragement of freedom in the workplace, and conflict might result. The hierarchy of a company needn’t be threatened by empowerment, and it is quite possible to set guidelines within which employees have the freedom to work independently and where they can be held accountable for their actions.
Fear of the unknown is a human condition, and employees may be skeptical about taking on new and unusual responsibilities, especially if training and support aren’t offered. If there is a lack of trust between management and other departments, employees might regard the initiative as a heavier workload rather than an opportunity for personal improvement and an enhanced employee experience.
A low level of trust between management and employees is always an obstacle to a new strategy, and this would include the introduction of an employee empowerment program. If employees are insecure about change, then work must be done to enlighten them about personal benefits within a culture of inclusion.
Inadequate communications in an empowered workspace will have a negative effect on the company brand. It’s great for everyone to be working independently, but if they’re not delivering the same message, it could harm the brand and will most certainly confuse customers.
How to measure employee empowerment success
Employee empowerment can be monitored and measured to an extent using surveys, group sessions, and interviews. This is useful to find out where the strategy is working and where the gaps or weak spots are. To find out how people are feeling about empowerment initiatives, ask questions like these below and any others appropriate to your specific company’s situation. Encourage discussion, listen to feedback with an open mind, and adapt or change where needed.
- What is your perceived level of responsibility, and do you know what is expected of you?
- Do you have permission to deal with problems and make decisions?
- Are you able to be creative in your work?
- What levels of bureaucracy are you dealing with?
- Are you able to make the changes you need?
- Do you have the training and tools to do your best work every day?
- Do you feel your opinions count?
- Have you got a friend or friends at work?
- Does your job feel important regarding the company’s mission and goals?
- Is development encouraged, and are there opportunities to learn and grow?
- Are colleagues focused on delivering quality work?
- Do you feel valued and cared about?
- Have you been recognized or rewarded for a job well done?
Employee empowerment allows people the confidence to be their best selves at work. If you provide a workplace where employees can flourish, if you communicate well and listen to what they say, you will learn what they want and need, what hinders, and what inspires them. You will discover their capabilities, talents, and something about their personal lives.
Like most modern employers today, you’ll lay a solid foundation for a healthy employee empowerment strategy. Once this is embedded in company culture, you’ll attract and retain top talent across a broad spectrum of capabilities to develop and sustain a competitive edge.
Reach out for a demo to see how a modern intranet can help empower your employees to do their best work.