You’ve probably heard the phrase “employee empowerment” being thrown around a lot, usually in the context of being something that every business owner should try to achieve when it comes to the way in which he or she is managing staff.
However, most definitions of employee empowerment seem to be pretty vague. What does it actually mean? How does one achieve this goal?
It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard buzzwords being thrown around without having an actual grasp of what they mean and how they can be practically implemented as business concepts.
Let’s take a deeper look in an effort to understand the concept of employee empowerment – what it is, why it works and how it’s achievable.
What Does it Mean?
To put in very basic terms, employee empowerment is all about getting greater value out of your staff by giving your employees more independence. Offering your staff more independence, coupled with a greater sense of responsibility, is what it’s all about.
You want your employees to be more proactive – allowing them to independently analyse their tasks and make decisions without having to explicitly tell them what to do at every step. Employee empowerment is as much about independence as it is about motivation and accountability. Business owners should expect their employees to have a deeper interest in the prosperity of the business as a result of this newly found independence.
One important aspect of the process many often overlook is the preparation. You need to train and educate your employees properly before setting them free. Managers need to give their employee the tools they need to succeed before giving them independence.
In the perfect sense of the concept, business owners can stop micro-managing their employees without having to worry about a decrease in productivity. In fact, employee empowerment should give managers more than just an added amount of free time, it should also give them a workforce that actively participates in bringing new ideas to the table that are going to provide real business value.
Why It’s a Good Thing
Employee empowerment done right is good for you and your employees. It gives you better and more productive employees by making your staff feel better about what they are contributing to your company.
It also helps in retention. You’ve seen all the facts, so it’s certainly no news to you if you’re a small business owner that turnover is still, and will probably always be, a huge problem. Statistics say that the average young American worker, Millennials specifically, will change jobs in between 15 and 20 times over the course of their careers.
That means that on average, these people are changing jobs every three or four years – even quicker when it comes to younger, hourly employees.
We’ve already talk about how to minimize your turnover rate, and one of the methods that comes up time and time again, and truly works, is giving employees a higher level of autonomy.
Giving your employees more independence is one of the keys of empowering them, because it shows that you trust and value them.
Employees respond to this positively in many ways. One of the key things that employee empowerment leads to is innovation. When employees understand that they have earned your trust, they are more willing to take chances and take steps towards working outside the box. When employees take on such a role, you no longer have an employee who is only there to do what he or she is told and collect a paycheck – you now have a thought leader who is putting in the extra effort it takes to influence positive change within your company.
That’s something that not even money can buy these days. That’s true employee empowerment working to the benefit of both you and your staff.
How to Make it Happen
Are you ready to give this employee empowerment thing a shot? Ready to give your employees more ownership of their tasks and build that necessary level of trust to take your relationship to the next professional plateau?
Here’s what you need to do.
Provide the Tools
Employee empowerment is not something that happens overnight. It’s not even something that can be put into motion right away. You can’t simply hire someone and then set them free to do whatever they want.
Employee independence only works if your employees are ready for it. Which means that you have to prepare them. Invest in their education, mentor them, provide them with the proper training they need to do their jobs at a high level.
Only then will you be able to evaluate your staff and see which employees are ready for the next step of the employee empowerment process.
If you are going to give your employees freedom, then you are going to have to give them some guidelines as well. Independence is great, but there still needs to be a collective goal. The goals that you set for your employees should be very clear, concise, but also reasonable and achievable.
Once they have the tools they need and realistic work goals have been set for them, you can grant them the independence they need to achieve, reach and exceed these expectations.
When setting goals for your employees, they should certainly be realistic. But that does not mean that you shouldn’t try to get them to work slightly out of their comfort zones and try different things.
You want to urge your employees to try new things and take calculated risks that might be outside of what they are used to doing. Challenging employees is a necessary part of the empowerment process.
As mentioned previously, this is where the trust between employer and employee comes into play. By encouraging your employees to take risks, you are letting go of your absolute control over them. This freeing of the reins is something that is both difficult for the employer and employee.
Small business owners especially, who are used to overseeing just about every aspect of their operation, often have a hard time granting worker independence. Employees might also see the prospect of having a greater say in the way they do things a bit daunting.
As long as the necessary level of trust exists, there should be no reason for fear on either side.
Be Ready for Setbacks
Another big part of employee empowerment is failure and your ability to cope with it. There is no way that your employees are going to succeed in everything they do, especially if they are taking risks and trying new things.
With this new-found independence, your employees will surely have missteps and problems along the way. It’s your job to absorb them and to make sure that these issues are not going to discourage the employee from continuing to set lofty goals and try new things.
Failure is a big part of allowing people to tread their own path and work independently. Just don’t let it scare you into giving up on the experiment.
Having an empowered staff should really be the ultimate goal of any employer. As a manager, having a group of people working for you that is willing and able to take the lead and show initiative without the need to have someone hold their hands and guide them every step of the way is truly a dream come true.
It’s important to remember that your job as a manager does not end once you have set your employees free. That’s actually where it begins.
Being able to make sure that these employees are working independently while still working in accordance with your company’s core values and objectives is the ultimate challenge for leaders who wish to reap the benefits of true employee empowerment.