"Empowerment is the magic wand that turns a frog into a prince.”
-Lama S. Bowen
Empowerment is the management practice of sharing information, recognition and authority with personnel, enabling them to be more creative, to make decisions, to solve problems and to take the initiative, thus improving outcomes. Providing employees the training, authority, and opportunities, as well as holding them responsible and accountable for their actions, develops both job competence and satisfaction.
All managers want employees who are motivated, creative, and ambitious and who fulfill their responsibilities with limited guidance. Studies have shown that empowered employees take more ownership in their organization. They tend to be happier and more proactive, willing to embrace change. A team composed of members who feel in control of their work and careers are far more enthusiastic about their roles and more passionate about achievement, which yields results for the firm.
Improved communication is fundamental to empowerment. Providing employees a firm understanding of the company vision, of the business the company performs, and of the information specific to their department ensures they have the prerequisite knowledge to perform favorably. Further investing in your employee’s skillsets, coupled with personal authority and accountability, enables them to make the right decisions to help the business outcompete.
Managers must communicate under the confines of suitability with their staff, keeping them informed about their jobs and the environment. People become upset when they're the last to know about important changes occurring within their organizations.
Management must also seek and remain open to employee input, giving them a voice in critical and strategic decisions. Operating with this culture of communication, employees will feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas with management, improving not only morale but also work processes. Consequently, employees become more open to constructive coaching from managers and vice versa.
So at this point you must be saying “Wow, what other benefits are there for our company by empowering our employees? Well, there are numerous benefits of an empowered organization.
1. Improved customer service
When your personnel understand and share the company vision, they see themselves as assets of the organization and are more inclined to make decisions, which please the customer. They behave like “owners of the company” and know that for the company to be successful, they must attract and retain customers with a better customer experience. For instance, customers are loyal to stores where salespeople are empowered to make on-the-spot decisions that address customer issues.
2. Increased performance
When employees recognize what management expects of them and have the authority to make decisions it leads to increased productivity. If they do not have to have all their work approved by their boss, which can take hours to days, they can make the decision and keep work moving forward meeting schedules and deadlines.
3. Eliminate waste and add value
When employees feel empowered and responsible for the success of their company, they are more likely to explore waste reduction practices and improve how they perform their jobs. As they work firsthand producing the service or product, they possess the greatest insight to provide feedback and ideas that enhance value. In empowered organizations, managers openly seek this feedback from employees, acting quickly on their decisions, thus contributing added value.
Improved customer service, enhanced performance, waste elimination, and value-add opportunity recognition are all very tangible benefits of empowerment. However, most leaders are unaware of the intangible benefits it provides. These are the hidden effects of empowerment. These benefits can have a substantial impact on profitability of a company. Empowerment impacts the bottom line of the company when we take time to recognize the hidden costs of restricting employee talents and capabilities. Most leaders are focused on their own power, command and control rather than unleashing the tremendous source of power, information and expertise that the empowered employee brings to the table.
Below are many benefits that companies can measure beyond the tangible benefits when implementing an empowered workplace:
Employees who are bored in their positions and feel like they are not valued tend to have higher absenteeism. They feel they are under management's control at all times. Empowered individuals that are challenged, rewarded and motivated have higher job satisfaction and therefore less likely to be absent from work and cost of lost productivity is reduced.
A majority of the time employee turnover is due to an individual feeling that they are not valued and do not have opportunity for growth within a company. When employees are not happy in their job they tend to look at their work only in terms of what they are being paid and feel the need to look for a better rewarding job.
Empowerment brings out the strengths of employees and helps create a line of sight for them on how they contribute to the company that leads to job satisfaction. They feel the company and management are helping them develop their skills and grow with the company. This atmosphere reduces their desire to leave the company, and, in many instances, it increases their motivation to do a good job and remain with the company and refer others to their company. Also, the organization saves funds to search, relocate and train new employees.
Empowerment contributes to employee satisfaction and better customer service as cited above. Companies that have implemented an empowerment program have experienced a significant reduction in the number of lawsuits from employees and customers.
Companies report a reduction in medical and other health-related claims as job satisfaction and fulfillment increases. When assessing the overall impact of empowerment, this area is often overlooked. While savings will obviously vary depending on the benefit packages provided, it should not be ignored.
Companies who have empowered their employees have more productive employees, retain more customers and are more profitable. Their brand is more likely withstand the competitive and economic forces because of overall employee involvement.
Regardless of whether you are a manager with the power to influence your individual contributors or a coach who has a mission to create better leaders, design empowerment into the equation. Recognize the tangible and intangible benefits of empowered contributors. Companies can be turned around on the basis of an empowered workforce that understands the corporate goals, has access to tools and the training for making good decisions.
Theodore Roosevelt said, "The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”