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Having decided that the many advantages of employee empowerment will benefit the organization, it’s important to prepare both employees and the working environment for the strategy of employee empowerment.
Empowered employees will show greater initiative and require less management. Provided that employees are given guidance as to their new responsibilities, and work within the values and strategic objectives of the organization, the objectives of employee empowerment will be met. Here are five ways in which an organization can prepare the working environment for a strategy aligned with maximizing the rewards from employee empowerment.
1. Communicate openly and accept risk
Old-style hierarchical companies rely on old-style communications in a top-down, command-giving approach. The problem with this approach is that it negates ideas and feedback. Providing a structure in which employees can discuss issues, ideas, and concerns openly gives them a clearly defined route of communication, and allows them to see that their views and feedback is both valued and taken seriously.
This approach should work hand-in-hand with a less risk averse culture. Some of the most innovative companies (organizations like Google, Apple, and 3M) openly invite their people to try new ideas and create better products or processes. They allow them to experiment in a controlled fashion, rewarding measured failures as a method of moving toward greater success.
Although employee empowerment is designed to free employees from their current constraints, people also need to know what their new constraints are. They need boundaries, set by mutual consent to engender an environment of cooperation and clarity.
Consider the way in which Yum! Brands empowered its employees to make decisions up to $15. The risk was that every complaint made would be met with an automatic $15 discount or refund: the reality was that managers’ time dealing with minor issues has been reduced, along with an improvement in customer loyalty, repeat business, and new footfall increased revenues.
Business leaders and entrepreneurs are natural self-improvers. Consequently many assume their employees are the same. The fact is that most people must be encouraged to learn new skills and abilities, and this requires foresight, investment, and time committed by management. Employees should be helped to set their own growth path, and rewarded as they advance.
Central to the success of employee empowerment will be operating within the values, belief, and strategic vison of the organization. Most managers and leaders store a lot of this in their heads. Team meetings, one-on-one sessions, and other communicative methods should be used to share important information and ensure a consistent approach by individuals and teams.
Employees should be supported in their efforts. A constant watchful eye is a degenerative approach to leading an empowerment culture. Instead, employees should be encouraged to stretch their horizons, and rewarded when they do so. It’s a fallacy that people work only for the money. They want to feel appreciated, and to know that their efforts and contributions are valued by the organization. People shouldn’t have to ask if they are appreciated – there are plenty of innovative ways to say “thank you”.
When an organization creates an environment in which employees feel valued and inspired, the benefits of employee empowerment will soon be realized. This requires open and honest communication, and a redefinition of the responsibilities and duties of employees. It also needs employees to align fully with the core values and strategy of the business. As the culture of empowerment becomes embedded, the organization will see revenues increase as morale and productivity grows.
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