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In the modern business world, companies that have ‘the edge’ outperform and increase market share. In today’s leading organizations, this edge is produced by empowering employees to be more responsible for their jobs, take decisions, and control their own destiny at work.
The importance of empowering employees in the workplace should not be underestimated: it breeds individual and group confidence, enabling people to work both more efficiently and more effectively. When people are confident within their work and with their employer, they are more willing to identify problems and suggest ways to improve quantity and quality of output. This culture will jumpstart change, increasing agility in the market and providing the impetus to grow revenues.
Google is renowned for its culture of employee empowerment. So, too, is Enterprise. But what benefits do companies that use employee empowerment enjoy?
The importance of empowering employees is clear when the benefits of empowering employees are understood. While there are many areas in which empowerment provides a positive impact, the following five are perhaps the most recognizable.
When given the autonomy that allows them to make a difference to product or service outcomes, employees will produce higher-quality work. The finished product becomes a matter of personal pride, and the benefits for both the customer and the employee will become self-evident. The real benefit to the organization of increasing quality is a respective upturn in customer loyalty, which directly leads to increased revenues.
Various studies have shown that empowered employees are more satisfied in their work, and less likely to seek employment elsewhere. This decreases employment costs and the need for training of new staff.
In one study, it was found that seven in 10 employees rate empowerment as important to their engagement with their work and their employer.
Toyota is another organization that has an empowerment culture. It hands over responsibilities of identifying and solving production problems to its shop floor employees. They are encouraged to solve cause rather than firefight symptoms, and management know that workers are best positioned to do so. This responsibility runs so deep that any worker can halt the production line.
Toyota conducts an anonymous employee satisfaction survey every two years, and its latest results show that employee satisfaction in all areas is the highest it has ever been at between 69.2% (shop floor) and 73.9% (administrative and engineering).
With increased confidence, employees are more willing to share information and best practices with others. Honesty and openness increase, and this directly impacts the ability of people to work as part of a team. Participation becomes more active and proactive, and this greater collaboration will, in itself, feed through to organizational capability to achieve strategic goals.
As confidence and self-esteem grows, and a more quality-focused and collaborative approach takes hold, productivity will increase. People who are accountable for their work become owners of process and product, and energy to do the job better follows. Organizations that have discovered the importance of empowering employees find that waste is eliminated, bureaucracy is reduced, and time is spent more efficiently.
A study by Zenger Folkman found that low empowerment leads to low effort. Folkman found that only 4% of employees put in extra effort when empowerment is low, but this rises to 67% when employees feel empowered.
Costs will be reduced across the organization:
With so many potential benefits available, effective leaders should onboard tactics to encourage their people to be more empowered. Here is a summary of five such tactics, which, when combined, create a powerful, overarching strategy to better empower employees.
Today’s employees are less likely to be satisfied by completing tasks in separated silos. They want to know that their role within your organization adds value and helps to achieve its goals and objectives. Use one-to-ones and team meetings to emphasize individual and team contributions, and to improve understanding of how work fits in with the big picture. (Read more in our article ‘Communication Skills Needed to Empower Employees’.)
Most people are no longer content with working for a pay packet. They wish to develop professionally, with learning helping them to meet their personal goals. Empower a learning environment by enabling people to decide in which direction their learning takes them, to help them develop at the pace that most suits them.
Create a collaborative team spirit by encouraging employees to make decisions. Be more democratic by consulting your people on decisions that affect them, and relinquish responsibility to the team – while continuing to guide them to better solutions.
Leaders who embed employee empowerment tools into their armory are more likely to inspire collaboration. Qualities such as communication skills, emotional intelligence and influencing capability are key.
Eliminate fear of failure and improve innovation and creativity by ensuring that employees are not fearful of making mistakes. By empowering people to make decisions, it follows that you should also accept that mistakes will be made. The important thing is to ensure that mistakes do not become elements for blame, but rather that they become learning experiences from which individuals and the team should benefit.
Employee empowerment should help to innovate more rapidly and productively. If people are afraid to make mistakes, willingness to try new things and innovate will deplete. This is especially important when leading organizational change as we discuss in our article ‘Employee Empowerment in Action’.
By flattening the organizational hierarchy, you transfer accountability to the team. However, employees generally require a lot of support for this process to bed in. Office politics will need to be dealt with, and rules of engagement kept simple to encourage the move from dependency on a manager to autonomous decision-making.
Gallup’s 2013 Employee Engagement survey, which studied nearly 1.4 million employees across 50,000 work units, found that those companies that understand the importance of empowering employees and are most active in their employee engagement practices benefit with:
To access these benefits, leaders should develop a strategy of behaviors that encourage autonomy, bravery and learning. It requires a transfer of responsibility and accountability, which can be as difficult for the leader to do as it is for the employee to experience.
Contact Primeast today, and we’ll help you realize the benefits of empowering your employees.
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