Employee empowerment refers to an approach to management in which workers are given the authority, autonomy, and permission to make decisions about some parts of their job and work environment. It involves giving employees some sense of freedom in how they work and what they do.
Employee empowerment can look different at different organizations, but it can mean:
- Trusting employees to make some of the decisions on the job without seeking permission from supervisors of managers.
- Allowing employees to set their own goals and develop plans for pursuing them.
- Offering flexible work schedules or hybrid work arrangements, where possible.
- Allowing employees to decide how they will complete assigned tasks without needing to report to managers or supervisors how they will complete a work project.
- Waiting for a work project to be completed before management needs to see it, rather than requiring approval at each step.
- Giving employees a voice in the company by allowing them to make suggestions for the company and following through on some of these suggestions.
- Allowing employees to meet in their own committees and groups to brainstorm and bring ideas to leadership teams.
- Checking in less often throughout the day while employees are working.
What Are the Benefits of Employee Empowerment?
For employees, the benefits of empowerment are clear: workers who have more independence on the job can gain more confidence and can hone their problem-solving skills. They can grow professionally as they take on more responsibilities.
For companies that work to develop employee empowerment, there are also advantages. Here are a few examples.
- High employee engagement and satisfaction. Studies have shown that empowered employees are more engaged, and companies with highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable when compared with their competitors. In addition, workers who have some authority in their workplace report 26% higher levels of satisfaction than their peers.
- Improved company culture. A Harvard study of workplaces found that empowered employees were more likely to trust leadership, and trust can build a stronger culture by creating mutual respect and camaraderie.
- Improved company efficiency. In today’s workplace, not all employees are sitting in the same space. There are deskless workers, remote employees, and other team members who may not easily be able to go through complicated channels to resolve an issue or make a decision.
- Better decision-making. When you allow employees to decide on their own how to handle some situations, you free up teams and management to focus on other work. This is especially important given that up to 70% of c-suite time is spent on decision-making, and most companies report that decision-making at their company is not effective.
How Can You Empower Employees in the Workplace?
Ultimately, employee empowerment is about making a cultural and leadership change. It means saying no to micromanagement and working with teams and leadership to create more autonomy for employees. Here are some best practices to follow to get started.
1. Decide on empowerment goals.
You don’t want every employee to be able to make every decision involved in their work. Instead, create specific goals, such as reducing the number of decisions made by management about everyday tasks by a specific percentage. Look at your company and determine where you can give employees more freedom, autonomy, and decision-making ability, and where you don’t need to.
2. Get employees involved.
You can use technology, such as Connecteam surveys and polls, to find out from your team what decisions they feel they can successfully navigate right now and what parts of their roles they might like to have more control over. While you may not be able to follow all suggestions, this can give you a sense of what employees feel they are already capable of doing on their own.
By conducting polls, you may also discover if employees are eager for more empowerment or whether some members of your team do not want added responsibilities.
3. Train employees and leadership.
Employees may need to learn decision-making techniques if they are going to make some choices on their own. If they will be handling customer requests and complaints on their own in some situations, they may also need customer service training.
Leadership and management teams, too, may need training about delegation, if currently they are delegating by telling others what to do in detail rather than allowing someone to take ownership of a task. Leadership and management may also need support and training on more relaxed management styles that allow employees to learn.
If you’d like, you can use an app like Connecteam to create customized video training so your team can learn at their own pace and on the go.
4. Start small.
It can feel more comfortable for employees and management alike to start with small areas of empowerment. For example, at some businesses workers are allowed to “make things right” when a customer complains without needing to seek permission if the fix costs the company less than a set amount, such as $100. Gradually, employees may be able to make larger decisions as they build on their experience.
In other cases, workers might be allowed some decision-making about their shifts or schedules. Companies can use an employee scheduler, like Connecteam, to create open shifts that allow employees to claim the time blocks when they want to work.
5. Create a culture of learning and feedback.
One of the challenges with employee empowerment is that employees may sometimes make decisions or complete tasks differently than management and leadership would have preferred. They will probably make some mistakes along the way. The best way for companies to grow stronger together is by learning and offering continuous feedback.
It can be useful for employees to hear when they are doing great with their new roles and responsibilities as well as when they need to improve. It can also be useful for employers and managers to hear when they need to offer more support or to step back more to let employees thrive.
6. Set boundaries.
Make it clear what parts of the job workers can make decisions about and in what situations they need to contact someone else for support and help. It can be useful to define, in writing, what employees should and should not do in their roles, what decisions they should and should not make, and when and who they should contact when the need arises.
7. Maintain communication.
Even when workers are empowered, they should never feel adrift and unable to reach someone when they need help. Empowered employees have more of a voice in their role, but they also know they can call on team members when they need to talk through a decision or need some help. Chat features, group chat, and other forms of communication through an app like Connecteam means your employees always have a team able to help, right through their device.
Making the decision to give your team members more freedom in how they do their work and in the decisions they make means a period of adjustment for employees, managers, and leadership. It can mean a shift in your culture and the way you communicate. However, the benefits for both your workers and your organization can be significant, helping workers to be happier and more effective while boosting your bottom line.