We've all worked for that boss. The one who needs to approve every little decision or questions your decisions unnecessarily. They likely mean well, but oftentimes this type of leadership creates doubt and insecurity in employees. Rather than learning how to grow and develop in their role, employees instead learn how to lean on their bosses.
Conversely, bosses who are flexible, adaptable, and trust their teams end up creating a culture of empowered employees. These leaders trust employees to make decisions that are in the best interests of the company. Employees then trust that they have the freedom and flexibility to execute their job requirements effectively. Employee empowerment is the ultimate sign of trust in an organization.
Let’s talk about what employee empowerment is and what it looks like in the workplace.
What is Employee Empowerment?
Employee empowerment is a belief that employees should be provided the autonomy and resources needed to perform their role to the best of their abilities. It also includes an expectation that employees are given opportunities for further skill development and career advancement.
A number of benefits are associated with employee empowerment, and these benefits are often advantageous for the business itself as well as for the individual employees.
In fact, a meta-analysis of workplace empowerment revealed that employee empowerment leads to greater retention. Furthermore, empowered employees are more satisfied with their job and committed to the organization.
In a 2019 study from the International Research Journal of Business Studies, researchers found that employee empowerment leads to improved communication between employees and managers. Not only that, it also fosters growth of interpersonal skills and increased quality awareness. Creativity levels are also higher where employees are empowered.
What is the Key to Successful Employee Empowerment?
Employee empowerment is quite literally the antidote to micromanagement. Employees can't be empowered if they're micromanaged, and micromanaging kills trust.
In order for employees to be empowered, it requires a specific mindset at every level of an organization. Leaders must believe that employees are capable of making decisions and don’t require constant supervision to be successful.
They must also accept that a choice different from the one they would make isn’t necessarily a bad choice. This is especially true if it still produces the desired results. In turn, empowered employees believe in their capability to make and act on important decisions in the workplace.
Although an attitude of empowerment is an important first step, having the right processes in place is also critical. Just a few of these include:
- Providing employees with the necessary information to make important decisions that are in line with the company’s mission and values.
- Training employees so they have the necessary skills to take on new tasks.
- Well-defined communication methods that foster an open exchange of ideas and feedback.
- Creating a "mistakes culture" that embraces mistakes and views them as a tool for learning, rather than an opportunity to reprimand.
Put It Into Practice: Employee Empowerment Examples
Empowering employees requires company-wide buy-in to build the necessary mindset in all employees. Here are a few practices you can put into place to empower employees within your organization.
Create opportunities for growth.
Balance and communication are key in providing opportunities for growth. Employees need to have the chance to take on challenging projects without feeling like the work is being passed on as an act of avoidance.
When assigning new projects, be clear about your intention in asking employees to complete the task.
Are you trusting them with a challenging project because you believe in their ability? Is this a chance to develop certain skills? Are you trying to strengthen their leadership skills for an upward trajectory in your company?
Truly empowering employees with new projects or responsibilities also requires leaders to release some of their control or authority.
Clearly define strategy and guidelines.
No one likes to be left out of the loop, especially in the workplace. Keeping employees well-informed about your business’s goals and strategies helps them feel like an integral part of the team and it helps guide their decision-making process.
With this knowledge, they are better equipped to independently make decisions that have the company’s best interests at heart. No micro-managing required.
Regular praise is not only vital in supporting employee wellbeing and preventing burnout, it also reinforces the behaviors that you as a manager would like to see repeated. Research from Gallup also found that the most meaningful feedback comes from CEOs and managers. This means leaders hold a unique responsibility to empower their employees. Building a culture of recognition is one way to ensure employees feel appreciated for their efforts.
With remote work continuing to rise in popularity, consider how you can recognize employees who aren’t in the office. For example, begin team calls by praising someone for their recent performance, or consider adopting a platform for employee recognition.
The Terryberry 360 Recognition Platform offers a comprehensive solution that can host your recognition efforts, including milestone and service awards, social recognition, feedback and communication, and performance and incentive rewards.
Maintain regular communication.
A global Gallup poll measuring workplace engagement revealed a consistent pattern across more than a hundred countries: very few respondents had been involved in a conversation about their progress at work in the past 6 months.
Infrequent performance reviews don’t set the stage for genuine conversation; instead, they become nerve-wracking meetings that create a pit of dread in the bottom of employees’ stomachs.
Not only are they stressful, but they’re also ineffective— only 14% of employees seek to improve their performance based on their performance review.
Instead of annual performance reviews, consider scheduling monthly one-on-one meetings or quarterly check-ins. You may also decide to provide continuous feedback, which allows managers to address challenges instantly and create more opportunities for recognition.
No matter what you choose, be deliberate in delivering more positive comments than negative.
One Harvard study found that the ideal ratio is six praises for every criticism. By establishing a positive, feedback-friendly culture, employees will begin to view feedback as a helpful tool that leads to greater job performance and improved results, rather than a long list of their shortcomings and mistakes.
Encourage feedback from employees.
In an empowered workplace, feedback goes both ways. With a well-established feedback-friendly culture, there is a greater chance that employees will feel secure in providing both constructive and positive feedback regarding their work, your organization, and the company culture.
If employees are more comfortable providing this kind of feedback anonymously, online feedback options are an ideal alternative.
Use an employee opinion and satisfaction survey to assess current perceptions of the company or an employee engagement survey to measure employees’ motivation, purpose, and passion for their work. Include both scaled items as well as areas for comments to be shared.
And act on it.
Ultimately, the most meaningful feedback is the kind that is heard. Avoid survey fatigue by acting on suggestions shared via feedback. Employees are empowered when they see that their opinions and experience are valued.
At the end of the day, employees want to feel like they are trusted and valued members of your organization. Contact us to begin designing your recognition platform and build a culture of employee empowerment in your organization.