What is Employee Empowerment?
Employee empowerment means allowing employees to set their own goals and prioritise their own tasks. It means placing more trust in your employees, and some managers might be reluctant to relinquish so much control. But employees will value the respect and the freedom that employee empowerment will bring.
Some workplaces are still unable to release authority to employees. Sometimes it’s out of necessity. But a lot of the time, a hierarchy with micromanagement leadership styles contribute to toxic company culture. This will lead to low productivity, high levels of stress, and high staff turnover.
Here are additional shocking statistics that are linked to organisations struggling to embrace employee empowerment
- 58% of managers haven’t received leadership training. Empowerment is unlikely to happen if managers are not equipped with the right skills.
- 53% of employees are unhappy at work. This leads to increased stress, burnout, and absenteeism among employees.
- 79% of employees leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated. Retaining talent then becomes a challenge, as well as attracting it.
5 Benefits of Employee Empowerment
1. Increased Job Satisfaction leads to Greater Talent Retention
Give employees more control of their work, and you’ll kindle their self-determination. Let them set their own targets and work to their own deadlines, and they’ll be working on their own terms to achieve their own goals. This can boost their motivation, and their drive to be the best at what they do.
In short, employee empowerment can contribute to employee engagement. And one recent analysis found that companies that prioritise employee engagement can expect four-times higher profits, two-times higher revenue, and a 40% lower staff turnover.
What’s more, an engaged workforce reduces absenteeism. According to a Gallup survey, studies show that highly engaged workplaces experience 41% lower absenteeism rates. Present employees are happy employees.
2. It Inspires Creativity and Innovation
We’ve already mentioned how employee empowerment can lead to better company culture. But what will that culture look like?
It’ll be a culture of freedom and innovation, where good ideas can thrive. Too much red tape and micromanagement can crush spirits and nip potential game-changers in the bud. But giving employees autonomy over their own work, and they might soon find quicker and more efficient ways to do things. They’ll be free to think outside the box, and their ideas could lead to new products, better services, and more streamlined processes.
Rigid roles and a strict hierarchy can stagnate your business. But a culture of innovation can lead to long-term growth while giving you a significant edge over your competitors.
3. Promotes Better Work/Life Balance
Employee empowerment means giving employees control over every aspect of this work. This extends to key HR tasks, such as managing holidays and leave. When booking leave is a time-consuming chore, far too many employees simply don’t bother. But we all need a break now and then. And if your employees don’t take breaks, you might start to see employee burnout, presenteeism, and other unpleasant consequences that are as bad for business as they are for your people.
Give employees the power to book their own leave. Also, make it as easy as possible for anyone in your organisation to book leave whenever they want. You’ll probably then find that employees take more time off, more often. Rather than reaching burnout, they’ll routinely recharge before returning to work revitalised and ready to bring their best, once again.
Empowering employees can help them achieve a better work/life balance to be healthier, happier, and a lot more productive.
4. Your Customers Will Thank You for It
Give your customer-facing employees more freedom to make faster decisions, and they’ll be better placed to meet and exceed customer expectations.
Far too many businesses stick rigidly to scripts when it comes to customer success. This can make life difficult for staff and customers alike. The customers might feel like you’re not listening to them, or you’re not interested in helping them. But at the same time, it can be extremely frustrating for staff if they can see a way of helping customers, but they’re not “allowed” to go off-script.
As we said above, empowering employees means treating your staff like responsible adults, trusting them to make their own decisions and to solve problems in their own way. Extend this autonomy to your customer-facing staff and they, in turn, might be better placed to start treating your customers like responsible adults too.
Customers can enjoy meaningful conversations rather than dry and stilted “interactions”. Meanwhile, your staff can think creatively about meeting their customers’ needs and solving their problems. So empowering your employees may also empower your customers. You could see improved levels of customer satisfaction and reputation. This in turn boosts your employer brand to help you attract the best talent to fuel growth.
5. Less Paperwork, More Progress
Give employees more autonomy over their work, and a lot of people in your business might suddenly have a lot more time on their hands. What will managers do when they no longer have to supervise every aspect of everyone’s day? And what will HR do when they no longer have to field endless leave request forms and emails?
Well, they’ll all be free to think, to get creative. Management can focus on value-adding tasks, on developing new products, finding new markets, and securing long-term future growth. Meanwhile, HR can focus on finding ways to boost workplace productivity for everyone.
5 Steps to Achieving Employee Empowerment
So you want to empower your employees, to give them more autonomy over their jobs? This might require a significant cultural shift in the workplace. And like all major changes, you should manage things carefully. Don’t change everything all at once and expect immediate results. Go for a gradual shift, allowing everyone to get used to the new way of doing things.
1. Trust Your Employees
Employee empowerment means shifting power and responsibility from management to staff. If this is going to happen, you need to ensure that your managers are happy to relinquish some of their control and that your employees are happy to take on new responsibilities.
You might have to invest in training and development to ensure that employees across the business are comfortable with more autonomy and that managers are equipped to handle a more autonomous workforce.
Be prepared to address any reservations anyone might have about your proposals. But you might find that the biggest barrier to your cultural shift is a general lack of interest. Head here to read our guide to overcoming this, and other common barriers to organisational change.
2. Shift to Flexible Working Practices
There was a lot of talk about how lockdown might usher in a “new normal”. Many thought that the changes we all had to make to our lives would have to be permanent. Yet this might not be the case. The government is looking to lift restrictions, so we may return to the “old normal” before you know it.
And yet, as we suggested above, many of your employees might like the new way of doing things. Through lockdown, they may have learned that they enjoy working from home. They might have learned that they’re a lot more productive when they’re wholly responsible for their own time.
So regardless of what happens to the rest of the country, make flexible working the new normal for your business. Even if the government lifts all lockdowns, allow any employee who wants to continue working from home to do so if they wish.
Change your focus. Stop judging your employees’ performance in terms of the number of hours they’ve worked. Instead, think in terms of what they’ve achieved, and allow your employees to work towards their goals in a way that suits them best.
3. Talk to Your Employees, and Be Prepared to Listen
If you want to empower your employees, you may need to encourage them to reconsider their roles and responsibilities. Are they happy at work? If not, what’s making them unhappy? And what about the work itself? Is it too challenging, or not challenging enough?
If employees often feel frustrated with certain processes, can they think of a better way of doing things? Indeed, can they think of anything that they’d rather be doing in the workplace? Some of your employees might feel that they have untapped skills that are going to waste or great ideas that you’re just not interested in hearing.
So talk to your employees. Listen to what they have to say, and be prepared to act on their feedback. Start with formal employee engagement surveys coupled with face-to-face interviews with as many employees as you can from across the whole business.
But beyond this, aim for an open-door policy. Create a company culture where any employee feels as though they can talk to management about whatever’s on their mind anytime they want, with no risk of ridicule or reprimand.
4. Rethink Your Employee Benefits Package
What sort of benefits do you offer your employees? What sort of rewards do you offer for exceptional work?
Empowering employees means giving them autonomy over their goals and deadlines. This alone can ignite their self-determination. But if you reward their hard work and loyalty with an excellent benefits package, employees might feel even more motivated to give their best, every day.
So perhaps it’s time to rethink your employee benefits package? Take the time to discover what sort of benefits your employees would truly value. Also, as different benefits will appeal more to different people, make sure you give employees a choice. For example, subsidised gym membership might mean the world to some employees, whereas it might not interest others at all!
Good employee benefits aren’t just good for motivation and productivity. They can also reduce staff turnover while enabling your business to attract and retain exceptional talent that’ll help you achieve long-term growth. Head here to read our guide to the employee benefits that work best.
5. Invest in New Technology to Support Success
If most of your staff had to work from home during the lockdown, you probably had to invest in some new tech to help everyone stay connected. You also probably learned that, in many ways, your business is only as good as the tech you use. How many times have your employees complained about overly slow, cumbersome, or complex systems to book a holiday?
If you’re going to empower your employees by shifting to a more flexible working policy, then you must ensure that your tech is fit for purpose. But the right tech can do so much more than simply enable your employees to get the job done. In many ways, good technology can, in itself, help to transform your business for the better.
For example, earlier we talked about reducing burnout by giving employees the power to book their own leave. With good absence management software, any employee can make their leave request from any device at the touch of a button. Their line manager can then approve or deny that request, once again at just the touch of a button. Meanwhile, everyone will be able to see the same staff rota and leave calendar. So there’ll never be any risk of anyone’s leave clashing, and you’ll never have to contend with understaffing, or other leave-related issues.
The entire leave booking process, which might previously have taken hours or days to complete, can be completed in a matter of seconds. And this is just one of many benefits such a system can bring.
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Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.