In the dictionary, empowerment is described as “A management practice of sharing information, rewards and power with employees so that they can take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance” or more abbreviated versions like the one shown in the image above.
Empowerment is based on the idea that giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, as well holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and satisfaction. It is feeling in control of your work environment and that you have permission to make decisions in the areas you control and are responsible for in your job.
Managers should avoid thinking of it as something that one individual does for another. This is one of the problems organisations have experienced with the concept of empowerment. People think that someone, usually the boss, has to bestow empowerment on the people who report to him/her.
Many senior managers fail to empower their people and in turn ask why people won’t act in empowered ways. When a member of staff is not empowered, this leads the person to feel that he/she is being micromanaged and a feeling of unhappiness.
Every company has the responsibility to create a work environment which helps foster the ability and desire of employees to act in empowered ways. The company also has the responsibility to remove barriers that limit the ability of staff to act in empowered ways, as this will increase the productivity and effectiveness in the workplace.
Empowered employees are able to perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively without feeling as if they are waiting for a decision, waiting for direction and waiting for permission to act.
Examples of empowerment
- Allow flexibility: you might be used to having a very firm grip while directing your team. It’s time to accord your employee’s flexibility. Examine your workflow and identify key areas that would benefit from greater flexibility and creative input. These tasks might include content creation, marketing strategies and company events. Sit down with your team and explain how much flexibility they will each have within a task. Don’t leave it open-ended; give them some parameters to work with so that they’re not overwhelmed with options.
- Don’t micromanage: giving up control and empowering your team can be a terrifying experience for many leaders. You might feel compelled to watch their every move and peek over their shoulders. But by monitoring someone’s every move, you’re actually impeding his or her ability to grow. Give your team some space, trust them and you might be impressed by what they’re able to achieve.
- Break the leader/follower mindset: breaking out of the traditional leader-follower mindset can help you create stronger staff bonds founded on trust, self-confidence and achievement.
- Challenge them: challenge your employees so they can demonstrate and achieve their full potential. For example, you might notice that your sales representatives tend to rely heavily on email interactions – challenge them to get on the phone instead and get outside of their comfort zone. You might discover that a co-worker is bilingual and ask him/her to work with international customers. If you’re out of ideas, sit down with each member of your team and ask them what types of experiences would help them grow professionally.
- Don’t create barriers: allow active and open participation, asking staff for their opinion and encouraging them to make decisions, as this can help you create stronger staff bonds founded on trust, self-confidence and achievement. When you create room for independent work and decision-making, your team might discover that they’re able to achieve far more than they originally thought possible. Test drive these leadership techniques and see what your own team is really capable of achieving.
- Company’s management style : the company has to be involved in sharing the goals, sharing each employee’s expectations and framework with the employee and then, getting out of the way while employees, empowered to set goals, accomplish their objectives and determine how to do their jobs.
Empowerment is a desirable management and organisational tool that enables employees to practice autonomy, control of their own jobs and better use their skills and abilities to benefit both the organisation and themselves.