Are your employees empowered? The “empowered workforce” is a popular trend that has recently caught on, especially among millennials who are looking for more than just a high paying job when planning their careers. You may have even heard it debated in your office as a way to re-focus, engage, and motivate your employees.
Like many new workplace theories, what the term ”empowered workforce” actually is or means can be somewhat vague. The simplest definition suggest that it involves engaging and motivating your employees, but there is a lot more to it, and its impact can be more far reaching than you realize.
What Does Empowered Workforce Actually Mean?
Employee empowerment is about getting more value out of your team by giving them the power of independence. The theory states: if you give your employees more responsibility, independence and stop micromanaging them, they will respond by being more proactive and actively engaged.
“You want your employees to be more proactive – allowing them to independently analyse their tasks and make decisions without having to explicitly tell them what to do at every step. Employee empowerment is as much about independence as it is about motivation and accountability. Business owners should expect their employees to have a deeper interest in the prosperity of the business as a result of this newly found independence,” says David Galic from humanity.com.
What Does an Empowered Work Environment Look Like?
Here are the common characteristics of an empowered workplace environment:
- Flexible work hours and locations
- A collaborative and creative work environment
- A more decentralized approach to doing business – more responsibility is placed in the hands of employees
- Less focus on how work is done. The focus is on quality and completeness
- A laid back organizational culture
Why Employee Empowerment Fails
While the concept of employee empowerment is beneficial, companies often fall short for these reasons:
- Lack of preparation: A recent Oracle study found many business leaders dedicated less than 10% of their time enhancing the effectiveness of their workforce management practices. The full effects of empowerment don’t take effect overnight. Proper training, coaching and education for employees is required. You need to give them the tools to succeed.
- Lack of accountability: Everyone needs to be accountable for their role and responsibilities. Too many employees take advantage of a more relaxed work environment and abuse it. Management needs to hold people accountable if they are not holding up their end of the bargain.
- You have the wrong people: It takes a certain type of person to thrive in an empowered workplace. Some people prefer a more structured and traditional environment, whereas others thrive when given more independence.
- Not adjusting the recruiting process: If you plan to create an empowered organizational culture, you will need to adjust your recruitment efforts to focus on finding talent that share similar values. Remember, skills can be taught; attitude and character can’t.
The Benefits of an Empowered Workplace
The advantages of an empowered workforce can be profound:
- Improved employee retention and a lower turnover rate
- Making your company brand more appealing to millennials and young professionals
- A higher level of employee satisfaction
- A more collaborative, creative and productive work environment
- Greater alignment with business goals
- Employees are more engaged and provide higher quality work
How to Introduce Employee Empowerment in Your Organization
Getting the most out of an empowered workforce is about finding the right balance for your organization. Leaders need to find the right balance between empowering employees, giving them freedom to work independently, while ensuring business goals are being met and people are not abusing the system.
Here’s how you do this:
- Communicate: Clear and regular communication is essential to ensure employees understand the new responsibilities, roles, expectations, and accountability of an empowered work environment.
- Support your employees: Provide your employees with the training and the tools they need to be successful in their job. Give more responsibility, but also offer support if they run into issues.
- Establish goals and milestones: Set clear and reasonable goals for your employees to achieve. Provide guidelines for their newly found freedom in the workplace. Accountability is essential.
- Expect setbacks and be prepared to deal with them: As with any new approach, there is a learning curve and setbacks will happen. Some employees will struggle with their new responsibilities. Offer the support to help them, and ensure these issues don’t discourage them. You can also use these missteps to improve onboarding and training.