I originally wrote today’s post for Intradiem.It appeared on their blog on May 21, 2015.
When we empower employees, does that impact their productivity?
Employee empowerment is one of those phrases that often causes people to groan. Is it just another piece of employee lingo or a catch phrase? No, absolutely not. It’s an important concept to both reducing employee effort and increasing employee engagement. When employees feel empowered, they are in charge of reducing their own effort and responsible for engaging with the business.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me first define empowerment. According to Google, it means, quite simply: to give (someone) the authority or power to do something.
According to BusinessDictionary.com, it is:
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.
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.
My own thoughts on it? I wrote previously:
From the employee perspective, it’s about responsibility, ownership, and accountability. It’s also about trust; the employee is given the keys to the castle and trusted to do what’s right for the customer and for the business. Empowerment means never having to ask, “Is it OK if I do this for my customer?” Empowerment means not having to ask for permission.
You might be starting to get a glimpse into how and why empowerment and productivity are related.
When employees are empowered, they walk around with a sense of ownership, thinking and acting like they own the business. When you own a business, you put your heart and soul into it, into making it succeed. Empowered employees don’t stand on the sidelines waiting to be spoon-fed; they know what to do. They take the horse by the reins and run with the directive (aka the brand promise), being accountable for their roles in the execution of the customer experience and in the success of the business. They work together with others who are just as passionate and who share a common goal. These things combined result in efficiencies from a variety of angles.
An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success. -Stephen Covey
So, benefits of employee empowerment include:
- Unleashing a sense of ownership and pride in their work
- Improving the employee experience
- Boosting employee satisfaction
- Increasing employee loyalty
- Encouraging collaboration and teamwork
- Unleashing employee creativity
- Increasing employee productivity
- Improving work output/quality
- And more, including cost benefits, as well
Empowered employees become “better, ” more conscientious, employees overall. So it would seem that empowerment is a pretty important thing – to your employees and to the organization. How, then, do we empower our employees?
- Define what empowerment means within your organization, to set some boundaries
- Set expectations
- Train, communicate, provide a framework, and then let employees do their jobs
- Trust employees to make the right choices and the right decisions for your customers
- Provide feedback and coaching so that employees to know if they are on the right track
- Define what “doing right” means and what it looks like
- Ensure employees have the knowledge, skills, and training to do what you’re expecting of them
- Define and reinforce what a great customer experience is and what it means for the customer and to the business
- Ensure that employees have a clear line of sight to the customer
- And ensure they know how they impact business outcomes
- Lose the script; empowered employees don’t need a script
- Allow for common sense, but don’t necessarily rely on it (since not everyone has it!)
- Remind employees that going the extra mile doesn’t have to cost a dime; customers want you to listen and act, to do what makes sense
It seems like there’s a lot to do in order to empower employees, but it is important that we reduce any vagueness and that we really set appropriate expectations about what that means. They need to understand your vision and the desired outcomes. And then be allowed to execute.
The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. -Theodore Roosevelt
Annette, I agree, but I have found that if you empower employees from the get go it scares them. Too much empowerment can blow people's minds. I think the trick is to gradually step it up.
I often wonder if we should talk less about empowerment and just do more. As Elvis said…"A little less conversation, a little more action please".
Good point. Employees aren't used to that. They're used to being harnessed by rules and scripts and things like that. A gradual approach is probably best.
I love that line from Elvis. Great way to put it… just do it, and let's see what happens. I think people will be surprised.