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“Empowerment” is a word that’s used a lot these days, but what can it really achieve for a business? It doesn’t mean giving up authority, and it certainly doesn’t mean delegating all the responsibilities of management onto the shoulders of the staff. What empowerment can mean is a big increase in business productivity and team morale and a much lighter workload for top managers.
Successful Businesses Empower their People
Empowerment means that the management team of a business shares some of its authority and responsibilities with team members. The aim of empowerment is to develop the intellectual capital of the business.
A study paper from IBM, ‘Breaking away with business analytics and optimization: New intelligence meets enterprise operations,’ concluded: “Higher performers are empowering. They give employees authority to use information, make decisions and act on their insights to drive change.”
In fact, the IBM study found that top performing businesses were six times more likely than lesser enterprises to entrust a broader base of employees with greater authority to make decisions and act on insights.
Empowerment Helps Employees Grow
Empowerment gives team members a greater feeling of involvement in the business. It also enriches their jobs by giving them greater scope and depth.
Employees of a business can be one of the most valuable assets the business has: “They come with diverse ideas, talents and abilities, and often have a willingness to help you solve any problems facing your company. The key is to tap into that talent pool, and to get your employees working with you to make your business stronger.
It can require some extra mentoring from management at the start of the process, but the ultimate result is that the owners will have more time to work on their business instead of in it.
Motivating Staff to Achieve More
HR expert and author Susan M. Heathfield says organizations that are committed to the ongoing growth of their employees recognize employee empowerment as one of their most important strategic methods to motivate employees.
“Think about employee empowerment, not as something a manager bestows on employees, but rather as a philosophy and a strategy to help people develop talents, skills, and decision making competency. This growth helps employees feel competent, capable, and successful. Competent, capable, successful people best serve your organization.”
It’s essential that team members are encouraged to share any insights or new ideas that might arise from their performance of new duties. It may not happen at first but as they get used to doing something new they may find that their perceptions of other areas of the business change as well.
Ways to Empower Employees
Training and personnel development organization Leadership Management Australia offers these ways to empower employees through delegation:
- Develop a good attitude toward your employees and trust them,
- Delegate to both experienced and inexperienced employees.
- Consider your employees skills and interests and try to match these skills and interests with tasks.
- Communicate clearly. What do you want the employee to do? What are the performance standards? How much support will they get? Be specific as to what you expect from them.
- Give the employee the background information about the task. Why does it need to be done? Why is it important that it be done on time? Always focus on the results, not the methods to get them.
- Inform the employee of the amount of authority they have on the delegated tasks. For example, authority to use resources like support staff, access, records, authority, expenditure, etc.
- Provide support. Share your resources and let them know how and when you can offer assistance.
- When a delegated task is completed, compare the results with the original goals. Evaluate the employee’s role and give feedback. Reward superior performance and address poor work.
Empowerment naturally involves some risk. There’s always the possibility that the person given the new assignment might not get it right, certainly at first. It’s management’s task to ensure they learn from any mistakes and jointly work out how to prevent them from recurring.
Trust is Part of the Process
The importance of entrusting employees as part of the empowerment process: Entrust is a key word in delegating: It means that you care about the results of what you delegate, and you’re willing to provide the support needed to help the employee achieve those results.
The article goes on to suggest these three roles for management to play in the empowerment of employees:
- Give employees the freedom to get a job done (no breathing down their necks),
- Provide employees with the right level of support to get the job done well, including information, training, resources, and so on,
- Hold employees accountable to produce the outcomes needed.
(‘Empowering Employees When Delegating’, dummies.com, accessed 10 June 2010)
Successful managers in all types of organizations share one key ability – the ability to delegate. Delegation gives them time to realize higher levels of performance and greater achievement in their work.
Delegation also empowers the company’s employees. It gives them the opportunity to meet new challenges and grow professionally.
Empowered employees can dramatically improve the quality and productivity of any organization while at the same time giving management a chance to accomplish more. It’s as close to a win/win situation as one can get in today’s challenging business environment.