For decades, in Corporate America, employees were considered to be subordinate to management and there was rarely any push-back with regard to who led and who followed. Thankfully, times have changed. Managers have, for the most part, now discovered how much more successful a business can be when they encourage and cultivate the creativity, perceptions, ideas, and individual talents of their employees.
Empowering employees to develop their roles does not take the power away from managers, like so many once feared. Instead, empowerment creates a better work environment all around, including for leaders. It also benefits the bottom line of the business when employees are engaged, supported, and a part of the engine that keeps things running.
The Science Behind Employee Empowerment
Studies are also finding that empowering employees has measurable positive impacts on the organization, as well as individuals. Here’s the science behind this effective business approach:
Improved Morale: In 2016, a study found that 70% of employees ranked being empowered to take action as an important element of their engagement. When people have the skills and knowledge to do a job, it makes them feel good about themselves as well as the work they do when they receive the authorization and resources to utilize all of that expertise.
Increased Productivity: In 2017, an updated version of that same study above found that employees who felt their voice was heard at work were 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. When a manager learns to tap into the creativity, skills, and expertise of an employee, they are motivated to perform more efficiently. It also increases the amount of work the individual wants to do for themselves, as well as for his or her leadership team, coworkers and company. On the same note, empowering your people permits you to let go of things that may otherwise bog you down as a manager. Delegation is proven to increase efficiency, and makes employees feel trusted and important.
Boosted Bottom Line: Scott Seibert, the Professor of Management and Organizations at Tippie College of Business, emphasizes that when properly executed, empowerment can lead to higher job satisfaction, lower turnover, and reduced stress in the workplace. It’s also true that when morale is improved, productivity is increased, efficiencies increase, and things run more smoothly in general. This streamlined work will benefit customers and business relationships, as products or services are produced on-time and with proper consideration to the end goal.
According to Seibert, “Empowerment is an effective approach for improving employee attitudes and work behaviors in a broad range of industries, occupations and geographic regions.”
How to Empower Employees
While there is no one solution for empowering your employees, the first step involves allowing autonomy. When employees feel like they have some control over their tasks, projects, or even work schedule, they feel more empowered to make decisions that impact the business as a whole. Asking for their input on important projects and assigning additional, higher importance tasks are also great ways to empower employees.
Of course, empowerment will look different for each employee. Some want to know that they can have a little creative license on a project, while others will want to see how their voice has helped shape a new deal. As a leader, it’s up to you to get to know your employees and see how they “tick.” Once you know how they can best be empowered, use that in your interactions to watch them thrive. Building this into your leadership style will not only make for happy employees, but it will make for an empowered organization.
No one says it better than Stephen Covey: “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.”