Article: Understanding employee empowerment

Employee Relations

Understanding employee empowerment

Empowerment of employees is often treated as a by-product of the employee experience that a company provides. But its high time that companies relook their processes and focus at creating measurable impacts in the field of empowerment to retain their best talent
Understanding employee empowerment

As we move ahead in the 21st century the concept of empowerment—and its subsequent impact, have become a vital aspect of the human life cycle. A key motivator in today's age, it often finds a certain degree of lip service when it comes to corporations today ‘empowering’ individuals and enabling them to be better decision makers. One of the key reason that ensures that both HR professionals and managers end up treating empowerment as another corporate jargon is due to the lack of clarity the word bestows upon those responsible for people management processes. 

People discuss and understand employee empowerment in different ways; often contextualizing empowerment to their company culture and business needs. But irrespective of these variations, the basic understanding—and the end in mind—should remain the same: give your employees the means for making important decisions, and work with them to ensure that such decisions the right ones. “The results, when this process is done right, are heightened productivity and a better quality of work life. Employee empowerment means different things in different organizations, based on culture and work design. However, empowerment is based on the concepts of job enlargement and job enrichment” writes American Society for Quality. In the context of evolving employee experience, it states HR can realize the dream by ensuring the fulfillment of the following two categories: 

Job enlargement: Changing the scope of the job to include a greater portion of the horizontal process. 

Job enrichment: Increasing the depth of the job to include responsibilities that have traditionally been carried out at higher levels of the organization. 

Self-sufficiency

In efforts to empower employees, the role of both HR professionals and managers become important to enable employees to take better and more effective decision. The first step towards this is to ensure that employees are self-sufficient. This helps employees become more independent while allowing employers and managers to deal with greater business issues as they know and trust their employee to perform effectively. With the shift in workplace dynamics bringing in more remote workers and employee preferences around concepts like work from home evolving, one finds the need to empower employees growing as only then can the company ensure that their employees are able to build themselves and take better business decisions. Self-sufficiency in most cases forms the bedrock of most employee empowerment programs and ensuring their effectiveness.  This can be done in the following ways

Identify strengths and create meaningful job roles

Technology today has helped the entire workplace to get connected and perform like an integrated unit; with one part of the organization effortlessly communicating with the other. By leveraging such technologies to collect data and identifying strengths of their employees helps managers to understand the core competencies of their employees better. Once a manager identifies a person’s strengths, the employee can be given roles and responsibilities that make the best use such strengths. But this also includes the management reshuffling job roles that help employee increase their competency levels. By helping employees chart their own growth journeys, HR professionals and managers alike can determine the next best course of action that can amplify employee contribution. This becomes crucial for the overall empowerment. Giving employees roles that fit their individual strengths leads to efficiency and organizational success. 

Streamline processes and procedures 

When an organization is structured properly, employees know where to turn to for what they need. When a manager sets up policies, procedures, and processes to effectively manage a team, employees don’t need to constantly come to the manager since they already know what to do. By creating clear, well defined ‘rules of engagement’ within the workplace, managers enable their employees to take decisions on their own. It also reduces the chances of error in decision making as clear guidelines are established, helping build trust and confidence it the long run. HR professionals can also integrate such activities in the onboarding learning experience so that every new employee trains to become self-sufficient in their role.

Establish smaller teams and enable access to knowledge resources

Setting up smaller teams helps employee create social bonds among each other and as a result work more focused manner towards one common goal. Managers are usually aware of this and use this option in times of high delivery needs. But what smaller teams also do is to allow employees to support each other and foster independence and self-sufficiency in their way of working. By creating a strong bond with each other, and having the freedom to take collective decisions helps employees to learn and grow more within the organization. Smaller teams provide a good environment for meaningful work. 

Building Trust 

Building trust, along with enabling self-sufficiency, are vital for empowering individuals within the company.  It is for both managers and HR professionals today to trust both their employees and their recruitment and candidate mapping processes so as to not probe each and every action of their employees. An employee is bound to function more effectively if he/she is trusted upon by the managers and leaders alike.  Be free in creating a check-in processes but the idea of empowering individual employees also goes hand in hand with the culture of allowing employees to gain an agency over their work by allowing them to learn from their mistakes and enabling then to customize and create their own ‘mini’ ways of working. One way of doing this is by allowing employees to craft their own jobs.

Building trust from a manager’s perspective also involves, at times, taking a step back from the trap of micro-management that managers often fall a prey to. By helping managers to reduce their time spent on micro-management and instead give inputs when really needed by the team, HR professionals help employees to build their talents within their organization. There are, however, exceptions where employees might need a time of support and guidance. But by creating a culture where employees are trained and have access to knowledge resources along with management's trust HR professionals ensure employees become empowered and self-sufficient, capable of taking better decisions and exploring their full capacity to perform in the workplace.

A culture that while promoting self-sufficiency also fosters interdependence and trust within team members is successful in helping the team members grow. Empowerment is often thought of as being able to figure it all out on your own. But rather, in an organizational sense, it means creating the abilities to be able to use your friends, co-workers, and environment continuously and consciously advance your own and common goals together.

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Topics: Employee Relations

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