Organizations today are aggressive about “growth” and a lot of attention is on ensuring service excellence as a means to achieve this goal. The most propelling factor in this journey towards becoming a model organization is empowered employees.
Empowerment is the simple concept of being responsible for your own work and taking accountability for the outcome. Being empowered implies that you feel naturally authorized to operate with a level of freedom that goes along with your responsibilities. You are encouraged to provide suggestions and take decisions which you feel will benefit your internal and external clients. Empowered employees trust themselves and their understanding of the company enough to be able to take decisions to progress the priorities quickly.
Benefits of an empowered workforce are many; the most important being an excited, motivated and highly engaged team, resulting in sharp improvement in organizational performance. When employees are empowered, they feel confident to be innovative and able to take knowledgeable and calculated risks. They also draw upon the knowledge of their peers and the support staff to take better decisions. Empowered employees are great ambassadors of the organization; they feel like an intrinsic part of the company and live the brand both internally and externally.
Empowerment is more important than is perceived, and definitely easier than it sounds. A culture of empowerment starts when specific behaviors are demonstrated at very senior levels. It is essential that we pursue a culture where people are not penalized for the mistakes they make while acting genuinely. As we encourage employees to take decisions in order to progress work, it is natural for a few mistakes to occur. The idea should not be to penalize; but to encourage learning. One of my former bosses said “If you make a mistake once, I will not mind. But if you repeat the same mistake, then you will be taken to task.” As an organization, we should be confident that the support structures and processes are in place such that a single mistake does not cost the organization dearly.
Another behavior that we need to consciously adopt is decision making. I gather from some of our employees that they are stuck because their managers do not take quick decisions. Decisions may remain pending on very minor and simple issues. But these minor issues make it impossible for them to act. The period they spend waiting is exasperating because they cannot progress as they need to, and have no insight into what the manager will eventually decide. Inaction is a killer of progress! Several experts have said, “Even a wrong decision is better than no decision.” But we need to take this in the right spirit and not callously take wrong decisions all the time!
Further, a culture of speaking up and asking questions needs to be encouraged. Across every level in the organization, we need employees who are willing to stand out and be heard. Employees who speak up are the ones who contribute most in problem solving and identifying alternative ways forward. As an organization, we need to applaud those who voice their opinions positively, with intent to contribute. An open, honest environment built on mutual trust and respect makes the organization an exciting place to work. The opposite can be quite disheartening.
Finally, empowered employees across all levels in an organization also demonstrate ownership and leadership traits to the customers – which boost their confidence in the organization’s ability to deliver.
So go ahead and empower yourselves. I believe in practicing what I preach, and will certainly demonstrate these behaviors personally!