Employee empowerment is not just a buzzword used to impress the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. It’s an important strategic business solution that can be implemented at any size company, in any industry.
ASQ defines employee empowerment as “The ways in which organizations provide their employees with a certain degree of autonomy and control in their day-to-day activities. This can include having a voice in process improvement, helping to create and manage new systems and tactics, and running smaller departments with less oversight from higher-level management.”
While this definition might make employee empowerment sound like a nice idea but not very actionable, employee empowerment is something that can (and should) be put into practice at every company. Every worker wants to feel like they are valued and appreciated, which is why studies show that engaged employees tend to work harder and smarter than their disengaged counterparts. Plus, empowered employees tend to stay longer at the company, and employee turnover has been shown to cost businesses up to three times an entry-level salary. Finally, employee empowerment makes for happier customers because engaged employees tend to do a better job serving their clientele.
This article provides ten employee empowerment examples to inspire your organization. There are examples of employee empowerment for big businesses, for little companies, and virtual employees. Use the information as a starting point for employee engagement at your own company.
It may seem counterintuitive, some of the best ways for big businesses to implement employee empowerment examples are actually the simplest.
1. Involve employees in company decisions
One of the most basic employee empowerment examples is simply giving employees a voice in important decisions that could affect them. According to one study, 74% of managers surveyed felt that employee input was “very” or “somewhat” effective at improving decision-making processes. And when employees feel like they have some control over their work environment, they tend to be more engaged and satisfied with their jobs, which means lower turnover rates for the business. Employees also get an increased sense of ownership over processes and products, which can make them feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves; this feeling has been linked by psychologists to a sense of higher employee morale.
A real-life example of a company that puts this idea into practice is Microsoft. The company conducted employee engagement surveys which allowed employees to share their opinions on things like employee development programs, career advancement opportunities, and how the company should handle employee layoffs. Then the employee engagement surveys were used to adjust employee development programs, create new career paths, and reevaluate job satisfaction. Microsoft also made the survey results available to all employees in an open forum. In addition, CEO Satya Nadella has said that he wants each employee at Microsoft to have a clear sense of purpose and to know “why they come to work every day”.
2. Provide training courses for managers
Another employee empowerment example is offering management training classes for managers about how to best empower their direct reports. According to one study, employees felt more empowered when they worked with a manager who was able to help them develop realistic expectations, which means that managers need training on how to best prepare workers for success in their position before delegating tasks. An empowering leader can make a positive impact on company culture and is an enormous asset at the workplace!
3. Use employee recognition awards
Focusing on employee empowerment examples can also mean investing in employee appreciation programs. These job enrichment programs will help managers empower their direct reports, by giving them a platform for recognizing what they do well and acknowledging their efforts. This psychological empowerment has a strong impact on employee performance. Since it is impossible for an employee to feel empowered if they don’t feel appreciated. Creating a culture of gratitude and acknowledgment is key to empowering your employees. One company known for its employee recognition awards is Whole Foods. Whole Foods offers employee development classes, self-directed employee empowerment examples, and employee recognition for a job well done.
4. Allow autonomy in decision making
Another employee empowerment example is the empowerment of employees to make decisions without consulting a manager. Some companies may be hesitant to empower employees with this kind of decision-making power because they feel that employees will not always make the right choices or that managers will have less control over certain projects. However, employee empowerment can actually lead to better business decision-making, because employees who are empowered to take initiative often find creative solutions that a manager may never have thought of. Empowering workers to take initiative reduces turnover rates by giving them more opportunities for career growth and additional responsibility whenever they are ready for it. When an employee feels like they are growing within the company, they are much less likely to look for new job opportunities.
Instituting some of these employee empowerment examples in your business means allowing employees to make decisions without being subject to managerial approval or input. And employee empowerment can help employees feel autonomous at work, which helps them enjoy their jobs more.
Start-ups and small businesses tend to pride themselves on being flexible, having agile workflows, innovative, and focused on employee empowerment. But employee empowerment at a small company doesn’t have the same meaning as the employee engagement efforts in a Fortune 500 corporation, because creating initiatives around employee voice can be challenging in a smaller business. However, there are still employee engagement examples that small businesses can implement without having to make significant changes to their management style or practices.
Check out employee empowerment examples for small businesses below, to find out how you can motivate your team to increased productivity in the workplace.
5. Prioritize communication
One employee empowerment example that businesses of all sizes could implement is giving their employees more effective ways of communicating with managers. Not just through email or face-to-face meetings, but also through texting, instant messaging, video conferencing, and other types of digital interactions. Companies that tend to encourage employee voice mainly “through traditional means” can ultimately make employee engagement impossible. A better employee empowerment example would be creating employee engagement opportunities by implementing modern collaboration tools so everyone (managers and workers alike) can engage more efficiently. Communication builds trust, which is one of the foundations of an empowered workforce. This employee empowerment example is important because employee engagement will only work if everyone gets the chance to have their voice heard, without feeling restrained by traditional communication methods.
6. Offer flexible work hours
One employee engagement example that employers often forget (but shouldn't) is employee flexibility. With the millennial generation becoming a larger part of the workforce, organizations need to understand that motivating their teams means offering new types of employee empowerment examples like flexible work hours. Aron Ain, CEO at Kronos Inc., argues:
“Today’s workforce wants more than compensation and ‘do whatever you want’ policies. Employees want flexible work arrangements, seeing it as a factor in whether they will stay with or leave an organization, but also opportunities to grow and develop their careers”.
This employee empowerment example is important because it can motivate employees and, in turn, employee engagement.
7. Create “WOW” moments
Another employee empowerment example for start-ups is creating a “WOW” moment, which refers to rewarding employees for going above and beyond their job descriptions or simply doing something nice for another employee. This employee engagement idea has been linked to increased employee morale. A WOW moment increases employee satisfaction for an empowered organization because it shows employees they are appreciated, an important employee engagement factor. It also enhances company culture by encouraging collaboration among workers, which ties back into the way that happy, healthy workplace culture can improve productivity and other business outcomes. Matter makes it easy to share these “WOW” moments with the whole team, but sending someone a Kudos in your company’s Slack workspace.
If an employee doesn’t even have a physical office to step foot in, how do you go about empowering employees? The answer is employee empowerment examples for virtual workplaces.
8. Assist employees in pursuing continuing education courses:
One employee empowerment example that helps empower employees who work virtually is to offer online employee training courses. For any worker who feels disconnected from their company or isolated by their job, online learning programs can make them feel empowered and engaged in their position.
One example of this type of empowerment is through the employee development classes provided by Deloitte. The company has won numerous awards for its employee development initiatives, which are designed to help employees learn new skills and build their professional networks. Classes are available to all employees, not just managers because employee engagement depends on employee knowledge that they matter to the company. One employee shared that her favorite part of working at Deloitte was that she was "supported in doing things outside of my core role". At first glance, this might seem like another employee engagement initiative, but it demonstrates why employee empowerment should be a priority for all businesses. Employee empowerment helps workers feel fulfilled by their work, rather than confined by it.
9. Implement regular employee feedback:
Another employee empowerment example is encouraging trust and open communication by gauging how workers on a team feel about company policies. One study found that managers were able to better empower their direct reports when employee empowerment initiatives included employee feedback. Set up open chat rooms for constructive discussion of team performance and internal communication among employees, or use an app like Matter to encourage a culture of feedback among all team members.
When employees are encouraged to share their opinions, they feel empowered-and this translates into increased employee engagement, employee satisfaction, and higher employee retention, which is great for everyone involved.
10. Include comprehensive employee benefits:
A final employee empowerment example that can have a huge impact on your employees is offering great benefits to staff members. Harvard Business Review shared that employee benefits were one of the most important employee empowerment examples, with 88% of employees listing it as the most valuable thing an employer could offer. Simply put, great benefits greatly improve the employee experience.
Which employee empowerment strategies you choose to implement at your organization should depend on several factors, most notably employee engagement statistics in your specific industry. Always start by opening up the lines of communication with your team and employees. Ask your staff what employee empowerment strategies they would find most useful in their work. Once you know the felt needs among your workforce, you'll have a good idea of where to start in your quest for an empowered employee and a vibrant, productive company culture.