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Employee empowerment is one of the hottest topics in business today. The idea of employees feeling free to do what's best for the company rather than feel constrained by their job descriptions has led to improved morale, productivity and creative ideas at organizations across the globe.
Empowerment techniques have been proven time and again to improve the work environment and help your business grow. And yet, many managers try a technique or two then give up on the concept. The key to successfully implementing an empowerment technique is to stick with it, looking for signs that it's working and adjusting as needed to make sure the technique isn't having a negative effect on your company.
Here are the top techniques for building employee empowerment right now; techniques that work in an office, a small business, in a large business and even with remote workers and virtual teams.
Empowerment can begin in the simplest of ways, among office staff who have become used to nothing more than routine work. Here are three simple techniques you can put in place today with very little financial outlay or reorganization.
1. Show appreciation for work well done
Employees who know that their hard work is appreciated are empowered to work harder, and they gain the ability to think outside the box and apply creative problem solving techniques to the challenges they face at the workhouse. Show your staff members your appreciation with words, recognition gifts, or public shoutouts on social media or a company blog and you'll see a huge increase in employee engagement.
2. Encourage your employees to pursue their full potential
If you don't want your workers to hit a glass ceiling at the office, make sure they have access to all of the tools necessary to move up in the organization. Offer tuition reimbursement, job rotations and the opportunity for promotions so that the employee experience becomes about growth as much as anything. Job enlargement can also be as simple as finding out what your staff really wants to be doing in the office and giving them the opportunity to do it.
3. Show appreciation for family and friends
When your employees know that you appreciate their friends and family, they’ll feel appreciated themselves. If your company isn't known for its culture, involve your employees in weekly activities to get to know them. Consider hosting a quarterly picnic or scheduling time for team members to play sports during the lunch hour.
If you're running a small business, you may wonder how to go about implementing employee empowerment strategies. Employee ownership of the business might not be an option, and simply encouraging employees, inviting them to picnics and providing job rotations isn't going to cut it. Don't worry, you can still be an empowered organization even within your limits! Here are some favorite techniques for small companies.
1. Examine your company culture
If you want to know how empowering your organization is, look no further than its culture. Do employees feel respected? Are they included in important decisions? If it seems like managers don't accept input from their employees, it's time to instill a culture of empowerment. Letting your team members know that they have a voice and that everyone’s opinion matters will encourage them to take on additional tasks and help you improve the company as a whole.
2. Give employees challenges that inspire them
One of the best ways to motivate employees is by encouraging them to take on projects that interest them. If you give your employees challenges that challenge their skills, they'll develop new abilities and become more involved in the business's future plans. An empowering leader will encourage creative thinking, and give employees room to experiment with new ideas.
3. Make employees feel like partners by involving them in decision-making
Empowering your workers doesn't just mean giving them the freedom to get their work done. It also means including them in important company decisions so they feel like valued partners. This is directly related to job performance. If your employees don't think you value their input, they won’t be motivated to do an amazing job for your business.
5. Offer training opportunities
If you want your employees to contribute new ideas on how to improve the business, you need to make sure they have the skills necessary to do their jobs. Invest in training courses that will help your workers function at their best and offer tuition reimbursement so they can enroll in outside classes when needed. You can also organize seminars and classes in the workplace.
6. Give employees time for personal development
A happy employee is a productive employee, so an important part of employee empowerment involves providing your workers time to develop outside interests. It could be as simple as permitting flexible schedules so they can go to the gym after work or offering reimbursement for educational courses.
If your company is larger, you will want to take a more formal approach to implement employee empowerment. Here are some important techniques to keep in mind as you get started.
1. Create a shared understanding among managers and employees about what empowerment means and requires on both sides of the equation. This will set realistic performance benchmarks for all involved, and enable you to plan an effective employee empowerment strategy.
2. Make sure employees understand the link between their performance objectives and your company's overall vision and mission statement so they can see how it impacts people both within and outside of the organization. Communication is key here: empowered employees are employees who know what they're doing and why.
3. Provide employees with training opportunities that show them how to utilize their skills and abilities in new ways, and provide training for employees who show an interest in taking on new roles. For example, make sure your digital marketing manager knows the nuances of Instagram management, rather than having general knowledge by enrolling them in a course.
4. Find ways to streamline worker responsibility and make them more efficient so each staff member can prioritize the tasks that really matter without feeling overwhelmed. Give your employees the autonomy to make decisions directly related to their work, and to determine preferred work flow independently. This will promote a culture of trust and give your employees the confidence to make wise decisions.
5. Provide your employees with opportunities for goal-setting and performance review so they know how their work contributes to company objectives at every level of operation. An empowered workforce should have access to job performance and productivity metrics.
If you've got a remote team you may wonder whether employee empowerment is even an option. Short answer: it is! Employee empowerment may have more challenges when the workforce is virtual, but it is definitely doable. Here's how:
1. Create a company culture and social network virtually.
Create a collaborative, company-wide environment online through virtual collaboration tools like Slack or Asana, and add in an app like Matter to encourage constructive feedback within your team and empower employees. Give employees the opportunity to connect with each other outside of work hours so they can get to know each other as people and build trust just like an in-office worker would.
2. Be flexible with your employees' hours and locations to allow them to work when they are most productive - even if that's not 9-5. Give them the responsibility to decide what to do when, and allow them to schedule routine tasks at times that work best for them.
3. Ask employees how they want to be managed, and ask them for their input on management techniques you're already using so everyone's on the same page about what empowerment looks like. Employee involvement in your empowerment strategy is crucial, and employee satisfaction will see a large boost if your team members feel this change is happening on their terms.
One of the first benefits of employee empowerment you will see in your organization is a shift in company culture. When employees are trusted and given decision-making power or a stake in the organization they interact differently, both with colleagues and higher-ups. Expect your employees to feel a greater sense of engagement, commitment and job satisfaction.
Here are some other benefits you will notice over time:
Now that you've been introduced to the basic techniques for building employee empowerment in the office it's time to get started! Decide on two or three of the most appropriate techniques to begin on, then continue adding in as your workforce adjusts to the new normal. Good luck on your new adventure!