Employee Empowerment

We have come a long way from workers being unrecognized, bonded laborers working for their masters, to employees being partners working towards a common goal alongside the employer, negotiating terms and conditions of employment.

Today, employees are considered the biggest asset of an organization and the Human Resources Department works tirelessly to increase employee satisfaction and to reduce attrition.

Employee empowerment photos shows employee at work in a fast food outlet.

There can be some standard maintenance procedures to ensure the longevity and proper functioning of machines. It can be a ‘one size fits all’ kind of a practice. The machine can thus be empowered to increase its production and accuracy.

But for employees, there can never be a one size fits all practice. Each individual is different. Each individual’s style of work is different.

Though we can have a broad set of procedures and practices that organizations follow in order to help in employee empowerment, it always has to be a more tailor-made programme of employee empowerment to suit the industry, the role, the experience level, the personality type of the individual and so on.

Employee Empowerment Definition

Employee empowerment is defined as the different ways in which organization or employer empowers – give the power or authority to do something to the employee with regard to the various decisions and tasks to be done, as part of his or her employment with the organization or employer.

For example, a good gardener can be empowered to make decisions regarding the types of plants to be planted in a garden, or the brand of tools to be bought for the garden.

Another example, a manager can be empowered to select his team, propose a budget and delegate the work to his team, for a new project.

Employees empowered doing their work in a relaxed, enjoyable working environment.

From these examples it is clear that empowerment can be equated to responsibility, authority and ownership.

Employee Empowerment = Responsibility + Authority + Ownership

In the first example, the gardener has been given the responsibility of planting new plants, and the authority of deciding which plant he wants to plant. He has the responsibility to buy new tools and the authority to decide which brand of tools to buy.

In both scenarios the gardener owns the outcome of his decisions. If the garden’s beauty is enhanced by the plants he planted, the gardener gets appreciation. If the plants don’t thrive well and the anticipated results are not achieved, then the gardener has to find out the reasons and correct his actions.

Employee empowerment is also linked to reward and recognition.

When a well executed job is appreciated and linked to his or her monetary and non-monetary perks, the person feels motivated to do better. It is the art of empowerment at work.

When a task does not happen as planned, it is important to understand the reasons and to take the corrective measures. It ensures that the employee feels empowered to handle success and error.

A good employee empowerment program in an organization will link his or her current competency level, training and development and career path in the organization to periodic performance appraisal.

There will also be regular feedback from the manager and an opportunity for the employee to provide feedback to the organization. This will function as a well oiled mechanism for employee empowerment.

Workers empowering one another showing how to feel empowered at work.

How To Feel Empowered At Work

Feeling empowered at work has to start with a sense of empowerment from within.

For us to feel empowered from within we should have the required knowledge and motivation to do the work. Empowerment from within, is as important as empowerment from outside, by a superior authority.

Even when we are given the responsibility, authority and ownership of a particular task, unless we feel empowered (from within) to do it, we will not be able to take it up wholeheartedly.

Feeling empowered from within to do our work is the first step towards empowerment at work.

That feeling of empowerment from within reflects in the quality of our work. This in turn gets noticed by peers and superiors at work. Thus enabling empowerment by them.

Work is a place of constant learning. In order to remain valid for the organization that you are working for, or the business you are running, it is important to keep learning about the current trends and developments.

We can feel empowered at work by ensuring we keep ourselves abreast of the current changing tendencies and innovations. Having the information required to do a job well is very important.

For example, an employee who keeps upgrading his or her computer skills with the newest software products being released in the market, will feel more empowered to apply for a promotion in his or her office.

Change is the only constant and in order to be able to survive the constant changes that happen at our workplace and business, the only solution is to keep adapting to these changes.

We can feel empowered at work by ensuring we are ready to adapt to any change that can present itself in the future.

For example, a restaurateur who is adaptive to changes will include an entire new section of healthy food items in his or her menu, keeping in mind the changing food habits of people. Such a person has empowered himself or herself with his or her attitude towards change.

Employees who are chefs performing their work empowered by the restaurant owner.

We know that at work, a lot of small steps add up towards a bigger goal. The ability to see the bigger picture can play an important role in feeling empowered.

When we know that we are part of a bigger mission, and when we know we have an important role in achieving a mission that we are aligned with, we feel so motivated and hence empowered to do it.

As another example, a technician involved in the execution of the mars mission would feel so empowered from within just because this person knows he or she is a part of something as marvelous as the mars mission.

Like in every aspect of life, self confidence plays an important role in feeling empowered. The belief that a person has in oneself and in one’s abilities to perform a task well is something that empowers that person to take up a task.

Hence the answer to the question – How to feel empowered at work lies in these four mantras:

1. Keep learning.
2. Be adaptive to change.
3. See the bigger picture. 
4. Self confidence. 
  • Such an empowered worker will grab opportunities with confidence and prove himself or herself at every opportunity available.
  • He or she will have the knowledge and the motivation to work towards the larger goal of the organization.
  • He or she will eventually be a part of the management team, teaching and empowering others to follow suit.
Management in meeting where empowerment in management is shown to a manager by the boss.

Empowerment In Management

We often associate empowerment to management or managers. Managers are a part of that strata of people who have been entrusted with the power to empower others in the team.

And a team can consist of middle management, supervisors, employees and other workers.

Management of an organization is the process of driving the organization towards achieving its larger goals.

Therefore empowerment in management is of paramount significance.

A manager of a project has the responsibility of getting the work or project done, within a given span of time, ensuring a revenue of a certain amount.

A manger usually has a team of people to help him get things done. A good manager delegates the work to his team equating the expertise of the team member to the type of work assigned.

He further monitors the progress of the work from time to time to ensure timely completion of the work.

In addition to all the above mentioned activities, a good manager also empowers his team members. How does empowerment in management work here?

The manager explicitly communicates the expectations from each team member. He then transfers the ownership of that task to that team member.

He also allocates the resources needed to perform that task.

He then trusts the team members with meeting the expectations, reviewing the progress periodically, and enabling the team members to take any corrective action if they are not on track.

The key here is to not micromanage, but to macro-manage and ensure work gets done on time within the budgetary constraints.

Two empowered business people in photo depicts empowerment in business.

Empowerment In Business

When a business flourishes, every individual involved in that business – workers, employees, managers, owners and customers, reap the benefits.

When a business is not doing well, every individual involved in that business works towards its upliftment. That would be an empowered business environment.

How Can We Achieve Empowerment In Business?

Businesses are about the product or service the business offers, and the customers who are catered to by these products and services.

Hence, empowerment in business is centered around quality products or services and satisfied customers.

Ensuring an environment that nurtures people who are focused on these two aspects guarantees business growth.

It is therefore important to identify all the people involved in product creation and services and put them on a path of empowerment.

Empowerment includes training them, improving their skills, recognizing their contributions, rewarding them accordingly and communicating their future prospects with them.

When all of this is done, the employee in return remains loyal and committed to the business for a longer period of time.

A motivated performance oriented employee is a boon to any business.

By ensuring that such an employee is retained and mentored, the business invests in its own future.

Employees being empowered to do their work. Photo shows employees gathered around  laptop working out a solution as others look on.

All investments in employees is an investment into a secure future of the business.

In modern times, with the employees becoming co-owners of a company through the Employee Stock Ownership Plan, the interest of an employee in the growth of the company has increased manifold.

Schemes like this have given a completely new dimension to employee empowerment.

Contributors: Kazim Abasali and Deepa K.