In the modern business landscape, it is recognized that in order for organizations to survive, the focus can no longer be about meeting the bottom line, high annual returns or dividends. The key to its strength and ultimately its continued existence, will be heavily dependent upon having an A+ healthy, positive, skilled, motivated employee workforce that have been equipped with the necessary resources to get the job done effectively and efficiently and have been empowered to serve with a spirit of excellence.
A note of caution. If it seems like I’ve digressed a bit from my usual blog columns by having today’s discussion, you are not totally correct in making that assumption. I am motivated to shift into this direction on the basis that if we limit empowerment to just a specific group or class of people, and we define it as simply giving top executives and managers power and authority, then it might be easy to see why so many employees do not believe they are empowered. Hence, its relevance and timeliness.
From an objective viewpoint, there seems to be some disconnect in what organizational managers or executives believe about empowerment of employees and what front line support providers understand about their empowerment.
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale
Do employees understand what it means for them to be empowered within the organization? Why is there that lack of understanding? Do we as the leaders and managers take time out to discuss it with them? Have we created the environment or given them the key to unlock the concept, hence their empowerment?
These are questions that we would need to seriously ask ourselves and having answered them, make the necessary preparation to bring about the paradigm shift.
Meanwhile, to add more value to this discussion, let me bring definition to empowerment into the column.
What is empowerment?
I consulted the learned and experienced and concluded that this was the best among those I came across.
Business Dictionary defines empowerment as:
“A management practice of sharing information, rewards, and power with employees so that they can take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance. Empowerment is based on the idea that giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, as well holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and satisfaction.”
Simpler definitions for me though would be as follows:
- Empowerment means that you are back in the driver’s seat and in control of your destiny and your life again.
- It is to give somebody else a sense of confidence or self-esteem and hope.
- It is about what you do (action) not what you say (verbalize)
- It is about increasing the level of awareness to your spiritual being and having full understanding to your purpose
- It is increasing the social, educational, economic strength of individuals and communities
Whatever we take it to mean, it is a concept that is extremely important to the success of companies and support operations.
A Win / Win Situation
As executives and managers within the organization, it is vital that we do not make employees feel ‘bullied,’ manipulated, or even beat down for that matter, particularly when they make a mistake. Employees are left feeling less empowered that way. As it relates to the double standards, that’s a no no. Saying one thing and then our actions are completely different sends out mixed messages, and confuse employees rather than engaging them into positive and acceptable behaviour.
“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” ~ John Maxwell
Nothing turns off employees more that when they are given negative feedback so when they mess up, the best results will come about if corrective action is approached as a learning process. By that they gain confidence and assurance.
Building Employee Empowerment
In order for employees to be empowered:
- Employees must be trained – knowledge is power. Gaining new skills put them on the cutting edge
- Remove redundancy and streamline processes – employees do not feel empowered when they have to ‘run’ to their supervisor for every single thing.
- Engage them in the decision making process – some of the best ideas and solutions are known to have come from those on the front line and even those on the ‘floor.’ In addition, employees feel good about themselves, they have the opportunity to take ownership and it is a boost to their self-esteem.
- Allow front line staff to make some exceptions – valuable time is saved for both the customer and the organization. There is also a measure of goodwill involved for the customer.
- Build communication networks that include employees
- Developing open supportive supervisors
- Value employees and the contribution that they make to your organization
- Create a balance between the human element, productivity and your bottom line
- Reward performance and never a bad behaviour
- Forge a partnership between individual vision, values, performance and those of the organization.
Employees are among our greatest assets within any organization. No matter what level they are they are important to the success of the company. How we treat them will determine whether a company and its leader rise or they both cease to exist. Empowering employees will take time and likewise, it will take a great deal of effort on our part. Notwithstanding that, making the time to do so, the results will be astounding and would show increased production, high levels of customer and employee satisfaction.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever been in a situation where you were left feeling less than, or even left out? Why not share with us.
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