What is empowerment in the workplace? Examples and benefits

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Employee empowerment is a process in which the management allows employees to make crucial decisions and act on them without interference. Empowered employees feel content, valued and more productive in the workplace. As a manager, it's necessary to learn how to empower your employees as it helps to save more time and increase the company's growth. In this article, we answer the question 'what is empowerment', explain how to empower employees in the workplace and the importance.

What is empowerment?

To answer the question, 'What is empowerment?' means giving more rights or freedom to a group of people. Empowerment in the workplace involves employees having a certain level of autonomy in the decision-making process. Employees can have more control over their daily responsibilities. It might also include changes to the traditional protocols of a company, adjusting it to suit the employees' desires.

Related: 19 ways to increase staff motivation at work

Employee empowerment examples in the workplace

The following are ways companies can empower their employees to improve their decision-making ability and increase productivity:

Allow employees to contribute to decisions

Employees can become more engaged and satisfied with their jobs when managers involve them in decision-making processes. This is because they begin to see themselves as partners rather than simple employees, and this new association drives them to perform better in their duties. You can allow employees to participate in decision-making by conducting periodic engagement surveys where they can make inputs on career advancement opportunities, employee development programmes and other important matters, especially those that involve them.

Training managers to delegate

Delegating responsibilities is another way to empower employees, but most managers find it challenging because they don't trust their subordinates enough to handle these responsibilities. As a result, they find themselves managing more workload than necessary. Therefore, it is essential to design management training classes to help managers identify potential high-performing team members and train them to handle responsibilities. Training employees to improve their skills before delegating specific tasks to them is necessary.

Related: How to write an effective performance improvement plan

Permit independent decision making

One way to make your employees feel empowered is by allowing them to make decisions without consulting their superiors. Doing this can improve business operations by encouraging employees to be spontaneous and think of innovative solutions to problems. It might be challenging for managers to take this step, as they feel employees can't make the right decisions without the necessary approval. It is essential because even though they might not get it right the first time, with constant practice, they could become influential decision-makers.

Prioritise communication

Managers can empower employees through effective communication. When employees can directly communicate with their supervisors without going through unnecessary bureaucracy, they can feel comfortable discussing issues affecting the company and thinking of innovative ideas. You can prioritise communication by scheduling weekly meetings for discussions with employees. In this meeting, you can ask them about issues bothering them in the company and how they want it resolved. They can also collaborate in decision-making by brainstorming and offering their input.

You can also learn to get personal with employees. Instead of being that aloof manager, you can be the encouraging manager who doesn't hesitate to boost the team's morale by sharing success and failure stories. This could increase the level of engagement among team members. In addition, be honest and transparent when communicating. If there are changes within the organisation that might affect their job, let them know about it. Finally, allow the use of different communication channels so that even remote employees can benefit. Such channels include in-person meetings, phone calls, email or webinars.

Related: 20 fun team meeting ideas to boost engagement and productivity

Invest in employee recognition programmes

Creating employee recognition programmes that recognise the efforts of high-performing individuals in the company can make them feel appreciated, which increases productivity and retention rates. Companies can choose to recognise employees through social or monetary recognition. Social recognition involves recognising them publicly via the company's social groups. Monetary awards include offering employees point-based rewards to use the points to redeem prizes of their choice. Other financial reward programmes include gift cards, cash rewards, trips or events as part of the recognising process.

Related: What is a performance review template? (4 templates to use)

Give and receive feedback

Let employees know how they're performing or underperforming by giving them feedback which could be weekly or quarterly. Again, you can empower the employees by asking them how often they want to receive feedback from you. For example, some employees might prefer a situation where they receive feedback from each of their actions to immediately make corrections, while others prefer it monthly or quarterly.

Frequent feedback is necessary to prevent minor issues from developing into big ones. Ensure you're giving more positive feedback than negative. You can do this by pointing out their improvements rather than only noticing where they're ineffective. Give positive feedback in public and constructive feedback in private to prevent embarrassing the employee. Also, remember to ask employees for their input by keeping an open suggestion box in the office or organising surveys.

Related: How to give feedback to your boss (with examples)

Provide opportunities for professional growth

When employees see how much companies invest in their growth, they feel valued and empowered, and they reciprocate by using what they've learned to contribute to the company's growth. Creating opportunities for employees to learn through training, industry conference and events can help them improve their skills to handle new responsibilities, which could help their professional growth. Installing a learning management system (LMS) application can help companies create and store educational resources, training and developmental programmes that employees can access for learning purposes.

In addition to hard skills, companies can also offer soft skill training to their employees. For example, they could train them in communication, active listening, emotional intelligence, time management and delegation. These skills can also empower employees and make them productive in the workplace. Also, companies can encourage cross-departmental training where they rotate employees to different departments to learn their operational procedures. Doing this can make employees knowledgeable in other departmental processes and help them better understand how each department works together to ensure its success.

Offer flexible work hours

Offering flexible work hours means shifting from the traditional 9-5 to the schedules that employees prefer, which could be working four days a week instead of five but still ensuring they meet the 40 hours of work expectation. It may mean working arriving earlier at work with the view of closing earlier. Flexible work hours can also mean working from home for two weeks and going to work for another two weeks. Companies can empower their employees by letting them choose the work hours that are suitable for them as long as they're productive at that time.

Permitting flexible work hours allows employees to focus on their responsibilities with fewer distractions. For example, if employees know they won't come to work on Friday since they've opted to compress their work hours into Monday to Thursday, they may focus so they can complete their duties before Friday. It also reduces absenteeism as employees can control when to work and when to take a break, and if they're feeling stressed, they can easily take a break to take care of their health and then compensate for the lost hours by working overtime.

Related: How to identify your work values: a step-by-step guide

Benefits of empowering employees

A business can benefit from empowering its employees in the following ways:

  • Improved communication: Empowered employees may not hesitate to talk to their supervisors about any issues they may encounter when carrying out their responsibilities or their displeasure with new company policies or other related matters.

  • Increased productivity: Employees become more productive when treated as partners in the business. When the management involves them in critical decision-making processes, they become more motivated to contribute to its success.

  • Employee satisfaction: When employees have the autonomy to make decisions over projects assigned to them, they become happy when they deliver the tasks successfully. Constantly having control over projects and delivering successful jobs can lead to job satisfaction and prevent turnover, which improves the company's brand.

  • Attract top talents: Companies that empower their employees have productive and loyal employees who act as brand ambassadors, letting every concerned individual know their efforts in empowering them. As a result, the company can become attractive to job seekers looking for the best place to begin their careers.

  • Increase skilled employees: Employers who make an effort to ensure their employees' professional growth may experience an increase of more skilled employees in the organisation. Having more skilled employees leads to increased productivity, creativity, innovations and overall business growth.

  • Better customer service: Empowered and satisfied employees provide better services to customers. They produce and deliver quality products for customers and provide better customer support, thus leading to customer loyalty.

  • Quicker problem resolution: Employees are more likely to resolve customers' or stakeholders' issues since they have the required resources and independence to make decisions.

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