Carol has taught college Finance, Accounting, Management and Business courses and has a MBA in Finance.
What Is Empowerment?
Empowerment is the concept in management that if employees are given information, resources, and opportunity at the same time as being held responsible for their job outcomes, then they will be more productive and have higher job satisfaction. It is important to understand that a company cannot implement empowerment itself - instead, management creates the right environment so that empowerment can take place.
So how does a manager set up this kind of environment where employees feel empowered?
How to Empower Employees
Let's look at this process, through the example of a company called Widget Co. Widget Co.'s manager would first begin his project with the goal of creating empowered employees would start by determining what resources employees need in order to make good decisions about their own work. When doing this, he would take into consideration the company's vision and mission and the organizational and departmental goals.
He would need to be sure to understand the work other departments do and have access to financial and operational reports for the company. He'd benefit from a clear understanding of company processes and what happens to the company's work once it's completed. He would finally need to determine if there's any necessary skills training to help employees better understand their work and perform better. And to make sure employees have clear expectations about what they need to accomplish.
Once employees have the information and skills they need, Widget Co.'s manager would give them some amount of decision-making responsibility. The reason for this is that along with the ability to make decisions, comes accountability for their results. The underlying idea is that employees are in a unique position to determine the best way to produce their work outcomes.
With this additional responsibility in place, the role of Widget Co.'s manager changes to more of a coaching role - he should help employees make good decisions, discuss the outcomes of decisions with them, and help coordinate employees among multiple groups.
Results of Empowerment
As a result of empowering his employees, Widget Co.'s manager sees cost improvements, employee satisfaction, and accountability. Since employees are given the opportunity to define how they produce their work, this can result in improved methods in procedures, resulting in lower costs. Furthermore, employees who have a sense of control over their work, tend to have higher morale and job satisfaction. Lastly, since employees are expected to be accountable for their results, it is clear who to point to if actions aren't completed as expected.
Challenges of Empowerment:
Empowerment sounds good and all, but there are potential challenges as well.
First, employees may make decisions that don't consider all other factors in the organization, and this can ultimately cause chaos by requiring changes from others. Employees may not have the knowledge and experience needed to properly evaluate their impact on other departments when they make a change. Widget Co.'s manager will need to ensure employees are prepared for this additional responsibility and train them as needed.
Second, managers may be reluctant to hand over decision-making to their staff. This can lead to frustration on the part of the employees, since others will expect them to be responsible for the outcomes of their work, but they don't actually have the authority to control them. By being willing to let employees handle some decision making, Widget Co.'s manager can avoid these frustrations.
Finally, the company may announce a change to empowerment but not have any real changes roll down to staff members. This causes frustration and cynicism on the part of the staff, and disbelief in future change announcements. In fact, if this has happened in the past, employees may just ignore the announcement of the new management style and assume nothing will actually happen. Widget Co.'s manager will need to follow through with the change so that employees take it seriously.
Empowerment, or giving individual employees the ability to make decisions about their jobs and responsibility for the outcomes, can have a positive impact on company results and employee satisfaction. When planning to empower employees, the manager needs to first examine the organization as a whole, including the company's mission, goals, financial state, and employee training needs. Then the manager would give employees some decision-making responsibilities and provide coaching as needed. When successful, empowerment can reduce costs, make employees more satisfied, and give employees a higher sense of responsibility.
Empowerment can be difficult to implement, however, because it requires changes in thinking and in responsibility for management, who may be reluctant to make the changes needed.
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