Everything you need to know about employee empowerment. Employee empowerment is a strategy and philosophy that enables employees to make decisions about their jobs.
Employee empowerment helps employees own their work and take responsibility for their results, serve customers at the level of the organization where the customer interface exists.
Employee empowerment is the philosophy of enabling employees to make important decisions related to their work and take more responsibility for their jobs.
The logic behind employee empowerment is to foster accountability, build employee morale and confidence, and create a sense of belongingness in the employees.
If employee empowerment is undertaken in an efficient way, it results in heightened productivity, better quality of work and more job satisfaction. The process of empowerment differs from organization to organization depending upon work culture and organizational structures.
In this article we will discuss about employee empowerment.
Learn about:- 1. Introduction to Employee Empowerment 2. Meaning and Concept of Employee Empowerment 3. Characteristics 4. Elements 5. Conditions and Actions 6. Importance 7. Principles 8. Process 9. Methods 10. Advantages and Disadvantages 11. Challenges.
Employee Empowerment in HRM: Meaning, Characteristics, Importance, Principles, Process, Advantages and Disadvantages
- Introduction to Employee Empowerment
- Meaning and Concept of Employee Empowerment
- Characteristics of Employee Empowerment
- Elements of Employee Empowerment
- Conditions and Actions for Effective Employee Empowerment
- Importance of Employee Empowerment
- Principles of Employee Empowerment
- Process of Employee Empowerment
- Methods of Employee Empowerment
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Employee Empowerment
- Challenges to Employee Empowerment
Employee Empowerment – Introduction
Employee empowerment is a strategy and philosophy that enables employees to make decisions about their jobs. Employee empowerment helps employees own their work and take responsibility for their results, serve customers at the level of the organization where the customer interface exists.
It is the process of enabling or authorizing an individual to think, behave take action, and comfort work and decision-making in autonomous ways. It is the state of feeling to take control of one’s own destiny and learn more about what empowerment is and is not.
Employee empowerment is a two sided coin. For employees to be empowered the management leadership must want and believe that employee empowerment makes good business sense and employees must act. Employee empowerment does not mean that management no longer has the responsibility to lead the organization and is not responsible for performance.
Stronger leadership and accountability is demanded in an organization that seeks to empower employees. This starts with the executive leadership, through all management levels and includes front line supervisors. It is only when the entire organization is willing to work as a team that the real benefits of employee empowerment are realized.
For an organization to practice and foster employee empowerment the management must trust and communicate with employees. Employee communication is one of the strongest signs of employee empowerment. Honest and repeated communication from elements of the strategic plan, key performance indicators, financial performance, down to daily decision making.
Empowerment is the state of feeling self-empowered to take control of one’s own destiny. In the words of Stephen Covey “An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.”
The organization has the responsibility to create a work environment which helps foster the ability and desire of employees to act in empowered ways. The work organization has the responsibility to remove barriers that limit the ability of staff to act in empowered ways.
For example, the manager of the Human Resources department added weeks to the process of hiring new employees by requiring his supposedly “empowered” staff members to obtain his signature on every document related to the hiring of a new employee. Mr. Mahesh empowered himself to discuss the career objectives he wished to pursue with his supervisor. He told his supervisor, frankly, that if the opportunities were not available in his current company, he would move on to another company.
If an organization has not been actively cultivating employee empowerment, it may take considerable time and effort before employees start to respond. For an organization to enjoy the returns from employee empowerment the leadership must diligently work to create the work environment where it is obvious to all that employee empowerment is desired, wanted and cultivated. Management’s responsibility is to create the environment for employee empowerment.
When organizational leadership has started to take actions to encourage employee empowerment it is then up to the employees to decide if they wish to take advantage of the opportunity or not. It is not unusual for only a small minority to accept the challenge initially. Also it is very likely that some fraction will never respond. It is the large middle group that must be convinced to practice employee empowerment.
Most organizations have exactly the level of employee empowerment the management wants. This is demonstrated by the amount of communications, level of training provided to employees, opportunities for personal growth, the solicitation and implementation of ideas, the recognition and reward system, promotion and advancement criteria, and uncountable little signals from management that demonstrate whether employees are valued or not.
Employee can demonstrate empowerment by suggesting areas or processes that might be candidates for an empowerment project. Part of employee empowerment is the recognition by management that often people who most know of pressing needs for improvement are those who have to work in the process.
Employee empowerment can take the form of being asked to bring expert knowledge to projects. Even if not a full time member of the project team the fact that competence and first-hand experience are valued and an employee is willing to help demonstrates a level.
One of the strongest signs from employees is when they take the lead to advance their skills and knowledge with education and training either provided by the organization or outside the organization. Management has the obligation to create the environment that fosters employee empowerment, employees have the duty to accept the opportunity and demonstrate they are willing and capable.
Employee Empowerment – Meaning and Concept
Employee empowerment is the philosophy of enabling employees to make important decisions related to their work and take more responsibility for their jobs. The logic behind employee empowerment is to foster accountability, build employee morale and confidence, and create a sense of belongingness in the employees.
If employee empowerment is undertaken in an efficient way, it results in heightened productivity, better quality of work and more job satisfaction. The process of empowerment differs from organization to organization depending upon work culture and organizational structures.
By delegating work to employees at all levels, the top management can direct its energy towards important work. Human resources, in spite of being the most valuable factor of production, are often underutilized. Employee empowerment helps to utilize the skills and capabilities of the workers in the best possible manner.
Proper training and resources should be provided to the employees to make them capable of taking good decisions by themselves. If employees are unable to take proper decisions, then the very purpose of empowerment is defeated. Employee empowerment requires the organization to be restructured by reducing levels of hierarchy.
A flat organizational structure supports empowerment. The role of the manager also changes from that of a figure of top authority to a more supportive role. An environment of mutual trust, commitment and dedication should be maintained for successful implementation of employee empowerment.
Empowerment refers to enabling a lower level employee to make all the decisions required/relevant for carrying out his duties or discharge his responsibilities, on his own and implement them.
Empowerment is the process of giving employees in the organisation the power, authority, responsibility, resources, freedom to take decisions and solve work related problems. In order to take such initiatives and decisions, they are given adequate authority and resources.
This allocation of authority is not based on the concept of “delegation” based relationship. In empowerment it is a “trust based relationship”, which is established between management and employees. It is a continuous process.
The empowered employee becomes “self-directed” and “self-controlled”. Empowerment focuses on employees to make use of their full potential. On the other hand, empowerment means giving up control on employees and letting every employee make decisions, set goals, accomplish results and receive rewards. It means making a person able to manage by himself. It is a process for helping right person at the right levels to makes the right decision for the right reasons.
The concept of empowerment can be understood better through the following example:
Premier Optics Limited, Vangalapudi, produces and sells high qualitative contact lenses through its retail outlets.
One day, a customer visited its Bangalore retail outlet along with a lens which had cracks. He enquired from the salesman behind the counter, the cost of replacement of the lens. The salesman examined these lens and identified that the lens was produced by Premier Optics Ltd. and the cracks were developed due to the defect in the production process.
He told the same to the customer and noted the telephone number of the customer. He informed the customer that the new lens will be supplied at the customer’s home next day at 10.00 a.m. without any cost.
The customer felt immensely happy. Being the production manager in the Zuari Cements Ltd; the customer was confused of the decision of the salesman and asked him how could he identify the production defects, being the salesman, how could he decide to replace the product without referring the matter to the Finance Department. Then, the salesman replied that the employees in the Premier Optics Ltd., are empowered to take and implement all decisions relating to a operation based on the customer.
The customer has turned into a most loyal customer and acted as a link in the chain of advertisements.
Employee Empowerment – Characteristics of Empowered Organisation
The characteristics of empowered organisations include:
i. The empowered organisations have a flat organisational structure and high degrees of performing work systems.
ii. The attitude and mind-set of employees of empowered organisations are also quite different. Each of the employees will be working towards the vision of the organisation, there will be independent work teams at all levels, continuous improvement and learning, high degree of belief system and trust, environment of openness, authenticity and acceptance, freedom from all threats, accountability and commitment on the part of the employees, encouragement, creativity and development in all activities, confidence at all times in the minds of the employees.
iii. The empowered organisations invest a lot of time and effort in hiring, to make sure that new recruits can handle freedom given at the work place, these organisations have loose guidelines so that the employees can know their decision making parameters.
iv. Results are important than the process, open and strong communication network, most importantly satisfaction of employees.
v. The empowered organisations also create the feeling of belongingness, and creativity is encouraged among the employees. The employees also learn and teach the art of self- leadership.
vi. Transparent ethics is another characteristic feature of empowered organisation.
vii. Secrecy and confidentiality are never the practices and cannot be found in any of the organisation activity.
viii. The ideal sets of work practices are other added features of an empowered organisation.
ix. Flexible scheduling of work, uncompromising employee integrity, low employee turnover, quality, productivity, self-directed work force, participative decision making systems, no boundaries or borderless relationships and no hard rules are the important characteristic features of an empowered organisation.
Employee Empowerment – Some Very Important Elements: Authority, Self-Determination, Alignment, Skills, Resources and a Few Others
Following are some very important elements of empowerment, presence of which is necessary for empowerment:
1. Authority – Ability of a team to take action, such as to budget, to have access to a petty cash fund, etc.
2. Self-determination – Ability of a team to decide what problems to work on and what methods are the best ones to use.
3. Alignment – A scale which measures how close an employee’s personal needs are aligned to the organization’s needs.
4. Skills – The ability of a team to analyze and solve problems.
5. Resources – Those items necessary for a team to understand a problem and implement solutions; also, the time to work on solutions, access to manufacturing engineers, etc.
6. Information – Ability of a team to have access to information, computers, financial figures, etc.
7. Accountability – A scale which measures the level of accountability for a team’s actions and results.
9. Personal Control – When any kind of empowerment is given, substantial self-control is required
10. Faith and Trust – Faith and trust are two important ingredients which the employee must have on employer and employer must have on employee.
11. Meaningfulness – The system of empowerment so designed must have mean fullness.
12. Task Impact – At the end the overall impact of implementation of empowerment must be gauged.
Effective Employee Empowerment – Conditions and Actions
Conditions Necessary for Effective Employee Empowerment:
The following conditions are necessary for effective employee empowerment:
i. Provide the information of the company to all employees;
ii. Employees should have multi-skills and knowledge;
iii. Employees should assume power to make substantive decisions;
iv. Employees should understand all the jobs, job specification and descriptions;
v. Management should create and maintain conducive organisational culture;
vi. Management should delegate authority and power;
vii. Management should encourage the employees to take risk;
viii. Management should reward the employees adequately;
ix. The environment should be receptive to people with innovative ideas, risk taking, new methods and practices; and
x. Empowered employees should be accountable for the results, cost, behaviour, credibility and positive approach.
i. To empower employees the organisation must initiate certain actions
ii. Delegation of authority
iii. Participative decision making
iv. Encourage self-management
v. Job enrichment
vi. Creating self-managed work teams
vii. Creating job that provide intrinsic feedback
viii. Installation of upward performance appraisal
ix. Lessening of formalities
x. Creating supportive culture
xi. Encouraging goal-setting
xii. Educating and training employees.
Employee Empowerment – Importance: Quality of Work Produced, Satisfied Employees, Collaboration Grows, Productivity Increases and a Few More
Organisational restructuring/reorganisation through Business Process Re-engineering can be possible only with employee empowerment. The liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation resulted in severe competition. The competition forced the companies to serve and satisfy mostly the customer.
Therefore, the organisations started empowering the employees to serve the customers better without any loss of time and inconvenience of going around various departments like finance, production and marketing/commercial. Empowerment enables the customer to get the better service/products without the loss of any time and at one point of contact. Thus, the satisfied customer will not only be loyal to the company but acts as a link in the chain of advertisements without any cost.
The importance of empowering employees is clear when the benefits of doing so are understood.
While there are many areas in which empowerment provides a positive impact, the following five are perhaps the most recognizable:
1. Quality of work produced – When given the autonomy that allows them to make a difference to product or service outcomes, employees will produce higher quality work. The finished product becomes a matter of personal pride, and the benefits for both the customer and the employee will become self-evident.
2. Satisfied employees – Various studies have shown that empowered employees are more satisfied in their work, and less likely to seek employment elsewhere. This decreases employment costs and the need for training of new staff.
3. Collaboration grows – With increased confidence; employees are more willing to share information and best practices with others. Honesty and openness increase, and this directly impacts the ability of people to work as part of a team. Participation becomes more active and proactive, and this greater collaboration will in itself feed through to organizational capability to achieve strategic goals.
4. Productivity increases – As confidence and self-esteem grows, and a more quality focused and collaborative approach takes hold, productivity will increase.
5. Employee empowerment reduces costs – Costs will be reduced across the organization.
6. Highly Competitive Environment – Highly competitive environment makes it necessary for companies to empower employees so that they are motivated.
7. Globalization – Globalization also necessitates empowerment to combat challenges of globalization.
To sum up, an empowered workforce is more satisfied with their job and career path, and staff turnover falls accordingly. Retention rates rise, training costs fall, and experience remains in-house. Operations become more efficient and productivity rises. Solutions to customer complaints are found proactively, and customer loyalty increases. This reduces the costs of marketing and finding new customers.
Employee Empowerment – 10 Important Principles for Managing People in a Way that Reinforces Employee Empowerment, Accomplishment and Contribution
Manager may look for principles to create a work environment in which people are empowered, productive, contributing, and happy. There are some most important principles for managing people in a way that reinforces employee empowerment, accomplishment, and contribution. These management actions enable both the people who work with you and the people who report to you to soar.
Principle # 1. Demonstrate that People are Valuable:
Regard for people must shine through in all of managers’ actions and words. Their facial expression, body language, and words express what they are thinking about the people who report to them. Their goal is to demonstrate appreciation for each person’s unique value. No matter how an employee is performing on their current task, a manager’s value for the employee as a human being should never falter and always be visible.
Principle # 2. Share Leadership Vision:
Help people feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their individual job. Managers are suggested to do this by making sure they know and have access to the organization’s overall mission, vision, and strategic plans.
Principle # 3. Share Goals and Direction:
Managers must attempt to share the most important goals and direction for their group. Where possible, either make progress on goals measurable and observable, or ascertain that they have shared their picture of a positive outcome with the people responsible for accomplishing the results.
Principle # 4. Trust People:
Trust the intentions of people to do the right thing, make the right decision, and make choices that, while may be not exactly what you would decide, still work.
Principle # 5. Provide Information for Decision Making:
Make certain that you have given people, or made sure that they have access to, all of the information they need to make thoughtful decisions.
Principle # 6. Delegate Authority and Impact Opportunities, Not Just More Work:
It means that managers just do not delegate the drudge work; delegate some of the fun stuff, too as well as delegate the important meetings, the committee memberships that influence product development and decision making, and the projects that people and customers notice. The employee will grow and develop new skills.
Principle # 7. Provide Frequent Feedback:
Provide frequent feedback so that people know how they are doing. Sometimes, the purpose of feedback is reward and recognition. People deserve constructive feedback, too, so they can continue to develop their knowledge and skills.
Principle # 8. Solve Problems- Do Not Pinpoint Problem People:
When a problem occurs, ask what is wrong with the work system that caused the people to fail, not what is wrong with the people. Worst case response to problems? Seek to identify and punish the guilty.
Principle # 9. Listen to Learn and Ask Questions to Provide Guidance:
Provide a space in which people will communicate by listening to them and asking them questions. Guide by asking questions, not by telling grown up people what to do. People generally know the right if they have the opportunity to produce them. When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, “What do you think you should do to solve this problem?” Or, ask, “What action steps do you recommend?” Employees can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process.
Principle # 10. Help Employees Feel Rewarded and Recognized for Empowered Behaviour:
When employees feel under-compensated, under-titled for the responsibilities they take on, under-noticed, under-praised, and under-appreciated, employee empowerment should not be expected to produce results.
Employee Empowerment – Process: 5 Main Stages Involved
Empowerment is a complex process because of involvement of human beings whose nature itself is quite complex. Being a process, empowerment involves a number of stages.
These stages are as follows:
Stage # 1. Recalling Depowering and Empowering Experiences:
Empowerment does not occur through rigid prescription by an organization; it evolves over the period of time with experience. Therefore, there is a need for recalling events that show depowering as well as empowering. While events showing empowering are reinforced, events showing depowering need change through empowerment.
Stage # 2. Identifying Reasons for Lack of Empowerment:
After identifying the events that show lack of empowerment, it is required to identify the reasons for lack of empowerment. Often, the reasons for lack of empowerment lie either in organizational processes or in an employee himself or both. Various organizational processes like delegation of authority, communication system, and control system may work against empowerment. The reasons for lack of empowerment may lie here.
Similarly, reasons for lack of empowerment may lie with an employee depending on his locus of control and self-esteem. Employees having internal locus of control tend to see organizational processes as empowering unless these are in very bad shape while employees having external locus of control tend to see organizational processes as depowering.
Besides locus of control, an employee’s self-esteem also affects his perception about depowering and empowering events. Employees with high self-esteem tend to see organizational processes as empowering while those with low self-esteem tend to see these as depowering.
Stage # 3. Choosing One Issue/Problem/Project to Work on:
After identifying the reasons for lack of empowerment, concrete steps have to be taken for overcoming lack of empowerment. At this stage, it is quite possible that there may be several areas in which depowering events happen. However, all these areas cannot be covered in a single step of empowerment.
Therefore, it is desirable to undertake one issue/problem/project at a time. The best strategy to select an issue is to select that issue first which is easier to tackle. This may be followed by more difficult issues in that order. The basic advantage of this strategy is that the organization gets experience of empowerment action which can be applied in critical issues more effectively.
Stage # 4. Identifying Potential Power Bases:
At this stage, potential power bases should be identified. Since power is capacity to influence others, it can be acquired by an individual in different ways, known as power bases. Bases of power may be of two types — positional and personal — with each type having different bases.
Positional power emerges from the position that an individual holds in an organization. Personal power resides with a person regardless of his position in the organization. An individual’s personal power emerges from his qualities that are unique. Potential power bases may be identified in terms of these power bases.
Stage # 5. Developing and Implementing Action Plans:
After identifying potential power bases, the organization should initiate development and implementation of action plans for empowerment. Empowerment exercise can be undertaken either on individual basis or team basis. However, the present emphasis is on team empowerment and creation of empowered teams. There are four ways of using power irrespective of the bases from which it is derived.
(а) Increase in one’s power base.
(b) Enact power to make things happen through others.
(c) Challenge the power base of others.
(d) Increase the power base of others.
Since there are both organizational and personal bases of power, changes may be required at both these levels. At the personal level, training and development activities can be undertaken to enable employees to assume more power. At the organizational level, changes can be brought in those organizational factors which are responsible for de-empowerment.
Employee Empowerment – Top 2 Methods: Job Enlargement and Job Enrichment
1. Job Enlargement:
It is a type of horizontal expansion which entails taking charge of more duties and responsibilities at the same level. Job enlargement increases the scope of the job and reduces level of specialization. Its aim is to reduce the monotony and repetition associated with a particular job by introducing newer tasks.
It helps to create flexible workforces who are capable of performing a variety of jobs. One negative aspect of job enlargement is that employees may be required to do more work at the same pay scale. For example, a waiter at a small restaurant may be required to chop vegetables or do the dishes along with his regular duty of taking orders and serving customers.
2. Job Enrichment:
Job enrichment entails increasing the depth of the job to include responsibilities that are carried out at higher levels of the organization. It is vertical expansion of a job. Job enrichment gives more control over the jobs by increasing the employees’ level of responsibility.
They are required to do more planning and organizing work. They are given more authority and autonomy over their jobs. Job enrichment is also known as job enhancement. It requires a higher level of knowledge, skills and challenging work. It motivates the employees and gives opportunities for personal growth.
Job enrichment enhances the quality of work and provides a meaningful job experience. Workers experience more job satisfaction as job enrichment brings more scope for achievement, recognition, development and growth. If the responsibilities of a proofreader in a publication are increased to include some level of editorial work, it would be an example of job enrichment.
Employee Empowerment – Advantages and Disadvantages
Employee Empowerment is giving employees responsibility and authority to make decisions regarding all aspects of product development or customer service.
Advantages of employee empowerment include:
1. Increased employee education and training;
2. Employees participate in creating their own goals;
3. Increased employee contribution;
4. Increased respect among employees secondary to teamwork;
5. Increased power equals lower absenteeism and better productivity;
6. Employees have more satisfying work;
7. An increased depth of competence among employees secondary to cross-training;
8. Less conflict with administration and managers; and
9. A few middle management positions mean decreased cost to the company.
Employees are more likely to agree with changes if they participate in decision making.
There needs to be a balance between empowerment and traditional management. The manager of the department needs to be sensitive to the employees’ needs and the company’s needs and to know how to use a management style that will work best to achieve desired outcomes.
Empowerment benefits the organisation, employees and managers for organisation:
i. Creating an environment which encourages proactively problem solving, accepting challenge, innovation, continuous improvement, optimum utilization of employees
ii. A high degree of employee motivation and enhancement of business performance.
For employees empowerment provides a sense of high self-esteem, high degree of involvement and participation, a learning environment opportunity for personal growth and development and a greater sense of achievement.
Managers can think of empowerment process as involving in several stages. Managers can assume additional and new responsibilities. The managers of the empowered organisations will have greater commitment towards the organisation.
Some of the disadvantages of employee empowerment include:
1. Employees can abuse the increased power given to them;
2. It is too much responsibility for some employees;
3. Employees who focus on their own success rather than group’s may leave;
4. Managers must be better trained to facilitate through sharing of information, cooperation, and referrals to appropriate resources; all employees must “buy in” to the concept for it to be effective;
5. There is an increased cost to the organization for training and education;
6. There is increased time in groups or committees which takes away from regular jobs.
There may be increased conflict or power struggle between employees due to group work; some employees may not be knowledgeable enough to make good business decisions; decisions made on the basis of personality versus logical reasoning.
Employee Empowerment – 4 Major Challenges: Confusion, Improper Training, Resistance to Change & Breakdown of Organizational Structure
Four major challenges faced by employee empowerment:
Challenge # 1. Confusion:
Employees are encouraged to think on their own and take their own decisions. But this may cause confusion and chaos in organizations where employees are traditionally trained to take orders from superiors. This can also give rise to disagreements among co-workers if they are unable to take a unanimous decision.
Challenge # 2. Improper Training:
To enable employees to become accountable for themselves and take the best decisions it is vital that they are given proper training. Each individual should be trained intensively to develop his skills and talents so that he becomes a more productive and capable worker. But in case employees are not properly trained, they would not be able to judge the situations well and won’t be able to take good decisions for the company’s benefit.
Challenge # 3. Resistance to Change:
The people working in an organization can be resistant to changes and innovations in the work place. Some managers may feel that their employees are not competent enough to take their own decisions and be accountable for their work, while some employees themselves may not want additional responsibility.
Empowering employees would also require some changes to be made in management style. The managers would no longer be the ultimate authority. Thus, employees and managers may be resistant to adopt changes.
Challenge # 4. Breakdown of Organizational Structure:
Employee empowerment can be conducted more successfully in a decentralized organization with lesser hierarchical levels. This would require breaking down the existing structure and eliminating redundant levels. This is not an easy process. Also it would make it more difficult for the managers to control the employees once they have become used to their autonomy.