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Updated Apr 10, 2023

How to Foster a Culture of Empowered Employees

Once employees know how their efforts contribute to the greater good, they become more engaged in their work.

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
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Your company culture is the bedrock for your business. It speaks to your mission, your brand story, and your goals for future growth and success. However, as the saying goes, “no man is an island.” For your business to succeed, you must institute a company culture that empowers your employees. 

Developing and enforcing a culture that inspires and encourages your employees to succeed is easier said than done. In fact, Gallup found that nearly 85% of the workforce are not engaged at their jobs. Still, with the right strategies, it is possible to foster a culture of empowered employees. 

Why empowered employees matter

Businesses live and die by their employees, so empowering them to succeed should be a no-brainer for any organization. A company’s success is often directly correlated to employee satisfaction, engagement and growth. 

When your employees feel empowered, they take pride in their work and become loyal and committed to seeing the company succeed alongside them, which also benefits your long-term bottom line. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that when employees feel empowered in the office, you’ll see the following benefits:

  • Employees are more likely to have higher job satisfaction.
  • Employees demonstrate a greater commitment to the organization and its leaders. 
  • Employees show improved job performance.

Increased job satisfaction

Engaged and empowered employees are more vigilant and proactive about the needs of the company, its customers and their co-workers. That, in turn, fosters a sense of community, inclusion, belonging and autonomy. Fulfilled employees are eager to contribute and ultimately feel more satisfied with their output.

Greater commitment to the organization and leaders

When employees feel they have control over the trajectory of their careers and work, they are more likely to produce high-quality, creative work for your company, go above and beyond their job description, and stay at your company long-term. Employees are more likely to trust leaders who empower their workforce – and act as mentors who encourage employees to grow and celebrate their triumphs – than leaders who don’t. 

Improved job performance

Empowered employees feel they have the support they need to think outside the box. Without the fear of negative repercussions, employees were more often able to accomplish the following:

  • Develop creative solutions.
  • Achieve cross-team collaborations.
  • Take on additional assignments beyond their daily tasks and responsibilities.
Did You Know?Did you know
Celebrating your employees can help improve their job performance, as recognition from employers often motivates employees to go above and beyond for their jobs.

Stronger financial gains

Empowered employees can have far-reaching positive effects across the company, including the business’s bottom line. Dissatisfied employees, on the other hand, can lead to major financial losses for businesses. Empowering your employees ensures they’re both engaged and acknowledged for their hard work, which benefits the business and its financial success. [Learn more about how to empower and encourage your workforce.] 

How to create a culture of empowered employees

While empowering employees can be a difficult goal, and one that’s tricky to measure, it is possible to achieve. First, you should realize that there are certain situations in which empowering employees improves business performance. 

Here are give steps you can take to empower employees in your organization, regardless of how large or small it is.

1. Understand your corporate culture and how it aligns with employees’ roles.

Identifying the core tenets of your company’s culture and business goals is critical. For example, are you determined to provide the best product? Are you focused on creating the best customer service? What is at the heart of your company that drives progress?

Once you’ve identified your business’s overarching goals, break them down into smaller segments and show how each employee or business line contributes to those core goals. When employees know how their work contributes to the greater good, they are more likely to feel more engaged in their work and derive a sense of ownership over their contribution.

To help your employees feel a sense of ownership over their work, take a step back and delegate additional responsibilities across your workforce. For example, decision-making is one of the most time-consuming tasks handled by management and C-suite executives. 

Delegating brings new ideas from across the organization into the mix and helps to lighten the decision-making load usually delegated to management. [Read on to learn about defining, building and maintaining company culture.]

2. Allow for the flow of ideas both up and down the chain.

One fundamental way to create a culture of empowerment is to allow the exchange of ideas up and down the chain of command. Ensure that employees and leaders have a safe space to suggest improvements. Employee feedback can have a significant impact on companies of any size, and many workers are more inclined to remain with a company that asks for and acts on employee feedback. 

Consider hosting big-idea events where people can share their ideas in open forums or offering employees an improved “solution box” – an online platform where they can contribute ideas or provide constructive criticisms with plausible solutions.

Ensure that any complaint or challenge employees share comes with a proposed solution. This will allow all employees to create an environment of empowerment and participate in the company’s evolution.

TipBottom line
Rather than soliciting employee feedback annually, consider sending out regular pulse surveys – short surveys typically limited to 5-20 questions – once per quarter, as well as a more holistic survey once per year.

3. Be willing to let go of control (at least a little).

Every executive or business owner strives to hire top talent. However, many leaders struggle to give employees full autonomy over significant projects, even knowing that micromanaging can kill productivity, employee engagement and happiness. So, how do you strike a balance? 

A crucial part of ensuring success is knowing when to let go. Encourage a sense of autonomy and ownership in your employees by relinquishing a bit of control. In today’s corporate landscape, not enough managers know how to successfully delegate tasks so their employees feel supported. Focus on developing your employees’ managerial skills, so they feel equipped to handle whatever tasks come their way.

Businesses need to have the right training infrastructure in place so managers can train their employees in the following critical decision-making areas:

  • Creative problem-solving
  • Risk analysis
  • Performance analysis
  • Projecting future needs

When you allow your employees to own their successes and failures, you create a sense of empowerment and engagement. By relinquishing some control, you cultivate an environment where employees can invest in the company’s growth as well as their own.

4. Provide clear paths for growth.

Creating an empowered workforce means offering clear paths for personal and professional growth. A big part of employee happiness and empowerment stems from providing clear pathways to advancement. One of our most basic human needs is to improve our minds, so professional growth and development opportunities are integral to your employees’ overall mental and emotional well-being. 

When employees don’t have a clear path forward, they will eventually leave your business or gradually disengage from their work to the point that it could cost your business tens of thousands of dollars annually. Supplying employee education and development programs is a simple way to foster a culture of empowered employees.

5. Recognize more than just the bottom line.

Recognizing employee contributions beyond how they impact your bottom line is crucial. This helps prevent burnout and encourages employees to improve performance and remain engaged in the workplace. 

It’s essential to recognize more than just concrete results. Why? Employees look to their leaders to provide guidelines and model behaviors they can emulate in their interactions. When they see a manager encouraging growth and development, they are more likely to work on expanding their skills to further their contributions to the organization.

Angela Koch contributed to the writing and reporting of this article.

author image
Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek co-founded and self-funded a small business that's grown to include more than a dozen dedicated team members. Over the years, he's become adept at navigating the intricacies of bootstrapping a new business, overseeing day-to-day operations, utilizing process automation to increase efficiencies and cut costs, and leading a small workforce. This journey has afforded him a profound understanding of the B2B landscape and the critical challenges business owners face as they start and grow their enterprises today. In addition to running his own business, Peek shares his firsthand experiences and vast knowledge to support fellow entrepreneurs, offering guidance on everything from business software to marketing strategies to HR management. In fact, his expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc. and Forbes and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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