Employees typically look to their managers to make decisions that will positively impact them. Likewise, it is important that employees feel empowered to also make those important business decisions. Autonomy in the workplace fosters a more efficient and inspired company culture.
The feeling of importance and trust leads to better and more productive work. However, sometimes it is difficult to know exactly how to ensure your employees feel this way. As a leader, it's your job to inspire your employees to take more responsibility and create a more positive work environment for everyone involved.
What is employee empowerment?
Employee empowerment in the workplace is a philosophy that encourages workers to make their own independent decisions. Managers should give workers the proper support for them to feel confident in their roles.
Rather than micromanaging your employees, employee empowerment is all about allowing them the autonomy to flourish with your guidance. Mistakes are viewed as lessons learned, and risk-taking is seen as a chance to grow. When implemented the right way, employee empowerment helps workers feel more comfortable developing as professionals in their company.
Want to set your employees and your business up for success? Here are 13 tips for empowering your staff.
1. Demonstrate your trust.
The best way to gain employee loyalty is by showing your staff that they have your trust. Clarify the ends instead of the means, and let your staff go about projects in their own way. They might not accomplish everything exactly as you would have, but they will get the job done with their own flair.
2. Communicate a clear vision.
As a boss and a leader, it's your job to get everyone on the same page. People who don't know what they're supposed to be doing won't be able to accomplish their jobs very well at all. Clearly define the companies vision, and roles of your staff so they know their duties and don't step on each other's toes.
3. Don't avoid small talk.
Make it a habit to sit down with your employees and engage in one-on-one conversations. You can have these talks in your office, in the break room or at a coffee shop down the street. Intentionally ask about their work progress, such as accomplishments or even complaints, but also make an effort to get to know your staff on a personal level.
Ask what's going on with their families, or lives in general, to show that you care about them as human beings. This will lead to a friendlier and more productive office environment. It will also help you grow as a leader. Two-thirds of people agree that their boss had some kind of impact on their career – make sure yours is a positive one.
4. Encourage self-improvement.
When your employees learn new skills, it improves the company as a whole. Some companies even support continued education or classes outside of the workplace that enhance personal growth.
If you can't lend your employees financial support for their development, at least be flexible with their schedules to a certain degree. Allowing your salesperson or HR representative to leave half an hour early every Thursday for community orchestra practice can do wonders for their well-being and work ethic. [Read related article: How to Foster Trust With Customersnull]
5. Leave your office door open.
You want your employees to know that their opinions are valued in order to truly empower them. A simple gesture such as leaving your office door open can do wonders to communicate this. An open-door policy shows employees that you care what they think while enabling them to give their input and play an active role in your company.
6. Support vacation time.
This might seem counterintuitive, but you'll get a lot more out of your employees if you work to keep them from burning out. Learn to spot the symptoms of burnout, and avoid employees getting anywhere close by actively supporting vacation time. [Learn how HR software solutions can help you manage employee scheduling.]
Your employees will actually be more productive and better at their jobs if they are well rested and rejuvenated. You don't have to mandate full weeks off at a time, but you should foster an environment where a long weekend here and there is not only tolerated but actively supported.
7. Delegate more than just work.
As a boss or manager, you'll inevitably have to delegate work, but make sure that's not the only thing you're passing down. Ask a staff member to lead an important meeting, even if it's just while you step out to take a phone call.
Share the projects that people and customers notice. This will show employees that they have a real effect on the business.
8. Learn flexibility.
Life happens. Be flexible with your employees as things come up. Perhaps try a schedule that allows a parent to drop their kids off at school in the morning. As a bonus, they'll be able to avoid rush-hour traffic and put in even more work.
You could also allow an employee to work from home to take care of a sick parent or child if the job allows. If long WFH periods don't work for your company, experiment with one WFH day a week or a couple each month. You might even find that your employees are more productive when working in an environment they choose.
9. Inspire creative thinking.
Just because you have been doing a task one way for your entire career does not mean that's the best way to accomplish it. There are always problems to be solved and better ways to do things, so use the minds around you and encourage your employees to share creative business solutions.
Not only will putting the challenge in the hands of your employees save you some headache, but it's also likely that you'll come out with a better end result. They do say that two heads are better than one.
10. Show you appreciate their efforts.
Sure, your employees are paid to show up every day, but it's always helpful to receive some encouragement. Whether it's a sales call that was handled exceptionally well or a report that was put together flawlessly, let your employees know when they are doing a good job. This will ensure continued high-quality work in the future, and they will feel more job satisfaction.
11. Listen to their concerns.
You should not only encourage open feedback and ideas from employees, but also be there to listen to any issues or concerns they have. This will help them feel heard and supported.
12. Practice forgiveness for their mistakes.
If you get angry every time an employee makes a mistake, they will continue to play it safe. The purpose of employee empowerment is allowing them to feel confident and courageous enough to take risks and make their own decisions.
13. Play to their strengths.
Understand each employee's strengths and weaknesses so you can empower them in the ways that work best for them and your company. For instance, if one of your workers is a great public speaker, have them lead the next meeting. If another employee prefers to work behind the scenes, let them write the next newsletter.
What are the benefits of empowering your employees?
There are many reasons to practice employee empowerment as a manager. Not only will it help your individual employees feel more confident in their positions, it will also help your business perform better as a whole.
Here are some specific benefits of empowering your employees:
- It holds employees accountable. When you allow employees to make their own decisions and take risks in the workplace, you are essentially investing in them. Your trust will hold them accountable for their actions, motivating them to work harder and smarter.
- It increases employee retention. Employees who feel appreciated and supported are more likely to be loyal to the company. This reduces your company's employee turnover and inspires workers to perform at their best.
- It sparks job satisfaction. When an employee is free to take risks and perform at their own pace and to their own standards, they tend to be more satisfied. Employee satisfaction translates to a positive work culture.
- It improves customer service. When handling customers, employees often pause to check in with their managers on how to go about a specific request or resolve an issue. By empowering your employees to get the job done without waiting for your approval, you set your company up for better customer service.
- It allows individual growth. Empowered employees feel more confident and inspired to grow, which benefits not only their careers but also your company.
Sammi Caramela contributed to the writing in this article.