What if we tell you that the key to success is in your employees’ hands? Encouraging employee empowerment offers many perks that can boost your business. Of course, this is not the only factor responsible for a company’s growth. Yet, long-term success comes from your workforce. Creating a positive work environment, allowing for autonomy, facilitating personal and professional development, and promoting an empowering leadership style are undoubtedly excellent ways to improve the employee experience.
Do you want to understand why giving more power to your team members is a strong management approach and learn how to do so? This article provides insight into this topic. However, no type of management is perfect and this model has some downsides as well. We will also share these potential drawbacks so you get a full picture about staff empowerment, its benefits and its consequences.
Definition and purpose of employee empowerment
Meaning of employee empowerment
Employee empowerment is when companies and leaders give more control and autonomy to their workforce. It is the opposite of micromanagement. Managers who choose to give more power to their team members are aware that this approach has risks. Yet, they consider the benefits of empowering leadership to be worth more than the possible downsides. Staff empowerment can be applied in multiple ways. For example, it can mean including your workforce more often in decision-making processes, being more flexible toward their working schedule, or providing them with resources to develop their skill set.
Purpose of adopting an empowering leadership style
The goal of empowering your workforce is to make them thrive by:
learning while doing;
taking decisions and risks;
sharing their ideas and point of view;
becoming more responsible;
being given the opportunity to bloom.
In other words, the purpose of adopting an empowering leadership style is to avoid restraining your staff by micromanaging and giving orders without any flexibility. Not only does this lead to boredom, frustration, unhappiness, and dissatisfaction at work, but it would also mean this leader is shooting themself in the foot. This is because the company would not be benefiting from their individual skills, or because they quit their job to find a one that allows them to thrive.
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Advantages of practicing empowering leadership
Work relationships and collaboration strengthen
Employee empowerment implies that you trust your workers and vice versa. When leaders give their team members more autonomy and responsibility, it strengthens work relationships and collaboration. You can count on them and they can rely on you too. It also contributes to improving how your staff feels at work. Empowered teams tend to show higher levels of happiness, job satisfaction, and workplace connection. Undoubtedly, enhancing the overall employee experience makes people more engaged and helps them achieve goals successfully.
Motivation and engagement increase
When employees are given the opportunity to show their strengths and develop new abilities, their ambition increases. Especially for younger generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z, for whom learning new skills is a crucial aspect of work. Feeling empowered to improve at their job, share their thoughts freely, and have control over their professional lives raises their self-esteem and determination to succeed. Having a bigger role to play in the outcomes of tasks also helps increase their motivation and engagement and go beyond expectations. Lastly, empowering workers boosts motivation and engagement because it promotes an employee-centric approach.
Professional and personal growth improves
Delegating more responsibilities to your team members enables them to thrive personally and professionally. Encouraging them to get out of their comfort zone, providing them with resources and equipment to widen their skill set, letting them try new methods and concepts… All of this automatically helps them grow as people and employees. Most of the time, the more qualified and fulfilled workers are, the more efficient and productive they are too. Therefore, staff empowerment is a win-win for everyone.
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Creativity and innovation thrive
A key aspect of empowering your workforce is to give them a voice and recognize their value. Individuals should know their POV and ideas are welcome and should be encouraged to share them. By doing so, you open new doors for creativity and innovation. They are free to come up with new solutions, think out of the box, and combine their ideas to deliver the best outcomes. This advantage amplifies with diverse teams who are 19% more innovative than others. If you are looking for boosting creativity and innovation, promoting employee empowerment and DEI practices simultaneously is a winning combo.
Human Resources costs decrease and profits increase
Another major benefit of empowering leadership is the positive impact it has on budget. For multiple reasons, giving more power to your staff can help you save money and increase your profits. On one hand, you enhance job satisfaction and improve employee experience which contributes to lowering your Human Resources costs (recruitment, training, absenteeism…). On the other hand, you strengthen your chances of having a team who is more engaged, productive, and innovative. All of this makes you a lot more competitive than companies that don’t have a people-first culture.
Possible drawbacks of giving more power to your workers
Empowering leaders need to rethink their role
Managers who start to give more power to their team members might feel they are not needed anymore. Of course, this isn’t true. Yes, your employees’ skill sets will grow. But isn’t having a highly qualified team the dream of every leader? It doesn’t mean your job becomes insignificant. There are still plenty of management tasks to accomplish. Moreover, when you decide to promote empowering leadership, you agree to rethink the purpose of your position. You will need to support your coworkers even more and provide them with all of the resources they need to thrive and achieve their goals. This takes time and effort, but the outcomes are definitely worth it.
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Employee empowerment is not a wish for everyone
Although it is likely that your workforce appreciates having more control over their professional lives, some employees might not be interested. We are all different and some are happy with their jobs without much autonomy or flexibility. Before giving more power to your team members, it is important to talk with them about it, understand their expectations, and decide together if they wish to have more power and in what capacity. Some workers might prefer to focus their energy on something else. Giving them a voice about is also a form of employee empowerment. You give them the choice to have more control and autonomy, including to what extent.
Team members and leaders are unprepared for this working model
As a manager, you might not know where to start to empower your team members. It can be difficult to understand your role and find your purpose. Leaders have to be prepared and this approach needs to be organized. But the same goes for employees. Although most workers appreciate having more responsibilities and autonomy over their tasks, if not introduced properly, staff empowerment can turn into a source of anxiety. It would be the opposite of the initial goal of this leadership style. Therefore, adopting this working model requires that both managers and their team have the right tools to make the most out of it.
Empowering leadership best practices and examples
Adopt a horizontal and employee-first management approach
Empowerment in the workplace is all about how you manage your staff and which type of collaboration you want to foster. When you choose to apply horizontal leadership and concentrate on the needs of your coworkers, you create a team that is eager to make suggestions, come up with new ideas, and cares about completing their tasks successfully. Adopting a horizontal management style implies focusing on collaboration, recognition, trust, and of course, avoiding micromanagement. You need to be able to delegate and include your team members in decision-making processes. By considering your team members as equals and giving them many chances to thrive, you will get as much in return.
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Make employee empowerment practices part of your corporate culture
To foster employee empowerment, it needs to be part of your corporate culture and implemented in all aspects of your business. At every level of your organization, people need to know that employee empowerment is one of your core values. From onboarding to training and daily actions, there are various ways you can give more power to your workforce. For example, encourage critical thinking or let them manage their work schedules. But, on top of promoting empowering practices, listening to your team is also crucial. For instance, regularly conducting surveys is a great method to find out their definition of empowerment and what would help them feel more in control.
Opt for an approach based on trust and autonomy to boost personal and professional growth
Trust and autonomy are two core pillars of empowering leadership. This implies being aware and understanding that your team members might make mistakes and fail. This is part of the process and pushing them to take risks is actually a great way to help them grow personally and professionally. It doesn’t mean you should abandon them with a project to see “how they handle it”. The goal is to provide them with the resources they need and support them so they can learn from you too.
Meet your team members individually on a regular basis
To make your staff thrive, it is important to know their ambitions and to follow up with them. Their objectives and needs might change over time. Meeting your team members individually (online or in-person) helps you define the best ways to empower them. Ask them directly how you can foster this autonomy and review what has been achieved or what was lacking since the last meeting. Feedback has to come from both sides to be constructive and efficient. Your coworkers should give you their point of view and vice versa. Besides, reciprocity is a pivotal factor of a horizontal management style, one of the key practices we just mentioned.
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Give employees more control over their professional lives with flexible work arrangements
Flexible work arrangements are another example of how to empower your workforce. The ability to work from anywhere (at home, in a third workplace, or at the office) and, sometimes, at any time, gives employees more control over their schedules. This contributes to developing a better connection with their job. They know you trust them to perform the same no matter where they are. Moreover, it gives them the power to have better work-life balance and ultimately improves their physical and mental health as a hybrid work schedule tends to reduce stress, enabling them to dedicate more time to personal activities, and boosts employee experience.
You now have insight about the meaning of employee empowerment, its benefits, and the best methods to give your workers more control over their professional lives. The good thing is, promoting empowering leadership can be easy. The key is to always focus on improving how satisfied and happy your workers are. Many factors of job satisfaction are interconnected to staff empowerment. For example, allowing flexible work arrangements is one of them and this is why we aim to support you in managing your hybrid workforce and workspace. Request a free demo of the deskbird app and discover all the employee-centric features to make the most of hybrid work!
Paulyne is a hybrid work specialist, who writes about sustainability, flexible work models and employee experience.