"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." — Stephen R. Covey
An empowered workforce is something that is highly desirable in an improvement culture. Unfortunately, just because we want it, it doesn't make it so, as this comic highlights.
Leaders of the organization must create the conditions for empowerment. Here are 10 ways to be better at empowerment:
Be clear in your communication. When you express goals or explain projects, be sure the employees really understand what you are asking for. If the goals are unclear then the employees are not sure what they are being asked to do.
Eliminate barriers, restrictions and layers of protocol. The more steps, individuals, policies and departments employees have to work through to get results, the more frustrating and disempowering things actually are. Use cross-training, multi-department teams and projects, and trainings to help break down the boundaries and barriers that may exist between employees and departments.
Allow employees to suggest better ways of getting their jobs done. Ask for employee suggestions for other ways of getting the task or project accomplished. Listen and be willing to really hear the employees' comments. Employees hate to have no input and be told exactly how to perform their jobs, leaving no creativity.
Show you have trust in your employees. Allow them to make mistakes as a form of learning. Show that it is really OK to make mistakes. Trust that people have the right intentions and will make the right decisions, even if they are different than your own. Let them know you really support their decisions.
Encourage and reward improvement and innovation. Employees may be afraid to offer insight and new ways of doing things because the company culture doesn't support them. If you really want to empower employees, you'll need to create a company culture that encourages and rewards innovation. You may start by asking individuals to look for ways to improve efficiency, output, safety, etc. in the tasks they perform every day.
Listen. Listen. Listen. Do you do most of the talking? Be open to communication and ask your employees questions. They can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process.
Share leadership's vision. Help people feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves or their job by sharing your company's overall vision. Tell your employees the most important goals for your organization and let them know of the progress towards those goals
Allow employees to actively participate in team and company goals. Look for every opportunity to include employees at every level of the organization, in being active participants. Employees can't be involved with one-way directives.
Be a coach. The best way to empower employees is not to manage them. Coach them to success. This is a process of developing their skills and providing them specific feedback to meet high standards. Employees want to be on the same team with their bosses. Be their coach and lead the team to success!
Communication. The key to empowerment is communication. Give every employee equal and direct access to information. Many companies have developed a trickle-down style of communication that alienates those employees who may not be "in the loop." The more informed employees are and the more communication is open, honest, direct and complete, the more likely employees are to feel empowered and connected to the daily operations and overall goals of their company.