An empowered employee is an engaged employee, and an engaged employee is a productive employee. Companies should be doing all they can to increase their workforce’s autonomy and accountability, which will improve retention rates and raise profits, to boot.
However, too many businesses are going about employee empowerment the wrong way. If you want to avoid wasting time and energy on empowerment strategies that don’t work, read on for some tools that definitely will.
The Tool of Leadership
The first and most important tool for employee empowerment is leadership. This isn’t to say that you should transform all your employees into leaders; rather, you should ensure that the managers and directors within your organization are effective leaders who workers want to follow. Great leadership will give employees the stability and confidence necessary for empowerment, but you shouldn’t assume that because someone claims a leadership position within your organization that they are functioning as leaders.
There is a marked difference between managing and leading — one that draws a line between employees and empowered employees. Here are a few illustrative examples of the difference:
- Managers appraise, while leaders give feedback.
- Managers devise a schedule, while leaders allow employees to manage their time.
- Managers ensure proper training, while leaders build a culture of continuous self-improvement.
- Managers provide instructions, while leaders encourage employees to make their own decisions.
- Managers dictate and demand adherence to the status quo. Leaders foster an environment of autonomy and innovation.
It is possible to transform managers into leaders, but it requires you and your management team to be on the same page. You might need to replace some of your current managers with workers who exhibit greater leadership skill. You should also encourage your leaders in the way you expect them to encourage your workforce.
The Tool of Wages
It’s a well-circulated myth that money doesn’t affect motivation. In truth, researchers can’t be certain whether or not higher pay results in more or less motivation to perform well at work, which means you might as well treat wages as another incentive for your employees.
However, it is important to remember that motivation and empowerment are not synonymous. While you might offer monetary rewards to urge more and better effort, dangling carrots in this way doesn’t always make employees feel energized or enabled. Thus, in addition to boosting pay in different ways, you should provide your workers with more tools to control how they get their wages, where their wages go and more.
A few examples of this include:
- Providing access to paystubs online, so employees can view their wages faster.
- Offering several ways of collecting wages, to include check, direct deposit (ACH), payroll cards and even cash.
- Ensuring that paychecks go out like clockwork, so employees are never kept guessing about their pay.
Wages are why your employees are working, which means even if they aren’t the most important aspect of an employee’s workplace experience, wages remain significant tools for empowerment. Though your corporate culture might not be founded on expectations regarding salaries, you should still pay attention to how you and your workforce handles money.
The Tool of Communication
Communication is easily the most important tool possessed by humankind; it is the reason we could develop complex societies, devise advanced technologies and otherwise reach the sophisticated civilization that exists today. However, many people take communication for granted and fail to recognize how their poor communication methods are impacting their workplace environment and their ability to feel satisfied at work.
Within your business, you should work to use empowered communication. This is a method of communication that ensures all participants are heard, respected and understood. A few tenets of empowered communication include:
- Knowing one’s audience
- Thinking before speaking
- Remaining on-message
- Engaging in active listening
- Paying attention to body language
- Staying Positive
- Analyzing the effectiveness of the communication
It’s unlikely that your employees will have already mastered empowered communication, especially within a professional environment, so you will likely need to provide training and practice sessions before the habit is established. It might be worthwhile to hire a professional in this arena to guide your workforce’s adoption of this communication style.
The most important tool for employee empowerment is trust, but employees won’t know that you trust them if you don’t lead them properly, provide them with adequate income and communicate effectively. Once your workplace provides these tools, your employees will become empowered, making your organization more powerful in turn.