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Employee Empowerment

Employee empowerment can not be achieved without building and developing human capacity.

Team members must not only  have the confidence and competence to undertake assignments but also to have  the opportunities to expand and excel. Confidence and competence increase when people gain more experience in organization and management and acquire new knowledge and skills, including the capacity to generate knowledge.  It's not easy to empower people and it's not just a one time activity.  This section is about empowerment in practice and how managers can do it  to improve the quality  of their relationships with staff and the overall productivity of the company.

What is Employee Empowerment?

Many managers are reluctant to fully accept and apply employee empowerment as they feel they have to" let go" of their power. Empowerment is not about "letting go, it's about sharing your power with the ones below you. However,  employee empowerment will change processes and their impacts: as decision making, problem solving etc. Empowerment is a further step from participation; it's about action and autonomous decisions and analysis.Employees have full authority to not only participate  in decision making processes but to make decisions based on their own findings and expertise. Successful empowerment involves trust, respect and openness. 

In your role as manager it's imperative to believe in your team's ability to operate and make decisions autonomously. At the same time  it is also important to be there as a a facilitator and a coach. The best approach to start the empowerment process is to discuss with your team and design a plan that makes empowerment a practice without overwhelming them.  And as  Guy Kawasaki writes in his wonderful book Enchantment - " Want to change the world? Change caterpillers into butterflies? This takes more than run-of-the-mill relationships.  You need to convince people to dream the same dream that you do. That's a big goal, but one that's possible for all of us.

Where to start?

Start with yourself: Embrace PARTICIPATORY Management and the empowering process as a natural outcome. The most important principle guiding Participatory Management is the utilization of skills at different levels and in different ways. When staff are involved in the process that leads to generate ideas, share skills, take active lead, the likelihood increases that they will also embrace the share of power. PARTICIPATORY MANAGEMENT taps into the creative potential and the knowledge of people and further builds their capacity to direct their own development.

Prepare and Train for empowerment: Explain to your team the meaning and benefits of empowerment. Take the time to describe the change in their roles " from decision-carriers to decision -makers" .Train them in techniques that generate ideas as brainstorming and other participatory methods.

Create opportunities for crosslearning: Have members of a team who has gone through the empowering process to share their experience. Your team will not only have a chance to learn about the benefits and challenges, but to also know that the real empowerment exists and it works. 

One step at a time: In the beginning chose assignments and projects they easily led themselves to participatory efforts. Gradually tackle to the point which team members tackle all projects collaborately.

What are the benefits?

Employee empowerment is a process that benefits individuals, managers and the overall productivity of companies. Employees become more involved, feel valued and stimulated to overdeliver.

People who work on a job develop their skills daily. They know exactly what works efficiently and what doesn't. They also have very creative ideas on improving situations and solving problems. They become experts without the power of exercising their expertise. Empowerment makes it possible and takes it a step further by  creating opportunities to gain experience, learn new skills and generate knowledge.

When people are given the authority to plan and implement a project it gives them "ownership" and it makes them more committed to make it successful.

Indicators of Employee Empowerment:

Empowerment is hard to measure. There are no statistics and number to determine percentages or amount of empowerment. t is important to identify qualitative criteria to measure the positive impact of empowerment without forgetting that the change does not happen overnight.

Indicators to success are:

Open management - team members participate actively in meetings, diagnose issues, analyze and identify solutions. Managers believe in their capacity and have less or no control in processes that involve finding of solutions, decision making etc.
Team spirit - high morale, enthusiasm
Decentralized control: each team member functions relatively autonomously: interlinking job descriptions; clarity on individual roles.

Related Articles: 

Team Building Strategies

Free Team Building Activities

Ice Breaker Games

Team Building in the Workplace

Team Buildiing Ideas                                   

Employee Motivation Program 

Outstanding Leaders consider themselves a work in progress
 Dr Franklin C. Ashby 

lead and learn

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Management Terms

Decentralization -
pushing power and decision making downward.

MBO - Management by Objectives.


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