What is Employee Empowerment?
Employee empowerment refers to the enlargement of an employee’s job responsibility by giving him the authority of decision making about his job without the approval of his immediate supervisor. It is the degree of authority and responsibility given to an employee. Through empowerment, employees are provided with the necessary support, which encourages them to utilize their abilities, skills, and creativity while taking accountability for their work. Employees become empowered through thorough training, access to pertinent information and superior tools, active involvement in decision-making, and fair recognition for their exceptional performance.
Employee Empowerment Meaning
According to Newstrom and Davis, “Empowerment is any process that provides greater autonomy through the sharing of relevant information and the provision of control over factors affecting job performance”.
As per Richard Kathnelson, “Empowerment is the process of coming to feel and behave as if one is in power (autonomy and control) and to feel as if he/she owned the firm”.
According to Thomas S. Bateman and Scott A. Snell, “Empowerment is the process of sharing power with employees”.
Importance of Employee Empowerment
The importance of employee empowerment is given as follows:
1) Increases Morale
Empowered employees tend to take on more responsibility for their productivity. Empowering employees to take ownership of the work performed by them has a positive effect on morale. Empowered employees are well aware of the fact that their ideas matter a lot towards the success of the company, so they tend to take a greater interest in creating a more efficient and profitable company. Higher morale leads to a reduction in scheduled time off taken by employees, resulting in increased productivity. Consequently, this has a positive impact on the company’s financial performance.
2) Provides Direct Accountability to Employees
Empowering employees to make their own decisions means that employees have direct accountability for their roles. This approach is beneficial for companies as it helps to reduce the burden on managers who would otherwise bear the sole responsibility for all decisions. By delegating decision-making authority among employees, organizations can more easily identify the specific sources of any issues that may arise. Thus, it makes it easier to pinpoint the exact sources of issues. Companies can provide targeted training and necessary information to individual employees, rather than investing time and resources to train entire departments.
3) Helps in Cost Saving
Employees who consistently complete their tasks develop a deep understanding of their job responsibilities. By empowering employees to determine their work methods, companies can benefit from the years of experience each employee has. By allowing employees to suggest and implement procedural changes that enhance job efficiency. This approach leads to cost savings and fosters a dynamic and productive work environment.
4) Enhances the Relationship Between Management and Employees
Employee empowerment is a strategic approach that can help to strengthen the relationships between managers and employees. Managers are seen as coaches and professionals with a direct interest in the success of their employees as opposed to those who dictate policy and give commands. Managers learn to rely on empowered employees while employees learn to use their managers as valuable resources to accomplish tasks.
Process of Employee Empowerment
The image below displays the steps involved in the employee empowerment process.
1) Determining the Mission, Vision and Goals
The first step in the employee empowerment process is the determination of clear-cut goals and visions to be accomplished by empowering the employees. The empowerment goals are normally derived from the corporate goals, philosophy, mission and vision statements. The employee empowerment goals must have the complete support of the top management of the organisation.
2) Orienting the Employees
The employees identified for empowerment must be provided with adequate orientation about the different aspects of empowerment. They must also be trained in situation analysis, decision-making, resource utilisation and other relevant areas of the job.
3) Delegating Authority
In the next step, delegation of authority is done from the higher ranks of the organisation to the grassroots-level employees. After delegating the authority employees get the right to independently make decisions about their respective roles and responsibilities. The decisions may involve resource utilisation, people management, customer caring, and other day-to-day activities.
4) Assigning Responsibility
Transfer of authority is meaningful only when it is accompanied by a corresponding level of responsibility. Authority without responsibility is dangerous for the organisation. The organisation should spell out the duties involved in the job, the boundaries of authority and responsibility, and the reporting staff for the job.
5) Ensuring Accountability
The most crucial phase of the employee empowerment process is making the employees accountable for their actions. Since they enjoy a high level of autonomy in their operations, the organisation needs to fix the accountability for the outcomes of their actions and performance results. The organisation must also conduct a mid-term verification of the performance of the employees to avoid misuse of authority and deviant outcomes.
6) Maintaining Communication
The success of employee empowerment depends on the level of openness and frequency of communication between the reporting authority and the empowered employees. The organisation must engage the employees continuously through a good communication system. Understandably, through effective communication, an organisation can create mutual trust and confidence in the relationship between the superiors and the subordinates.
7) Follow-up and Feedback
Employee empowerment is a continuous and collaborative process that involves the management, supervisors and workers. The organisation must review the efficacy of the existing system periodically to determine the improvements required in the future. Employees’ performance reports, opinion surveys and employee interviews can be used to study the strengths and weaknesses of the existing system. Based on the outcome, necessary modifications can be made in the empowerment process. Additionally, it is important to share the evaluation report of the empowered employees with both the concerned employees and their respective superiors. The feedback provided by the seniors would greatly help the empowered employees in modifying their work performance and overall attitude towards the concept of empowerment.
Features of Employee Empowerment
Features of employee empowerment are as follows:
1) Ongoing Process
Empowerment is not an end but rather an ongoing and dynamic process aimed at achieving the predetermined goals of the organisation. The objectives of an organisation may include employee motivation and organizational performance, achieving organizational goals, and attaining competitive advantages. The empowerment process involves several key elements such as goals and vision developments, the establishment of boundaries for authority and responsibility, employee training, accountability determination, and the transfer of authority from superiors to subordinates.
2) Self-Determination of Employees
Organisations often view independent decision-making by employees in their jobs as the ultimate stage of empowerment. During this stage of empowerment, employees develop a sense of ownership and accept responsibility for their decisions. At this optimal level, their involvement and commitment levels are consistently high.
3) Authority over Organisational Resources
In the realm of empowerment, the employees get freedom from excessive control by their superiors and also the right to exercise authority over organisational resources. The resources here include both the physical and human assets of the organization.
4) Not a Zero-Sum Game
In a zero-sum game, the loss experienced by one individual is exactly a gain for another individual. However, employee empowerment is not a zero-sum game, as it does not include a loss of power for superiors when transferring power to subordinates.
5) Delegation of Power
Employee empowerment means the transfer of power from the higher levels of an organisation to its grassroots levels. Thus, it involves the delegation of authority and responsibilities downwards within the organisational structure.
6) Strong Leadership
Strong leadership and perseverance are essential components of successful employee empowerment. The presence of these qualities is inherent in encouraging a culture of empowerment within an organization. Effective leadership communicates to empowered employees that they bear sole responsibility for their actions. They get a reward or reprimand, depending upon the outcome of their actions.