Employee Empowerment: What it is & How it Can Benefit You

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What is Employee Empowerment?

It’s obvious that motivating your employees will push them to produce better work and thus reflect well on yourself and your company in the process. Motivation is key, yet empowerment is often overlooked. What actually is employee empowerment? How can it help you and your staff? To find the answer to this question, I’d recommend reading this article in its entirety to really understand how this all works and how it can benefit you. However, time is a scarce resource these days so a very brief answer would be this:

Employee empowerment is the result of the actions conducted by leaders within a company to make employees feel more confident in their abilities and thus produce better work. The key to this: respect.

So, there’s your short answer. The long answer to employee empowerment… involves a fair bit more thinking.

Motivation VS. Empowerment

The first thing we need to establish is the difference between motivation and empowerment. Motivation is absolutely paramount in a workplace. No motivation, no work. If you choose not to motivate your employees yourself or through leaders, you better create a motivational environment for them (and yourself) to work in. Staff need to feel motivated and there are a number of things that will achieve this. Ultimately, everyone works for money. More money usually equals more motivation. Holidays, time off and workplace perks are also ways of pushing your employees that little bit further to work harder.

The thing about motivation is it’s temporary. Give your staff a pay rise and they’ll work a bit harder for a bit longer. This is by no means going to last forever, though. Prices go up, wages go up anyway. If they didn’t get that pay rise as a ‘reward’, employees know that they probably would have got one anyway. Either way, you are looking at a couple of months of extra motivation before the payrise novelty wears off and you are back to square one. Even other methods of motivation work this way. Promise an office pizza party every Friday to boost morale and you will get hard workers on a Friday and likely no increase in motivation for the rest of the week.

The only way to achieve true, long-lasting motivation is to make drastic changes to your workplace and the way things work within it. The good ol’ four day work week has been proving pretty successful recently, as I’m sure you have seen. It’s things like this that really make the difference. Other than these significant changes, however, the chances of these little boosts of motivation lasting as long as you would like are pretty slim.

Friday on a black heart-shaped tag
They’ll work harder for the Friday party but that won’t last

 

Enter, Employee Empowerment

This is where employee empowerment comes in. The vital difference between these two is the way in which they are introduced and worked into an environment. Motivation begins with a group of people and a desire for better or harder work. Empowerment begins with each individual staff member and how their mindset can be changed for the better. Empowering your employees is exactly that – a mindset. Pizza parties are external motivation, whereas, providing an environment that makes people want to come to work and do their absolute best in every way – that’s empowerment. And its not external, which means it’s no longer temporary.

Three Ways You Can Empower Your Employees

1. Decision Making

If you really think about it, a lot of the decisions you are making as, say, a leader of six employees are not necessarily all decisions you need to be making yourself. Recognising and identifying these decisions is the first step to this form of empowerment. The next step is to begin delegating. Give the ‘power’ of certain decisions to one of your team and dedicate this task to them. They will feel more valued as an employee as you are making it clear that you trust them with this power. Even if it’s a reasonably menial decision, the fact that that employee feels trusted enough will empower them in their work. Do try and make sure, however, that these decisions affect other people. Delegating the power of a decision that only affects that single staff member will not empower them nearly as much if it all.

2. Responsibility Matters

It doesn’t necessarily have to be delegating decisions but giving employees a little more responsibility will make them more empowered within the workplace. I remember being given the responsibility to close and lock up the pub I used to work at. My manager said to me that I would be closing on my own that night and it instantly made me feel more comfortable there. Knowing that I was trusted with the keys to the front doors and the closing duties that had to be completed made me really feel ‘part of it’, so to speak.

Responsibility spelled with wooden word scramble cubes next to a balck pen
Believe it or not, added responsibility is empowering

 

This is a fantastic way to empower your employees. Absolute worst-case scenario, I’d forgotten to lock the front doors. The manager lived two doors down, though, so even that wouldn’t have been the end of the world. She knew this and it made me feel empowered in my workplace without her taking too much risk giving, what felt like, a huge responsibility to a relatively new member of staff.

3. We Are Suckers For Insider Knowledge

A slight desire for exclusivity is in our DNA as people. Therefore, giving an employee access to a little more information than their peers is a definite way to empower them. My manager at the same pub previously mentioned once asked me for help with cashing up the tills at the end of the shift. A rather trivial task, in truth, but it made me feel exclusive. Cashing up was a part of the job that I hadn’t seen before. Knowing how to do it and being trusted to help out was something that definitely empowered me in my job.

On another occasion, I was given the combination code for the cellar store cupboard. These codes were only given to the supervisors, the managers and apparently myself – an average bar staff member. Having access to the cellar cupboard meant almost nothing. In fact, it made me designated stock boy on shifts where managers were busy, so more work for me. Ultimately, though, it made me feel valued and appreciated and, as a result, empowered as an employee.

Overall, empowering your staff is about making them feel valued and appreciated. Its about changing their mindset to make them feel like a more important part of the company, like what they do really makes a difference. When people can receive almost instant gratification based on work they have done it makes them feel much better about themselves.

Three Ways You Can Become Empowered As An Employee

1. Taking Control

Some of the time you will find that you can trigger the above steps from the ‘outside’. Instead of requiring your team leader or manager to delegate and trust you, it’s often the case that you can simply do some of this for them.

Single red leader figure leads the follower white figures
One motivated employee can spread like a plague

 

If you are feeling a lack of motivation and want to become empowered by your work, do something that takes control. Be the employee that shows up a little early for the meeting and sets up the PowerPoint slides rather than waiting for your team leader to do it themselves. They may ask you to do this every time from then on. Now, setting up a PowerPoint slide is not the sort of empowerment we are after, here. However, it could definitely be a step in the right direction. Make the decision that you know you can make alone. Be proactive rather than reactive and watch as team leaders continue to simply let this happen. You will end up with more responsibility and thus more motivation and empowerment in your role.

2. Speak Up

Speaking about how you feel at work is important in a vast number of ways. In terms of empowering yourself, or triggering your external empowerment, you need to be speaking about change. If there’s something you want to change, even if it’s a small thing, speaking up about it in whatever capacity you have access to is a great recipe for becoming empowered. There will be certain situations within this that mean you can make decisions to change things without much external ‘permission’ persay. Most of the time, however, you will need to raise your query or change with someone higher up and allow them to make the necessary adjustments. When they invoke these changes you will feel more valued and thus more empowered at work. Can you spot a theme here? Value and appreciation = empowerment.

3. Confidence in Your Abilities

Another way to become empowered as an employee is to simply be confident in your abilities at work. Value and appreciate yourself before you expect it from team leaders, managers or co-workers. This is a great gateway step to the previous couple of points. Once you push yourself to feel really confident in your work it will make it easier to take on more responsibility as you push yourself to become empowered externally. Confidence in your work will lead to confidence in your ability to speak up and that then leads to even more confidence in the extra work you are doing. Boom. Empowerment.

A Time I Felt Employee Empowerment at Work

Now, it’s not as if I am pulling on a wealth of office job or nine to five experience but I do know how it feels to be empowered in your work. I used to work at a little local coffee shop near where I lived. I began at a young age working in the kitchen – a pot wash. Probably the most boring job that it’s possible to work, especially when you are earning a whole five pounds an hour. I stuck with it, though. I never complained and always just got the job done.

Young worker making coffee with a machine
When did you last feel employee empowerment at work?

 

After a few months, I stopped waiting for my cheese and ham toastie to be made for me at lunch. I began simply making it myself. The chefs didn’t mind as it meant they didn’t have to do it, so I continued. I was eventually asked to make a couple of toasties for a table order. I felt trusted and valued. Over the next month or two, I progressed into an almost full-time kitchen assistant position. In between washing dishes I was making salads, sandwiches, and even full cooked breakfasts to serve alongside the coffee from downstairs.

This then progressed on to being a front of house worker too. I was taught how to make coffees and milkshakes and take orders. They hired a new pot wash, eventually. I felt fully empowered that I was trusted to do these jobs that I was not originally asked to do. I demonstrated confidence in my ability, spoke up about a change here and there and took control of my lunch. All rather menial things but they lead to a much nicer job to work at.

Employee Empowerment, Become Empowered.

A final important thing about employee empowerment is its two-way street nature. Yes, there was a section on empowering others and a separate section on becoming empowered. These can be used within their own sections but they can also be intertwined into one another.

Yellow and black two way street sign
Give empowerment and you’ll receive empowerment

 

I have tried to encourage you to either empower others or become empowered at work. What I will encourage you to do now, however, is to do both. Strive to empower others as much as you can and you will thus be empowering yourself, too. It works both ways and this is one of the most important takeaways I hope that you have after reading this article.

Empower, become empowered.

Related Articles:

Employee Experience Articles and ContentHuman Resource Skills Free TipsHuman Resources Management Articles and ContentMindset Articles and Content

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