This report explores the art of empowerment and the key dimensions needed to create such a work environment. It exposes the empowerment techniques needed for managers to foster in their employees. It suggests that management empowerment is critical in creating a successful organization. Employee empowerment will incite loyalty and tenure which subsequently will increase productivity. The purpose of adopting and implementing this principle is to promote talent management through human capital investment.
1. What is Empowerment?
Empowerment is the process of enabling an individual to think, behave, react, and undertake decision making capabilities in an autonomous manner. Research supports the fact that empowered employees are more productive, satisfied and innovative (Argyris, 1998; Clark, 1999; Whetten and Cameron, 2002). These skills, thereby, create an environment that is conducive to higher employee satisfaction which can be correlated to increased productivity.
Managers should relinquish some degree of power and control, which will allow for employees to make decisions, set goals, accomplish results; and reap benefits and rewards for their successes. As a result, managers will have the propensity to become more effective and can therefore focus on other strategic areas of concern.
Empowerment is not acquired; it must be developed and practiced; as such, managers must bring about the following five key dimensions in those that they seek to empower.
2. Five Key Dimensions of Empowerment
According to Whetten and Cameron (2002) there are five key dimensions to empowerment: A sense of self-efficacy; a sense of self determination; a sense of personal consequence; a sense of meaning; and a sense of trust. These qualities must be fostered in those we wish to empower.
2.1. A sense of self-efficacy
Employees feel that they possess the capability and competence to perform the task successfully. This self confidence encourages the individual to believe that they can surpass any obstacles encountered in attaining a specific goal.
2.2. Sense of Self Determination
Employees feel that they have a choice in shaping their conduct. This behavior is evident when individuals believe that they can voluntarily perform a task without having to be continuously told or conversely, forbidden from assuming initiative. With increased freedom and autonomy, individuals will be more apt to take ownership and this self determination which will likely lead to an elevated level of work satisfaction, higher levels of performance, creativity, innovation and increased job involvement.
2.3. A Sense of Personal Consequence
Employees believe that they can make a difference by influencing the environment in which they work. The individual derives a sense of control when obstacles in the external environment are controlled and surmounted so that a desired outcome is achieved. In essence, a sense of personal consequence enables the employee to be proactive rather than reactive by changing the effect of the external environment in order gain control over it.
2.4. A Sense of Meaning
Employees value the purpose of the activity in which they are engaged; the empowered individual gleans meaning from tasks undertaken which, in turn, creates a sense of purpose and passion for work that they perceive as meaningful. Subsequently, this sense of purpose will be manifested through augmented commitment and involvement which will ultimately benefit the organization as a whole.
2.5. A Sense of Trust
Employees are confident that they will be treated fairly by their superiors.
3. Developing Empowerment
The organization’s success is dependent upon our ability to develop and implement the support systems necessary to empower our employees. When employees perceive situations to be either threatening, unclear, coercive, controlling, and unjust, they react negatively and the consequences reaped are damaging to the organization. We must be proactive by establishing and exuding a culture where empowerment is embraced.
A Gallup Survey released in 2006 found that supervisors play a crucial role in the worker’s well-being and engagement. When respondents were asked to respond to the statement “My supervisor focuses on my strengths or positive characteristics,” 77% of engaged workers strongly agreed with the statement. Just 23% of not-engaged and a scant 4% of actively disengaged workers strongly agreed that their supervisor focused on their strengths or positive characteristics. Interestingly, not one engaged worker disagreed with this statement.” (Gallup Management Journal 2006)
We will discuss the six techniques of empowerment by Whetten & Cameron (2002) needed to foster an empowered environment.
3.1. Articulating a Clear Vision and Goals
For an organization to practice and foster employee empowerment, management must entrust their employees and engage in open channels of communication. Employee communication is one of the most significant signs of employee empowerment. Honest and continuous communication is necessary when it regards key performance indicators, financial performance, and daily decision making. The goals must be specific, measurable, aligned, reachable and attainable. (Locke and Latham, 1990)
The second technique will involve managers demonstrating the appropriate behavior that employees are to depict. To share in someone having successfully completed a challenging task may serve to reinforce the notion that success can be attained with the appropriate mentorship and direction. The sharing of best practices is a viable vehicle for transmitting and modeling successful experiences.
3.3. Providing Support
A third technique of empowerment is to provide emotional and social support to employees. Praise, encouragement, approval and reassurance are important components to provide employees, along with regular feedback which is relayed in a timely and efficient manner. Recognizing employee achievement motivates the employee to continue on this path.
3.4. Providing Information
We need to provide all task relevant information to the employee. In fact, communicating information and updates occurring within the organization imparts the employee with a sense of belonging and partnership. It is important to provide information on the effects of the employee’s behavior on their peers and within the organization.
3.5. Providing Resources
It is critical to help employees accomplish their objectives, by equipping the employees with the necessary resources to accomplish a goal. As such, we must strive to continuously hone our employees’ development by ensuring ongoing training and development so that the employees’ necessary tools are functionally accurate.
3.6. Creating Confidence
When we exude confidence the employee feels that he is being mentored by competent managers and believes that he can accomplish any task. We need to be equitable and exhibit interest for the employee by sharing relevant information openly.
Employees are a company’s most important asset, and empowered employees are the prime criteria for organizational success. As such, empowerment is not acquired; it must be developed and practiced. For an organization to reap the benefits from employee empowerment, leadership must diligently work to create an environment where employee empowerment is desired, wanted and cultivated.