Four Steps to Empower Your Employees: Avoid Common Pitfalls

Category Business

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To successfully empower employees, companies must provide the needed resources, set clear goals and strategies, signal clear and unwavering support, and offer rewards to encourage risk-taking and experimentation.

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A majority of American workers right now are not feeling very motivated on the job, a new survey suggests. Management experts often encourage business leaders to motivate employees by empowering them. The idea is that when workers are free to make decisions and manage their workday they become more motivated, perform better and work more creatively. However, for decades, employee empowerment initiatives have often failed or fallen short of expectations .

Organizations must also measure how much information employees need and require to make wise decisions, and ensure that the right information is ‘in the loop’ when it comes to decisions

Zappos, for example, was once hailed for its no-bosses structure, but that experiment has largely been dismantled and abandoned in recent years. As a leadership scholar, I have studied the effects of leader behavior on employee motivation for over a decade. I’ve learned that when companies design and implement empowering leadership initiatives, they often overlook key factors that are necessary for empowerment to work .

Some of the most effective rewards corporate organizations offer include monetary bonuses, stock options, promotions, and public recognition

As a result, their efforts to empower employees often result in little impact or are entirely ineffective. In fact, they can even lead employees to engage in unethical behavior. Here are four ways, my research shows, a company can avoid common pitfalls to empowering leadership initiatives. 1. Provide all needed resources Empowered employees need to know they can access whatever resources they need to succeed .

Employees who are empowered and in control of their workday reported being more focused, productive and creative

For example, a marketing professional might need access to information databases, planning software and a sufficient budget for market research. Employees should also feel that additional resources to support new ideas are readily available if and when needed. To do this, companies can plan and budget jobs in ways that guarantee that employees have additional, or excess, resources to draw upon. Moreover, companies can communicate frequently – verbally in team meetings and also via digital communications – not only that resources are available when needed but also that these additional resources can be obtained easily and quickly .

Employees who don’t feel empowered can, in some cases, be more likely to engage in unethical behavior

2. Set clear goals and strategies "People can’t be self-managing without information," business management expert Gary Hamel once noted. "[T]he goal is to provide staffers with all the information they need to monitor their work and make wise decisions." In other words, companies can more effectively empower their employees if they divulge or communicate how their responsibilities fit into the bigger picture or strategic direction of the business .

Creating a sense of trust is also key to effective empowerment, as is a ‘light’ structure that doesn’t burden employees with too many rules or regulations

For example, the marketing professional mentioned above might benefit from an understanding of how a new product fits into the organization’s overall product portfolio. Firms can also offer regular check-ins or town hall meetings at which everybody in the organization can ask questions about the strategic goals and vision of the company. 3. Signal clear and unwavering support Employees who are truly empowered believe they have the emotional and physical support needed from colleagues – including supervisors, peers and subordinates – to do their jobs well .

It’s not enough to only recognize and reward successes when it comes to empowering employees; encouraging risk-taking and experimentation is also a crucial part of the process

This entails verbal encouragement as well as offers to assist on tasks and projects. Likewise, managers can emphasize that they believe in employees’ capabilities and are there to enable employee growth and aupport employees’ decisions. 4. Offer rewards Even if employees embrace an empowered environment, it pays to tip the scales with tangible rewards, such as bonuses or career advancement opportunities .

Such rewards can ensure that employees continue their work on projects or initiatives that were conducted as part of the empowerment process.

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