When an employee struggles to make eye contact with the rest of the team at weekly team meetings or is too timid to speak up in company brainstorm sessions in spite of showing great promise, the root cause of the problem is often a lack of empowerment. Put simply, when an employee doesn’t feel empowered, he or she can’t perform their role to the best of their ability. Not only are they not gaining skills and experiences as quickly as they could be, but they’re unlikely to be top performers or take the initiative required to really drive your organization to a new level of success.
The bottom line is that a lack of empowerment is bad for an employee’s own personal and professional development, and it’s bad for business. When employees don’t feel empowered, they are not truly living up to their full potential and therefore aren’t maximizing their own value to their employer. Therefore, organizations should always take concerted steps to empower teams for success. Of course, doing so is easier said than done. So, how can you work to effectively empower your team? Be sure to keep the following in mind.
Clearly Define Role and Responsibilities
People won’t be empowered to succeed unless they have a clear understanding of what it is exactly that they are supposed to do. Therefore, it is paramount to clearly define roles and responsibilities from the get-go. If left to figure things out on his own, an employee may end up spending time on less impactful activities, which will ultimately hinder their performance in the long-term, limit the value they can add to the organization, and possibly even leave them feeling deflated and demotivated.
“People who don't know what they are supposed to do can't do it very well. Additionally, they need to know their boundaries so they don't step on others' toes or create inefficiency through redundancy,” Kevin Duam explained in Inc. “Establish specific roles and responsibilities with employees so all are clear and can work together cooperatively.” To ensure your employees are able to get their jobs done to the best of their abilities, make sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated.
Once you have clearly defined all of your employees’ roles and responsibilities, it is time to have a good, long think about what the expectations of each employee are. You need a crystal clear picture of what these expectations are, as it is important to consistently reinforce them to your team if you want to maximize their chances of success.
“People need to know when they are meeting expectations and, more importantly, when they are not. No one will maintain accountability if they don't understand the consequences of failure,” Duam says. “And if they see others not being held accountable, they will see little need to make the extra effort for success. Be consistent and diligent in your measurement and rewards so employees are motivated to do their best.”
And expectations shouldn’t just pertain to an employee’s individual performance and responsibility. You should always make it clear how these expectations tie into larger strategic or business goals. You should make it clear how the employees’ success (or lack thereof) influences the organization as a whole to empower them to really serve the organization to the best of their ability.
“Empowered employees have the knowledge and the confidence to make decisions. To ignite that knowledge and confidence in employees, make sure their individual work goals are aligned with those of the company,” Andre Lavoie explained in Entrepreneur. “Employees who are able to connect their efforts to the overall work of the company will find it much easier to make decisions that are in line with the organizational vision. So help employees set relevant work goals.”
Develop Systems and Procedures
When employees get bogged down and confused because they don’t know how to execute a task, it undermines their confidence. When you have systems and procedures in place to guide employees on what to do and how to do it – whether it is something as simple as sending an invoice to a client in the right format or something as complex as how to develop a long-term business strategy – it empowers employees to forge on ahead with giving in to fears of anxiety and doubt.
Moreover, when there are effective systems and procedures in place, employees ultimately end up needing less guidance and oversight from their managers. Research shows that organizations with good systems and procedures in place ultimately have more independence, which goes a long way in building a culture of empowerment.
Create Open Channels of Communication
A lack of open communication channels is one of the biggest obstacles to a culture of empowerment. So many organizations out there have a top-down communications structure engrained in their organizational culture, but this isn’t necessarily the best way to go. Employees that work in an environment with less hierarchal and more open channels of communication are much more challenging, offering feedback, pitching new ideas and generally sharing their thoughts and opinions – even if those thoughts or opinions might be critical. Therefore, it is essential to make sure you let employees know that their input is valued within the organization and that you offer employees easily accessible channels through which they can share any concerns, suggestions or opinions.
Invest in Tools
Empowerment is all about ensuring that your employees have the resources they need for a job well done. As part of this, it is crucial to invest in tools that coalesce with and support your organization’s tools and procedures. Tools like Basecamp, Slack, Box and Dropbox with the appropriate access setting for all can help to ensure your employees are empowered to get their work done.
Recognize, Reward and Encourage
While it is true that you’re paying employees to work a given job, chances are that the best employees at your company aren’t in it for the money alone. Recognizing your employees’ efforts and encouraging and rewarding a job well done can go a long way in helping to foster a culture of empowerment.
“Those things that are rewarded are repeated. Empowerment requires team members to make some effort and take some risks,” Joseph Folkman explained in Forbes. “Those leaders who recognize and encourage employees when they see extra effort or risk taking get more of that behavior in the future. Leaders who were effective at showing appreciation had higher empowerment scores.” Always make sure that your company culture rewards people for a job well done and recognizes and encourages their efforts.
The bottom line is that there are a number of different benefits to working to empower your team, including maximizing employees’ potential for professional growth and development and maximizing the value that the employee is able to contribute to the organization. Remember, it takes time and investment to build a culture of empowerment and empower your employees for success – and you may not necessarily see results overnight. But investing into empowering your team is a long-term investment into your business, which is certainly an investment worth making.
To learn more about the positive effects of empowerment in the work place contact 10twelve.