As American entrepreneur Tim Feriss once advised: “Focus on being productive instead of busy.” Being busy is about working hard, while being productive is about working smart and getting the most out of your time, with the value of the latter no more apparent than in the workplace. In fact, the more productive your employees are, the more profitable your business is likely to be, while you’ll also probably have lower operational costs, improved customer service, and increased competitiveness.
While there are lots of ways companies can improve productivity, one often underlooked approach is through employee empowerment. This refers to “a management philosophy that emphasises the importance of giving employees the autonomy, resources, and support they need to act independently and be held accountable for the decisions they make.”
Employee empowerment has been regularly linked to better work performance, greater job satisfaction, and stronger commitment to one’s employer. For example, it makes employees feel more confident in their abilities and gives their jobs greater meaning, both of which can be hugely motivational for them.
So, how exactly can you empower employees to do their best job and reap these benefits?
Give employees autonomy
The starting point for employee empowerment is actually giving your staff the opportunity to work independently. But this doesn’t just mean delegating tasks you don’t want to do, nor telling them how to do the task in question. Rather, giving them autonomy involves entrusting them with important responsibilities — whether that’s a major role in a project or leading a big meeting — and allowing them to do it their own way.
As part of this, you must give employees the tools they need to do their jobs independently, whether it’s project management software, top-of-the-range laptops to use when they work from home, or social communication programmes.
One particularly great way of empowering employees this way is by letting them embrace end-user computing (EUC). Low-code application company EASA defines this as “a system through which applications are created directly by individuals in a business who would use it, rather than a separate IT or software development department”. This allows them to “operate software that caters to their individual needs, enhancing overall productivity and efficiency.”
Good communication is the backbone of employee empowerment. Cultivating an environment of open and honest conversation will let your staff know they’re being heard, something that is incredibly empowering in its own right. On the flip side, by communicating effectively with employees yourself, you can give them the guidance they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability, which has a similar impact. Some of the best ways of prioritising communication include:
The most obvious way of improving communication to actually facilitate it as much as possible. Whether it’s through regular one-on-one meetings or interactive surveys, the more you communicate with your staff, the more they’ll realise you’re there for them and that they can approach you about anything.
Meet individually and collectively
Individual concerns are just as important as group ones, so it’s crucial that you make time for both one-on-one and team meetings. Staff might be more willing to give and receive feedback in a private setting rather than as part of a group, which can overall help them to feel more empowered.
For more tips on how to communicate effectively with your staff, check out this guide by Forbes.
Encourage career development
Encouraging and supporting career development is one of the most effective ways of empowering employees. Doing so gives them the skills, knowledge and experience needed to move forward in their professional lives, and will make your staff feel valued by showing them that you care about their career prospects. This is something that can encourage them to stay with your company and advance their careers long term.
Some of the best ways of supporting career development include mentoring and job shadowing, rotating employee roles, and getting your staff to attend industry events. As part of this though, be sure to consult with your employees about what training they think would be most beneficial for them, further empowering them during their career development process.
Many companies provide staff with an annual training budget that they can use as they please (within reason), and adopting this approach yourself is a great way of giving your own workers greater autonomy.