Empowering employees and fostering an environment that celebrates and supports them is crucial to attracting and retaining great talent. Find out how leaders can cultivate employee empowerment in the workplace.

As leaders, we are often tasked with the responsibility of being enablers and simulators for our team members.

Time and again, we’ve witnessed how empowering people can prove to be immensely beneficial for both the business and its people. This has been quantified by research — according to the findings of a study, employees that are entrusted to take on more responsibility and hold some form of power in the organization are found to be relatively 26% more satisfied with their work.

If you’re thinking that this has got to do with designations, power plays, and weighty responsibilities alone, then you’re wrong. The truth is employees possess power regardless of what position they hold in an organization. Think about it — employees are driving customer conversations, building highly demanded products, and sealing the deal with new customers. To put it simply, employees hold the power to set your business up for success or bury it deep under.

Like most organizations, if yours is one with a client-first approach at its core, then empowering employees and ensuring an employee-first culture in your organization, is crucial to finding success.

Now let me be clear that I’m a firm believer in policies and processes. They are great for structuring an organization. That said, given the steady march of digitization over the last decade — processes by and large have been democratized, bringing forth the need to have more employees involved in decision making. This simply means that empowering employees to make decisions has become more important than ever!

Should you empower rather than delegate?

Professor Becky Brodin couldn’t have put it better when she said

Leadership is not wielding authority – it is empowering people

What we need to understand here is that when it comes to building an effective organizational culture, the hard and fast rules of command and control will no longer hold good! This means that it’s time to start looking at delegation and empowerment (both effective management techniques), through a new lens.

While both the concepts of empowerment and delegation are used for employee management and at the core of it, involve entrusting people to take on important roles and more responsibility — their nuances are different. There is a stark difference in the approach adopted for the two concepts.

Empowerment takes on more of a motivational strategy route which translates to recognizing the employee’s capabilities for achieving their goals. Whereas delegation is task-based in nature and revolves around merely completing an activity with little understanding of the need or the context of the overall task.

With delegation, the learning for an employee is limited as you are telling them what they need to do (sometimes, in a step-by-step manner) and you’re also sharing the deadline by which they need to complete the task. There is no room for creative thinking or innovation as the task at hand has already been assigned to them.

Empowerment is all about coaching team members to take on more responsibility, adapt to situations, and make decisions. It is after all an active process that involves training. Empowered employees will eventually set out to accomplish things on their own, using less of their manager’s time to get things done.

While empowerment requires some amount of delegation, not all levels in the spectrum of delegation will create an empowered team. If you ask me, it’s important to first empower your teams and then delegate. Delegate activities to your team in a way that it fosters a strong sense of empowerment.

How can you empower employees in the workplace?

Experts are of the opinion that empowered employees, who have more power and control over their work, find their jobs to be more engaging than others.

The findings from a Quantum Workplace study show that there has been a decline in employee engagement in recent times. This brings forth a greater need to empower employees so that they take on projects with increased levels of ownership and responsibility.

Source: Quantum Workplace

From my learnings in the industry, here are a few ways in which you can empower your employees:

  1. Create a nurturing and supportive environment:
    Employees are burdened with unprecedented levels of stress in the workplace. When employees are burned out and stressed, it’s often the result of a disconnect that has set in between the teams and their managers. Removing this disconnect and fostering a supportive environment will make employees feel more empowered in the workplace.
  2. When you delegate, transfer ownership and responsibility:
    The delegation must be done by handing over the ownership of a task to the team member. Get your team to take on new projects by exercising extreme ownership of the task at hand. Doing so, will not only empower employees but will also raise their levels of competency.
  3. Set boundaries and make best practices clear:
    Employee empowerment is about unleashing the employee’s potential and power, within defined boundaries. When employees are aware of the guidelines and the boundaries they need to work within, rather than feeling restrained, they will be able to perform their tasks more efficiently.
  1. Encourage effective communication:
    Clarity of communication is essential when it comes to empowering employees. This will not only increase the levels of trust but will also help employees get a better understanding of the dimensions of authority within which they can apply their power.

The takeaway

Going by a Gallup study, employees that are motivated and empowered are 21% more profitable, driving in 20% higher sales and having nearly 70% fewer safety incidents.

With today’s markets being influenced by the whims of customers, empowered employees will ensure that they go above and beyond to win over loyal customers and tap into exponential business growth.

Follow me on LinkedIn and stay updated with the latest happenings in the financial services industry.

T M Praveen is a highly accomplished global payments leader with over 20 years of experience. A veteran in the payments industry, Praveen has immense wealth of insights to share in payments innovations, emerging technologies, FinTech, and financial services.

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