What Is Employee Empowerment & What Are Its Top Principles?

When considering how to boost employee engagement, many organizations work from the outside in—trying to figure out which perks and benefits will keep employees happy.

They should be working from the inside out—making employees feel valued by giving them greater autonomy over decision-making.

This concept is known as employee empowerment. While it’s a challenge for some executives to “give up control,” it ends up paying major dividends. Empowered employees are productive, confident, and innovative employees. They’re not being micromanaged, so they’re free to make bold decisions, try new approaches, trust their instincts, and learn from mistakes. These are the types of employees that push a company forward.

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Here are some guiding principles of employee empowerment.

Take a Step Back

Executives and managers should start by examining their own routines, responsibilities, and processes. Leaders should be honest in assessing where they can realistically pass the torch. And don’t be afraid to ask for input from employees—encourage them to be open about areas where they could take on more responsibility.

Leaders should be honest in assessing where they can realistically pass the torch. Click To Tweet

Communicate

For this process to work, leaders need to communicate. It starts with the company’s goals and long-term vision, but it’s also about clearly communicating intentions, expectations, and responsibilities. Managers can’t simply back off one day, they need to make it clear that responsibility is being handed over and they need to be available to provide ongoing support.

Trust Your Team

Show your employees that you believe in them and they will work hard to prove you right. They may not do things exactly the same as you would, but trust that they’ll get the job done effectively—and will find the work that much more fulfilling since they had the freedom and autonomy to make their own decisions.

Involve your employees when setting goals and establishing deliverables—this not only shows that their opinion is valued, but also ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Guide, Don’t Tell

This is another way to demonstrate trust: If an employee comes to you with a problem, don’t tell them what to do. Actively listen and ask questions that can lead them to an answer. Again, it’s not about a “right” answer or a “right” way to do things. It’s about providing space for the employee to assess the situation from all angles, learn from a seasoned leader, and grow confident in their decision-making and problem-solving skills.

Provide Feedback

Checking in with employees one-on-one and regularly offering feedback—positive and negative—is a necessary component of employee empowerment. Your team members need to know how they’re performing and where they can improve. Provide constructive feedback as well as positive reinforcement and recognition of empowered behavior. This is an important way to show employees that you value their work and you’re invested in their growth.

Regularly offering feedback—positive and negative—is a necessary component of employee empowerment. Click To Tweet

Accept the Growing Pains

It’s not always going to be smooth sailing, but the last thing you want to do is revoke responsibilities when a mistake is made. That shows a lack of trust in your employees’ ability to learn and improve.

When a problem arises, consider the system or process that contributed to the problem. Solicit input on how the system can be improved to prevent similar issues in the future. Then, step back and let your team take the lead again.

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