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How to empower employees and build a rock-solid team

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6 min read
employee-empowerment

“People want guidance, not rhetoric.”, explains former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz in his book, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. In its pages, he’s got a lot to say about why employee empowerment is the secret to any team’s success.

“They need to know what the plan of action is and how it will be implemented. They want to be given the responsibility to help solve the problem and the authority to act on it.”

Schultz isn’t the only one who has uncovered these truths. Many companies are seeing the same benefits and choosing to adopt a similar approach.

But what is employee empowerment? And what are some of the best ways to empower your team? 

This article will answer these questions and go over steps to build a more empowered and productive workforce. Additionally, we’ll discuss the benefits of employee empowerment and the tools used to manage empowered teams.

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What is employee empowerment?

Employee empowerment is giving your employees the tools and confidence that they need to be self-sufficient and successful in their position, whether through job enrichment or enlargement.  In sum, if you give employees more decision-making power, they will feel more accountable for their work and ultimately do a better job.

Generally speaking, employee empowerment goes hand in hand with transparent communication and horizontal leadership. If employees feel their ideas and input are valued, they are more likely to feel confident about their contributions.

It was once commonplace for employees to take orders from their supervisors and receive feedback from them in quarterly and yearly performance reviews. Under this model, employees carry out their assigned tasks with little or no strategic input, which can be problematic, to say the least.

How to empower employees with examples

There are clear advantages to building a more empowered, autonomous team. In this section, we’ll go over some of the best ways to do so.

Stop micromanagement

Micromanagement is essentially the antithesis of employee empowerment. After all, how can employees feel confident making decisions and taking on responsibilities if their every move is under a magnifying lens?

If micromanaging is taking place, companies and employees are always at a loss. Micromanagement spells disaster: inefficient communication, workplace dissatisfaction, and hostile company culture. The very first step to empowering your team is detecting and eliminating all traces of micromanagement in the workplace. Here’s what to look out for:

  • High levels of employee turnover
  • Signs of burnout for those in managerial roles
  • Employees spend a large amount of time delivering reports to managers
  • Employees feel demotivated and under pressure to achieve unrealistic expectations
  • Managers pay too much time worrying about details
  • Employees need to frequently redo assignments

There are many reasons why managers become micromanagers. Perhaps they are first-time managers and feel insecure about their own responsibilities. Alternatively, perhaps they are under a lot of pressure from their superiors and feel afraid to lose control. A good solution to these problems is to ensure that managers have sufficient leadership and organizational training.

True transparency

Whether it be overarching company goals or planned organizational restructuring, transparent communication is key to empowerment. In order for your team to feel confident making decisions, they must have access to important and relevant information. Otherwise, how will they know how to make decisions that make a positive impact?

A great way to promote transparency in communication is to hold monthly Q&A sessions with team and company leaders. If you find that employees are hesitant to speak up during these sessions, make it possible for them to ask questions anonymously. That way, everyone will feel comfortable asking questions and acquiring the orientation they need to perform optimally.

Delegate Delegate Delegate

Empowering your team means transferring some of the deciding power and responsibilities to employees, and redefining roles for those in managerial positions. However, it does not necessarily mean that employees will take on their managers’ workloads overnight.

Delegating tasks involves a lot of understanding of team members’ capabilities, mutual trust, and organizational planning. In order to successfully delegate tasks, managers will need to thoroughly assess their team’s strengths and professional goals. They will also need to carefully manage employee workloads and provide any additional support.

If employees have a clear understanding of the scope of their responsibilities and authority, they will ideally be able to work independently without too much oversight. However, it might require some initial time and effort to plan and manage the way projects are allocated.

Listen to your employees

Performance reviews and meetings play a significant role when it comes to listening to employees, and building confidence and trust.

One way that many companies try to foster healthy workplace communication is through weekly one-on-one meetings between employees and supervisors. Employees generally lead these meetings and express any concerns, strategic visions, and goals that they have. Meanwhile, their managers actively listen to their ideas and offer them feedback and suggestions.

Some companies even choose to do away with traditional performance reviews altogether. Instead, they use self-appraisals to assess how employees feel in their roles and monitor employee progress through regular check-ins with their manager.

Alternately, pulse surveys and employee satisfaction surveys are a great way to gain insight into your team’s sentiments about their role and progress. Normally, these are conducted every quarter and are short–5-15 questions, approximately–and to the point. For these to be effective, management and HR must go through individual surveys and pay attention to what the employees are saying. Otherwise, employees will get the feeling that their responses do not matter and might even suffer from survey fatigue.

However, devoting attention to the responses of every single employee can be time-consuming and difficult to manage. To save yourself hours, consider using HR software, specifically one with an employee feedback platform to help you quickly send out and manage responses efficiently. That way, collecting employee feedback and keeping tabs on your team is a hassle-free process.

Recognize good and hard work

When it comes to responding to performance, there are two widely practiced leadership styles: 1) Punishment for mistakes and poor performance or 2) Reward for achievements and good performance.

In Psychology, it is well known that people have a healthier outlook, have reduced frustration, and are less anxious when they receive positive reinforcement for something that they’ve done well. It’s no surprise that positive reinforcement increases confidence levels and empowerment as well.

By celebrating achievements with an employee recognition program, you can show your staff that their hard work is appreciated. Start by writing an employee spotlight in which team members receive recognition in company newsletters and on social media. Recognition programs are also a fantastic opportunity to build a solid reputation and promote your employer branding to a wider audience.

Offer opportunities for growth and learning

Knowledge is power. And employees who seek empowerment in the workplace, look for positions that emphasize learning and development. In fact, in a 2021 Gallup survey, 65% of respondents indicated that employer-provided upskilling is a significant factor when evaluating job opportunities.

Not only does creating a learning culture in your company help you attract top talent, but it also means that employees will be constantly taking in new information and learning new skills. Truly, investing in L&D programs is a win-win for employers and employees alike.

By emphasizing employee learning with company-sponsored training sessions, mentorship programs, and employee resource groups, you are creating more organizational commitment and involvement. Ultimately, helping your team grow and setting yourself up for increased employee engagement.

How employee empowerment benefits your business

Employee empowerment and Efficiency

Employees who do not feel empowered to make decisions tend to rely heavily on managers for instructions and feedback. This inefficient communication can put extra stress on managers and employees alike, who feel that they need to constantly get approval before taking the next step.

When employees feel empowered, they spend less time seeking approval from managers and can turn around projects better and faster.

Boosted creativity levels

In settings where micromanaging and informational silos are commonplace, employers are not taking full advantage of their workforce’s potential. In these cases, employees may have a lot of ideas to provide in initial project discussions but their perspectives go unheard.

Employees who feel welcome to participate in discussions will feel more comfortable during brainstorming sessions and take your company to the next level with their cutting-edge ideas.

Employee empowerment means employee satisfaction

This cultivates a lack of motivation, curiosity, and personal investment in projects. If employees feel their ideas don’t matter, they will most likely see projects as tasks they need to just get out of the way.

Whereas, in a setting in which employees feel empowered, they will be able to see how their decisions and contributions impact the company as a whole. It will be easier for them to collaborate and integrate with other members of their team. Ultimately, it will enhance their daily experience and feel more satisfied with their position.

How Factorial can help

Creating an empowered and satisfied workforce poses challenges for any team. And you need talent management software with the flexibility to adapt to your company’s working model and culture.

With Factorial’s performance management feature, you can create 360-degree employee performance reviews in which users can save personalized review questions. Not to mention, tools to generate custom reports, as well as track and set employee OKRs. Your team deserves the right tools. And with tools like Factorial, you are investing in the power and potential of your employees.

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