Last month we looked at how employee satisfaction can lead to increased productivity. This month we look at the importance of the power of choice.
Numerous studies show that empowering your employees can lead to higher productivity, so let’s look at why this is and how you can foster an empowered environment.
What is employee empowerment?
Quite simply, it means giving your employees more freedom—letting their voices be heard, and letting their suggestions make a difference in your company. The more you can trust your employees to run your business, solve problems, and take initiative, the less time you have to devote to managing them and the more time you can spend looking at the big picture.
But how do you empower your employees and be sure they are performing in a way consistent with your corporate objectives and values?
- It can’t be an empowerment program
Implementing a top-down program to empower your employees is inherently flawed. Your whole organization has to be committed to the idea of letting employees make decisions. Start with a frank discussion with your employees. They may not want, or feel they are ready for the kind of freedom you want them to have (note that this decision has to come from them, not you). That’s good to know now before you start taking things to the next step. If they’re not ready, table the discussion and bring it back up in six months.
- Their sense of empowerment may be different from yours
Empowerment is a vague word that will mean different things to your employees. Make sure you’re all on the same page about what an empowered environment will look like in your company. Again, this should be part of the discussion and not something handed down to them from on high. This needs to be arrived at organically.
- Realize that people are already empowered
Most organizations actively work to disempower people—to force them to conform to a hierarchy. Your role is to realize their existing empowerment, to give them a voice and to help them actualize their empowerment.
- Encourage Open Communication
Make sure your employees have a direct channel to you so they can voice their opinions. Give them structured ways to communicate with you. And most importantly, make sure they know their feedback is important even if you decide to do something different (you are still in charge, of course, and do have final say). Publicly acknowledge their input—again, even if it’s input you chose not to use.
- Require Accountability
It’s great to let your employees do their thing, but they still need to know when they are meeting expectations and when they aren’t. Be consistent in your handling of the measurement and rewards so employees are motivated to do their best. At the same time, you need to allow employees to fail safely. Give them the chance to try new things in a way that doesn’t put the company in danger. Set up environments where people can test new ideas and learn from the failures as well as the successes.
- Devote more time to training
If you want your employees to have more freedom to make bigger decisions without your guidance, you need to make sure they are equipped to do so. This means training on an ongoing basis. Be inclusive in your training sessions, even if the topic at hand seems fairly narrow. It may seem like your staff from one department doesn’t need to be involved in a training session for another, but don’t be too sure. The more your employees know about what everyone else knows, the better your teams can work together—especially in a crisis.
- Appreciate their efforts
Your best employees aren’t satisfied just by their paycheck. They want to know you appreciate their contribution. Don’t be afraid to say “thank you” or “good job.” A few comments like those can go a long way to making your empowered employees feel satisfied, which as we mentioned in our last article, also leads to higher productivity.
For more information on increasing productivity at your facility, contact Vanguard Resources.