Employee Empowerment Principles and Methods

Introduction

Employees in either profit-making or nonprofit-inclined organisations are the most important assets (Swamidass 2000). Human resource management has realised that it is important to equip and empower employees to realise the goals of either the business or organisation. One can empower employees in different ways (Harigopal, 2006). Organisations that have failed to apply this principle in their operations and management have had difficulties achieving their objectives.

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Therefore, it is an important component of human resource management. The empowerment of workers in any organisation is a strategy and a philosophy that gives room to the employees to make important decisions concerning the work they do. It is argued that this strategy enables employees to own their work, therefore making them responsible for their work and the results that come with what they do (Buchen 2011).

This paper explores this important tenet of management. It clearly explains the concept and shows how one can apply it to different organisations. It explains the principles that underlie employees’ empowerment and brings out the different ways of how one can empower employees.

Empowering employees in organisations

It is worth mentioning that employee empowerment has achieved a lot of importance in recent days. This has been accelerated by the need to create competitive strategies. As companies continue to penetrate the global markets, it becomes inevitable to capture and nurture the best skills and talents. Skilled employees provide organisations with better services and products. This increases the level of satisfaction for customers because they obtain the best products in the market (Heathfield 2007).

Employees are empowered when managers develop a shared vision. The vision is what holds the organisation together and propels the organisation towards success. The management has to share the leadership vision of the organisation: This helps employees to feel like part of the broader organisation and its achievements. The managers have to ensure that workers have a good grasp of the vision, mission and the strategic plans of the company.

This gives employees the power to do their work without being closely supervised. The other principle that governs employee empowerment is trust. As applied in the organisational context, trust means the clear intention of employees is to do things rightly, make the right choices, and make decisions that work for the good of the organisation. The managers need to give clear expectations to their employers (Heathfield 2007).

Employers should also provide sufficient decision making information to their employees. Access to information is an important factor in management. Therefore, employers should ensure that employees get access to all the information they need in their respective units of work to have room to think and come up with brilliant decisions. As part of empowering employees, the principle of delegation is vital. Employers need to delegate work and opportunities in the company.

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Managers have to be very sensitive when applying this principle lest they bring more problems in the organisation. Delegation should not just be about work but also fun stuff. The management should delegate important meetings, memberships of committees that influence the development of products. One should also delegate important projects. Delegation enables the employees to acquire and develop newer skills; hence, benefiting the company.

Provision of feedback is another significant principle. The management has to keep constant communication with employees. They have to keep constant communication, including the frequent feedback information to make employees aware of the progress that they are making. Feedback communication also entails rewarding, recognition and improvement in coaching. Constructive feedback is important and acts as an incentive to develop the employee skills and knowledge of the job (Heathfield 2007).

Managers need not associate certain employees with certain problems. Whenever a problem crops up in the company, the managers should inquire about the problem from a systems approach, and not figuring to narrow the problem to individuals. Listening, learning, inquisitiveness and provision of guidance is an important step in the empowerment of workers. Management has to give room for workers to listen to them and ask them issues of concern.

Employers should guide the employees by asking questions. They should not impose statements to workers. This makes employees devise solutions to the problems facing them and the organisation in general. Workers get room to demonstrate their knowledge and skills; therefore fostering their growth. The last but least principle is rewarding and recognition of employees. The employees need to feel recognised for the efforts they are making in the organisations. Recognition plays a central role in the process of empowering of workers (Heathfield 2007).

There are several ways through which the company can ensure that its employees are empowered. The management should come up with a clear definition of the responsibilities of employees. They have to ensure that these responsibilities are explained to the employees and that the employees understand them and the organisation’s expectations on the delivery on the responsibilities. The second way of worker employment is training (Williams, Hall & Champion 2011).

The management should ensure that the company employees have the necessary training and skills to partake of the responsibilities bestowed upon them. After attaining this, the employees should be given complete authority. Authority gives employees an independent mind to undertake the responsibilities and tasks that have been assigned to them. After implementing this program, the management should cultivate respect in the organisation.

The leadership should treat the workers with respect every time. Respect has to be accompanied by implicit trust. Lastly, leaders have to give much information to the employees. The information is integrated with the skills to attain positive results in the company. Limiting information brings a lot of gaps in delivery; therefore, it is better to give excess information than giving minimal information (Allen 2008).

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In total quality management, empowerment is a key tenet that makes the production process successful. The empowerment of employees leads to a rise in quality improvement in the quality of a company’s products and services. Total quality management needs continuity in quality improvement and the empowering of employees (Pride & Ferrell 2011).

Phillips and Gully (2012) observe that workers’ empowerment has become a very useful approach in which the attitudes of employees are boosted. Empowerment improves the working patterns and behaviours in different companies or industries. If empowerment of employees is fully enforced, then the employees will have the satisfaction at their jobs raised. Consequently, there will be a reduction in employee turnover and a downward trend in employees’ stress levels. Empowered employees become more creative and innovative; therefore, they perform better in their jobs (Phillips & Gully 2012).

The results of well-structured and empowered teams of employees are incredible. Teamwork in organisations is common; however, it is not common to find empowered teams in companies or organisations. An empowered team poses corporate authority. They have a grasp of their responsibilities and the required skills to devise solutions and make decisions for the company. The direction of the empowered teams is stabilised by the highest level of leadership of the company.

The process of empowerment is thus driven towards the business needs of the company and its metrics. Therefore, one of the objectives that empowerment seeks to achieve is the maximisation utilisation of all employees’ talents. Total empowerment of teams in an organisation is essential in propelling the organisation towards creating a better quality of goods and services; therefore boosting customer satisfaction (Calder & Douglas n. d).

When the empowerment of employees is implemented correctly, the result is mutual, that is a win-win situation. By making workers more productive, the management becomes more successful. Empowerment of workers makes the employers make full use of the employees’ energy, knowledge, and skills. The management gets benefits by the virtue empowered workers who come up with creative thoughts which are otherwise the task that is bestowed upon the managers (Stack 2011).

According to a research done by the University of Iowa concerning the productivity of an employee concerning the empowerment levels, it was found that empowerment of workers is a very effective way of improving attitudes and workplace behaviours. This cuts across different occupations, industries and even regions. When employees have the right attitudes towards their work, then the level of work input is raised. The indicator of this is increased productivity. This can be observed through the quality of products and or services of the firm (Seibert 2011).

Many firms have found a direct relationship between the satisfaction of customers and the satisfaction of employees. These companies include Disney and FedEx. The companies have been known to have a very strong customer service. The secret behind this is that the companies have discovered the importance of empowering their employees. When the customers are happy with the services that they get from a firm, the output of the firm rises (Shockley-Zalabak, Morreale & Hackman 2010).

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Challenges of empowering employees

Even though employee empowerment is an important aspect, there are various challenges experienced by organisations. First of all, there are extra costs involved in empowering employees. For example, offering better wages and remunerations may create more expenses for the company. This affects the profits made by the company. It is important to mention that when the running costs are high, a company’s profit level reduces. Therefore, it is evident that empowering employees poses an extra cost to the organisation (Lashley & McGoldrick 1994).

Also, empowering employees also creates a risk, especially when they leave for other companies. When a company trains its employees, a lot of time and costs are incurred. In case the employees leave the company for another one, the company incurs a lot of losses in terms of the time spent and the costs incurred in empowering the employee. This aspect makes most organisations fear empowering their employees because they create more risks. Also, when employees get better skills and leave the organisation, it takes a lot of time to recruit and empower other employees (Lashley & McGoldrick 1994).

Also, when employee turnover is too high in an economy, it becomes uneconomical to empower employees. When employees have unpredictable behaviours, employers tend to create mechanisms to withhold them within the organisation. They may also reduce employee empowerment to avoid incurring a lot of losses when such employees leave the organisations (Hodgetts, Richard & Hegar 2011). Cultural differences among employees tend to affect their empowerment. Empowering employees from different cultures is challenging because employees have different expectations. People’s cultural backgrounds determine the things that motivate, empower, or encourage employees to improve their performance. Therefore, it is important to note that employee empowerment is not as simple as it looks (Calder & Douglas n. d).

The empowerment of employees is not just open as it may appear to be. Employee empowerment has limitations which have to be observed; otherwise, the whole process may turn tragic to organisations. The management of organisations must make clear communication concerning the responsibilities and authorities that rest with the employees. If this is not the case, there is a very high likelihood that the employees will take advantage of developments that come with empowerment causing mal-production (Huq 2010).

Recommendations

Managers should identify the best strategies to apply when empowering their employees. This can be achieved by conducting a lot of research to identify the strategies which match the needs of organisations. Also, managers can discuss with their employees to identify factors which can empower them at the workplace. As such, employees are involved in the decision-making process to help managers improve their work environment. This will help reduce conflicts which arise when employers impose decisions on their employees.

Conclusion

The role of employees is very important in organisations, and there is a great need to improve their status so that they can work effectively and efficiently. Empowerment of employees is increasingly becoming not just a concern, but a need for the management of firms. Empowerment of employees is not a simple task but a complex process. The process is based on several principles, most of which are embedded in the principles of management. Total empowerment of workers is hard; therefore, the empowerment exercise should be done continuously. The best way of empowering employees is though teams.

Empowerment is an important aspect of a good working environment. It is observed that employee empowerment faces various challenges. These challenges hinder absolute empowerment of employees in various organisations. Therefore, employees need to develop strategies that are focused on identifying the best strategies that match their organisations. One should do adequate research before implementing employee empowerment strategies. This will help match the needs of the employees to the organisation’s systems. As such, conflicts within the organisation will be reduced and improve the performance of an organisation.

Reference List

Allen, K 2008, Complete MBA for Dummies, Hoboken, Wiley Publishing Inc.

Buchen, IH 2011, Executive intelligence: The leader’s edge, Lanham, Md, Rowman & Littlefield.

Calder, N & Douglas PC n.d, Empowered Employee Teams: The New Key to Improving Corporate Success. Web.

Harigopal, K 2006, Management of organizational change: Leveraging transformation, New Delhi, SAGE.

Heathfield, SM 2007, Empowerment: Definition and Examples of Empowerment. Web.

Hodgetts, RM & Hegar, KW 2011, Modern Human Relations at Work, Mason, OH, Thomson South-Western Pub.

Huq, R 2010, Employee Empowerment: The Rhetoric and the Reality, New York, Gardners Books.

Lashley, C and McGoldrick, J, 1994, ‘The Limits of Empowerment: A Critical Strategy for Hospitality Operations’, Empowerment in Organizations, 2(3): pp. 25 – 38.

Phillips, J & Gully, SM 2012, Organizational behavior: Tools for success, Mason, Ohio, South-Western Cengage Learning.

Pride, WM & Ferrell, OC 2011, Marketing express, Mason, Oh., South-Western Cengage Learning.

Seibert, S 2011, UI study shows empowered workers are better, more productive workers. Web.

Shockley-Zalabak, P, Morreale, SP, and Hackman, MZ 2010, Building the high-trust organization: Strategies for supporting five key dimensions of trust. San Francisco, Calif., Jossey-Bass.

Stack, L 2011, Empowered Employees are More Productive. Web.

Swamidass, PM 2000, Encyclopedia of production and manufacturing management, Boston, Kluwer Academic.

Williams, C, Hall, I & Champion, T 2011, MGMT, Toronto, Nelson Education.

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