Employee empowerment is one of those phrases that tends to make people groan, but it is absolutely not just another bit of business lingo. Empowerment is a key concept to both reducing effort and increasing engagement. After all, when people feel empowered, they are in charge of optimizing their own work processes and connecting with and contributing to business objectives.
According to the APICS Dictionary, 15th edition, employee empowerment is the practice of giving workers the responsibility and the power to make decisions regarding their jobs or tasks. I would suggest that it’s also about ownership, accountability, and trust. It means never having to ask permission.
You might be getting a glimpse into how and why empowerment and productivity are related. When employees are empowered, they think and act like they own the business. And when you own a business, you put your heart and soul into it. Empowered employees don’t stand on the sidelines waiting to be spoon-fed; they know what to do. They take initiative and run with it, being accountable for their roles in the execution of the customer experience and the overall success of the business.
This is taken a step further when empowered employees work together with colleagues who are just as passionate as they are and who share common goals. When these people get together, they bring about efficiency improvements from a variety of angles. As author Stephen Covey once wrote, “An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.”
It’s clear that empowerment is pretty important to both employees and organizations. Here’s how to begin:
- Define what empowerment means at your company. Think ahead and set expectations and, perhaps, some boundaries.
- Outline what doing right means and what it looks like.
- Describe and reinforce with your workers what a great customer experience is and what it means for the customer and to the business.
- Ensure employees have the knowledge and skills to do what you’re expecting of them. Train, communicate, and provide a framework. Then, let them do their jobs.
- Make sure workers know how they affect business outcomes.
- Confirm that your people have a clear line of sight to the customer. Let them lose the script—empowered employees don’t need one. Trust them to make the right choices and decisions for the customer.
- Remind employees that going the extra mile doesn’t have to cost a dime. Customers just want them to listen and act. Allow for common sense, but don’t necessarily rely on it.
- Evaluate progress and the business environment. If necessary, eliminate any vagueness and refine goals.
- Provide feedback and coaching so people know if they’re on the right track.
When employees comprehend the vision and are allowed to execute on it, businesses realize numerous meaningful productivity enhancements. Teamwork and creativity are noticeably augmented, and greater overall satisfaction will encourage company loyalty and pride in the work being done. These factors combine to produce heightened output, quality, and cost benefits—all certainly well worth the effort of an employee empowerment program.
Annette Franz Gleneicki is vice president of client experience at Compellon and the author of the blog CX Journey, where she shares her 25 years of experience and passion for teaching companies about customer and employee experiences. She may be contacted at email@example.com.
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