4 Ways to Use Empowerment as a Tool in the Workplace
Empowerment has become somewhat of a workplace buzzword lately—and for good reason. While old (and frankly, stale) workplace models used to fall back on a top-down hierarchy that encouraged each employee to “stay in line,” empowered workplaces promote flexibility and shared decision making. When executed well, empowerment in the workplace is a true win-win for employees and employers.
Empowerment has many faces. It’s based in action as well as company culture, meaning that there are many ways to use empowerment as a tool in the workplace. Here are just four.
Offer Flexibility as Needed
If an employee is sweating because they’re stuck in traffic and going to be one minute late to work, they’re likely feeling less than empowered. If an employee comes up with a creative approach to finishing a project but swallows it for fear of “stepping on someone’s toes,” then they’re not empowered. What’s missing here? Some good, new-fashioned flexibility.
As one CEO and startup founder writes for Forbes, “In empowered workplaces, many of the rigid rules of conduct such as fixed work hours, locations, and job responsibilities are loosened to create a more flexible and creative environment.”
Empower employees to get work done; don’t micromanage them on how it gets done. By simply offering employees choices—like working from home part-time, creating their own workflows or modifying their schedule to fit their lifestyle—you’ll be giving them the autonomy to do their best work.
Pair Empowerment with Expertise
And of course, empowerment is not a standalone concept. In order to successfully capitalize on said flexibility, employees need to have the background knowledge and skill set to excel at what they do. That’s why leaders should spend time on technical training and clarity of purpose to give employees the baseline they need to take the reins. Otherwise, your organization will be headed for chaos (also known as empty empowerment).
Employees who feel confident in their actions tend to further empower themselves; employees who lack the training and expertise to feel secure in their positions have a harder time thriving.
Build Something Together
You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you leave an inspiring presentation? Even after the lights come back on, you vow to incorporate this new piece of worldview into your thoughts and actions. Well, why not design work presentations to be more like this and less like a run-of-the-mill speech full of sanitized data and forgettable action items?
Part of empowering your workforce is bringing them together and inspiring them to be their best selves. When teams build something together, they tend to remember it and forge deep bonds with one another and with their work. During your next presentation, why not include a breakout session where teams can get together and create something (like by building a model, brainstorming a list or solving a hypothetical problem)?
And at the end, create an interactive word cloud to reflect upon the team-building experience. The last thing participants will remember before leaving the room will be the camaraderie and shared perspective. You can even save this virtual memento for posterity and distribute it to remind employees about the learning experience.
Speaking of sharing, when was the last time you checked in with your employees about their short- and long-term goals? Company goals can provide a lovely framework for productivity, but your employees’ goals are the heart of why they do what they do. Part of empowering your team is taking these objectives seriously and finding a way to create a company culture that allows them to come true. In other words, make goal-sharing part of your company’s management style.
If your company can successfully use empowerment as a tool in the workplace, you (and your employees) will reap the rewards. Build your company culture around camaraderie, flexibility and shared goals to start seeing results.