The workplace has been where only some people tap into their full potential. Many people cannot progress in their careers because of bureaucracy, rules, micromanagement, and a lack of trust in managers. But things must change. There must be a shift toward empowering employees and giving them the freedom to thrive. But what exactly is empowerment? And why is it so important?
What is empowerment?
Empowerment is a state of feeling self-efficacious — believing that you are capable of achieving desired outcomes. It is having a solid sense of self-confidence and conviction to set goals and pursue them with determination, knowing that success is possible.
In the workplace, empowerment can manifest itself in many different ways. For example, it includes allowing employees to make decisions about their work, providing them with training and development opportunities, and trusting them to take on new challenges without seeking approval from their managers.
Why is empowerment so important?
First, it creates a sense of independence, ownership, and responsibility in employees — this leads to a greater understanding of commitment and motivation, as employees feel they have a stake in the company and want it to succeed.
Second, empowerment builds team unity and cohesion, leading to employees working together towards a common goal. Finally, empowerment develops innovative ideas and solutions because employees can take risks and try new things.
There are many ways to empower employees. Here are 12 examples of empowerment:
1. Give employees the resources for their work
As a manager, you should be proactive in identifying and providing the resources your employees need to be successful.
Conversely, if you do not provide the necessary resources or withhold them to control employees, it will lead to frustration and decreased productivity.
If employees do not have access to the right information, they may make mistakes that could impact the company negatively.
A manager is a coach and mentor — it is part of your role to help employees grow and develop professionally. Access to training resources helps employees improve their skills, learn new techniques, and stay up-to-date on the latest changes in their industry.
There are some limits of course — a manager cannot simply give employees unlimited funds to spend as they please — but it is appropriate to provide employees with the resources to do their jobs within reason.
2. Focus on the positive behavior
People are more likely to repeat behaviors that make them feel good about themselves. It is always great to see employees exhibiting positive behavior.
People will likely continue displaying that positive behavior when they feel appreciated and recognized for their strengths.
It is human nature to want to please those who have shown us appreciation in the past. Acknowledging individual accomplishments inspires further effort and dedication because it makes employees feel valued.
It also shows that you are paying attention and appreciate their hard work. So, take the time to commend your employees for what they do well, and you will undoubtedly see more good behaviors repeated.
3. Encourage creativity
Encourage creativity by soliciting employees’ suggestions — reward employees who come up with the best ideas with special privileges or bonuses.
One great way to encourage employee creativity is to solicit suggestions for process improvements and new products or services. Giving them a voice and showing that you value their input will inspire them to be creative.
Another way to cultivate creativity is by providing an environment conducive to innovation. It might mean allowing employees to experiment with new ideas without fear of penalty.
Or it could mean creating a culture of collaboration and openness, where team members are encouraged to share their opinions freely and work together toward common goals.
Whatever approach you take, the key is to make it clear that creativity is tolerated and encouraged. You can do this through words and actions.
4. Offer regular feedback
Giving feedback is one of the most important things you can do as a manager, but it is also one of the most difficult.
One way to provide positive and constructive feedback is to focus on an employee’s strengths while giving specific suggestions for improvement.
For example, you might say, “I appreciate your attention to detail. It makes you a great asset in this team or department. However, I noticed that you missed a few errors in last week’s report.
Here are some tips that might help you catch those mistakes next time.” This type of feedback gives employees the information they need to improve without making them feel like they are doing something wrong.
Always give feedback soon after the event or task occurs while it is still fresh in everyone’s mind. And always remember to be respectful — no one likes being criticized, but people may appreciate it if it is given constructively.
5. Facilitate teamwork
You can also provide feedback and support and ensure everyone is accountable for the team’s objectives.
Holding employees accountable should not be considered a punishment but rather an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the team and its success.
When employees are held responsible, it shows that you trust them to do their job and take responsibility for their actions.
It is also important to remember that accountability goes both ways. Your employees should hold you accountable for your decisions and actions.
Finally, you can reward team success while also correcting team failures. By doing all these things, you will help create an empowering environment where your employees can thrive as members of a productive team.
6. Do not micromanage
Let your employees become independent. When you micro-manage every little thing your employees do, you demonstrate that you do not trust them to do their job.
In other words, you are not only suffocating and devaluing them but also denying them the opportunity to learn, grow, and become better at their jobs.
Contrary to what you may think, micromanagement does not make your employees feel more accountable or invested in their work — instead, it just makes them feel anxious and stressed out.
But when you give your team the freedom, they will experiment and learn from their experiences.
Yes, sometimes giving employees too much space can be risky, but it is always better than not having enough.
As long as you have set some basic ground rules and guidelines, giving your employees the freedom to make choices will make them feel more engaged in their work and ultimately lead to better results.
So try to relax and let your employees take ownership of their work. You may be surprised at what they can do and achieve.
Read more: 15 Examples of Taking Ownership
7. Challenge employees to learn and grow
Some employees need a little nudge to move out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves. You will be surprised how many people need to learn about their passions or what they want to do with their lives.
Only some employees know what they want out of their careers. Others may only learn and grow with guidance.
As a manager, it is up to you to help them find out — you have to be deliberate in understanding the unique needs of your team and ensuring that you provide the opportunity for growth.
Encouraging employees to learn and grow demonstrates your belief in their potential and empowers them to take control of their development.
8. Embrace differences
A workplace with people from different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives is more creative and productive. Team members can share their ideas and perspectives, and the team can develop better solutions to problems.
Employees from different backgrounds tend to understand better the needs of customers or clients from diverse backgrounds. So, how can we embrace differences in our workplace?
The first step is to get rid of preconceived notions about what it means to be different. Next, we need to be aware of our own biases and make a conscious effort not to judge others based on them.
Finally, we need to create an environment where everyone feels safe and comfortable expressing themselves.
9. Allow employees to make decisions
There may be some situations when it is not appropriate to delegate decision-making authority, such as when there is a danger of making a wrong decision or when time is of the essence.
In those cases, it may be necessary to make the decision yourself. But there are many cases when your employee has knowledge or experience in a particular area. It makes sense to allow the person to make decisions in that area.
You may feel uncomfortable delegating authority, but remember that you are not perfect and sometimes do not have all the answers.
When we delegate authority, we are not giving up control. We are simply allowing someone else to help us make a better decision.
We should also remember that delegation is not a one-way street — listening to subordinates and considering their opinions often when making decisions is essential.
10. Encourage employees to ask questions
There is no other way to create a culture of openness than to model the behavior yourself. If you are secretive and closed off, your employees will be too.
But if you are open and share information freely (even when embarrassing), they will feel comfortable doing the same.
Your employees need to ask questions without being ridiculed or judged. Be open and honest with your employees, and be willing to listen to their questions and suggestions.
Let them feel comfortable asking questions — even if they seem silly or pointless. There is no such thing as a dumb question, and nothing breeds innovation like curiosity.
Trust is essential in any relationship, especially a working one. If your employees trust you, they will ask questions and seek information from you. And that is a good thing.
Seeking knowledge is what leads to progress and innovation. So, ensure that your team knows they can ask about anything, even when you do not have all the answers.
Read also: 15 Examples of Commitments
11. Be honest even when it is difficult
Honesty demonstrates respect for employees. Employees appreciate when their boss says it as it is, even if the news is difficult to hear. Honesty conveys that the boss trusts the employees to handle whatever situation arises.
It can be tempting to gloss over complex information or sugarcoat bad news to make things easier for yourself, but ultimately this will only backfire.
Employees kept in the dark will eventually discover the truth—and they may not like what they hear if you hide it from them.
Finally, honesty reinforces principles of integrity and accountability within the company culture. Employees who work within an ethical and accountable organization appreciate and respect their workplace more.
12. Encourage employees not to be confined by linear thinking
Nonlinear thinking is simply the ability to see problems and solutions in ways not confined by traditional linear modes. It is essential for creativity, innovation, and a complex, ever-changing workplace.
Some people need help seeing things differently because they are used to thinking in straight lines and following logical patterns. But once you learn how to think in nonlinear ways, it will open your mind to new possibilities.
So, encourage your employees not to think within the confines of linear thinking and the usual way of doing things but coming up with new and innovative ideas.
Linear thinking can be limiting because it causes us to see problems and obstacles as roadblocks that we must overcome.
Nonlinear thinking is more flexible, versatile, and adaptive, allowing us to see multiple potential outcomes and solutions to any problem. So it is essential for problem-solving in the workplace.
Empowerment starts at the top, with managers providing opportunities for growth and development for their employees.
When done correctly, empowerment can lead to increased engagement, productivity, and satisfaction among employees while also helping develop leadership skills from within the ranks of your team.