The complete guide to employee empowerment

A quick summary:

  1. What is employee empowerment?
  2. Employee empowerment benefits
  3. Barriers to think about as a manager
  4. Outlining your objectives
  5. Employee empowerment examples
  6. Final considerations on empowering staff

What makes for a high-performing team? The answer is employee empowerment. An unsung characteristic that is missing from many businesses in the modern workplace.

In this complete guide, we’re giving you the best lesson in employee empowerment. We’ll look at a number of key areas, such as barriers, examples and objectives when it comes to empowering employees.

This secret ingredient to highly successful companies has gone ignored for far too long. The reality is that utilising team empowerment can be a real game changer, regardless of department or industry.

In an article by Huffpost, it was reported that employees who felt empowered and held a position of power felt 26% more satisfied with their job. Additionally, seven out of ten employees agree that empowerment contributes to their engagement in the workplace.

Empowerment is a mighty tool to push people to victory and success. It’s useful in different circumstances in life, not just in a career sense. Be it personal goals, the struggles of life or going for a job promotion, motivation from others matters.

With all of that said, let’s jump into this complete guide and kick things off by finding what exactly empowering employees means.

Three employees feeling empowered by their manager
What is employee empowerment?

What is employee empowerment?

In simple terms, employee empowerment is a management strategy. It focuses on creating an environment in which people can work autonomously, confidently and independently.

In the workplace, empowering employees demonstrates a belief in their abilities and expertise. As a leader, it shows that you trust your team to get things done and execute their tasks and duties effectively.

As a management philosophy, employee empowerment is just great people management. It’s giving employees the space to create their own outcomes and results with projects they’re working on.

If there was an opposite to team empowerment, it would be micromanagement — this refers to closely monitoring and controlling all the smallest details and decisions of a certain task or project.

Or as we’d call it, counterproductive.

In summary, think of employee empowerment as a way to bring out the best in people. To give them the opportunity to make their own decisions, contribute their own ideas and do so confidently.

Benefits of empowerment in the workplace

Now that we understand what makes employee empowerment so important, what are the benefits? Well, let’s take a look!

Leadership teams create more time for themselves

Firstly, this one is a no-brainer. When managers provide more autonomy and independence to their teams, they create more time for themselves. This means focusing on more pressing matters at a top level, which can also be more cost-efficient.

Think about it: if assistant-level employees require day-to-day supervision, this means those at a management level cannot do their own job. As a business, this particular point should resonate tremendously.

So, start empowering employees by offering autonomy in their roles and responsibilities and allowing them to act independently in problem-solving scenarios.

A manager smiling at his team member
Managers must empower their teams in the workplace

Empowered employees are more loyal

Next on our list is loyalty. Employee empowerment leads to higher loyalty. If there’s one thing we all want in our career it’s a job we like and colleagues we can work well with. Empowering employees does exactly that.

The next couple of years will prove to be a difficult time for worker retention. Companies are falling behind in the race to create appealing workplaces that people love. Whether it’s outdated benefits packages or poor culture, more must be done.

This is precisely why adopting employee empowerment is a great idea. When employees feel empowered they are more likely to stick around much longer. They value the way they are treated and will find it rarely compares to other organisations.

This is one of the major benefits of empowerment in the workplace that organisations must consider.

Empowering your team means helping them develop better skills

Our final point to make on the benefits of team empowerment is how it contributes to learning and development. Believe it or not, when employee empowerment takes place, your staff are able to take problem-solving and decision-making more seriously.

Just like when you learn to ride a bike or learn to swim — we learn best when we throw ourselves into the deep end of whatever it is we’re trying to achieve. This is the same for the ever-flowing challenges of our careers.

With employee empowerment, i.e autonomy and independence, employees will go out of their way to succeed, rather than relying on the support of a manager. This obviously means they are in a better position to learn and develop certain skills.

A work team collaborating on a new project in the office
Barriers to consider when empowering staff

Barriers to consider when empowering staff

So, now we’ve looked at the benefits of empowerment in the workplace, what should we know about the barriers you may face?

For most leadership teams it’s ignorance or laziness. It’s deciding that there are much bigger challenges at hand than team empowerment. Leaders who think this way generally ignore signs of toxicity, hustle culture, poor job satisfaction and more.

These leaders fully neglect not just employee empowerment, but other characteristics that make a company a great place to work.

Another barrier to empowering employees is a lack of benefits — some of which we’ve covered above. It’s misunderstanding both the positive impacts and the negative consequences that come with instilling and neglecting employee empowerment.

Below, we’ve included a handful of other barriers that prevent leaders from creating a culture where people feel empowered to be their best:

  • Lack of trust in employees
  • Poor communication amongst the workforce
  • A toxic workplace culture
  • Lack of belief in staff ability
  • Fear of losing a sense of authority or power

Outlining workplace empowerment objectives

Next up, let’s talk about the objectives of employee empowerment. Many leaders misunderstand what their objectives are and this is where the value of this management tactic gets lost.

When it comes to the objectives of employee empowerment, there’s definitely some crossover with the benefits we’ve discussed above. Think about it, when employees are empowered, they are more engaged.

The thing is, higher engagement contributes to better productivity and performance. In fact, in one article by HBR, it’s reported that higher engaged teams see 22% higher productivity — if this doesn’t sell employee empowerment, we don’t know what will!

But it’s not just engagement. As we’ve already touched on, empowering employees means taking retention more seriously. If you want your top talent to stick around through thick and thin, empowerment can help your business achieve this.

It’s also important to think about recruiting top talent. Whilst retention is one thing, talent acquisition is a whole other ball game. Your employee empowerment objectives might include both attracting and retaining top talent, and rightly so.

Ultimately, start thinking about the different objectives you want to outline when focusing on team empowerment in the workplace. It’s okay to recognise the benefits, the barriers and examples, but clear goal-setting is needed too.

In addition to these objectives of employee empowerment, here’s a list of other reasons to add to your planning and strategy:

  • Increase independence among employees
  • Create an atmosphere of motivation and drive
  • Contribute to workplace culture improvements
  • Develop stronger workplace trust and honesty

A startup team sat around a table in an office
Employee empowerment examples to think about

Employee empowerment examples

Moving forward, our next topic to discuss is employee empowerment examples. Grab a coffee, and a pen and start taking some notes. Here, we’re going to explore the various team empowerment examples you should test out.

Similar read: Creating happier teams through Conscious leadership

Increased Involvement in decision making

Let’s first talk about involvement in decision-making. We all like to feel valued, regardless of our seniority. If we don’t have the chance to share our opinions, thoughts and ideas we sometimes feel undervalued.

By involving more and more of your team in key decisions, you’re demonstrating — as a leader — that you care what employees think. This is essential in developing employee empowerment.

You see, when people are empowered to express their thoughts and ideas, they begin to think more independently, and problem solve and contribute more occasionally. This is one of the main reasons for empowering employees.

It’s new ideas and innovative ways of thinking that contribute to success. Start inviting your employees to think outside the box and come forward with ideas in key decision-making moments.

Introduce flexible working opportunities

You may not have considered it, but flexible working opportunities help boost team empowerment. This is because it contributes to that need for autonomy and independence that we have spoken about so frequently in this guide.

When employees are given choice over the time they start or finish work and whereabouts they work, it’s a very empowering thing! Gone are the days of being required to start at 9am and take a lunch break when told.

In fact, one of the contributing factors to the Great Resignation is the demand for hybrid and flexible working opportunities. At the height of the pandemic, many companies were forced to embrace remote work.

This meant empowering employees to manage their projects and schedules from home — and it took off! Now, LinkedIn’s job search feature includes a filter for remote work and many candidates see it as a preference when searching for a job.

According to a report by Gallup published in 2022, five in ten employees are working in a hybrid arrangement, but only two in ten are entirely on-site. Whilst remote and hybrid work has declined since the pandemic, it’s likely to climb over the next couple of years.

Flexible working is employee empowerment. Whilst you may not have any flexibility in place, right now, begin to think about how you can change this over the next twelve months.

Employees playing a game in the office and laughing together
Empowering employees starts with company culture

Build a culture of recognition

Next, let’s look at the power of recognition. It’s said that when recognition is strong, employees are 4X as likely to be engaged with their careers. For that reason, we’d say that recognition can be an extremely useful tool for employee empowerment.

No, we don’t mean ‘employee of the month awards’. Recognition should be wholehearted and frequent. It lets employees know they’ve done a great job, regardless of project size or results.

Empowering employees through recognition means checking in to see how they’re feeling, motivating them to do their best and then recognising their efforts.

It can be difficult to remember to recognise everyone, especially with a growing workforce, but it isn’t impossible. Senior teams should get together regularly to discuss employee performance and managers should be encouraged to praise their team.

Here are a few ideas to include in your recognition efforts when you’re trying to improve employee empowerment:

  • Make recognition a weekly duty for managers
  • Create a recognition wall display
  • Recognise team members openly on LinkedIn
  • Increase annual leave with each year of service
  • Give out ‘thank you’ cards

Focus on autonomy to build employee empowerment

Finally, let’s talk all things autonomy. Now, although we’ve spoken about autonomy a lot throughout this guide to employee empowerment, what does it really mean? In simple terms, it refers to giving employees the chance to act freely and independently.

It’s allowing them to structure their own days and manage their own projects — and believing that they are more than capable of doing so. I don’t think it’s hard to understand why this contributes to empowering employees.

Autonomy can sometimes be hard for leaders to pick up. They see it as a big risk, where employees may fumble and set the business back. But we think this is the wrong approach and mindset to have as a leader.

Employers should only be hiring people they truly believe are capable of carrying out their job on their own two feet. And if that is the priority then it’s time to give employees the same to grow and work independently.

Here’s your challenge for this week when it comes to autonomy and employee empowerment:

  1. Check in with employees at the start of the week on the projects they’re doing
  2. Confirm the objectives and progress they want to achieve by Friday
  3. Let them carry out their tasks and duties independently all week
  4. Check in with employees on Friday to confirm if they have hit their goals

It’s as simple as that! Of course, there are likely more details that could have been included in the list above, but it is — in a nutshell — all you need to build employee empowerment through autonomy.

a team watching a demonstration in the office
Final considerations on staff empowerment

Final considerations on staff empowerment

Congratulations, you made it this far in our complete guide to employee empowerment. By now, we should have achieved two things:

Teaching you everything you need to know about employee empowerment
Convinced you that empowering employees is essential!

Before we leave you to embark on a new mission of building highly successful, motivated and independent team members, let’s round up our thoughts. To summarise, we think employee empowerment is on a trajectory.

In the past couple of years, mental and emotional wellbeing have been at the forefront of conversations in the workplace. There’s been a lot of anxiety, stress and confusion. Empowerment has been a source of boosting morale, happiness and motivation during these difficult times.

But as we move past times of turmoil, we believe employee empowerment will, and must, remain high on leaders’ agendas. It’s also worth noting that alone, employee empowerment cannot fix culture issues or drive total content in the workplace.

It has to be part of a bigger strategy. Empowering employees should be an addition to better perks, an addition to health and wellbeing initiatives, and an addition to other new management styles that support a happier workforce.

Finally, remember that employee empowerment takes time. Implementing new strategies and efforts will not lead to overnight success. Start small but aim big. Find ways to empower employees on a day-to-day basis and keep them motivated.

We recommend bookmarking this guide or forwarding it to your HR department so they can begin building out a strategy for team empowerment.

To wrap things up, here are a couple of questions to ask yourself and your HR team about employee empowerment:

  • What are we doing to hinder employee empowerment?
  • What new initiatives can we introduce to support workplace empowerment?
  • Have we surveyed our workforce on how empowered they feel?
  • Are our management team trained in motivating and empowering employees?

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