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Research has shown that happy employees are productive employees. One of the key factors contributing to job satisfaction is an employee’s feeling of value; their feeling of being trusted to make and take decisions and to have the freedom to find their own solutions to any work-related issues that may arise. In other words, a sense of empowerment in the workplace. In fact, employee empowerment is paramount to achieving organisational goals.

Leaders globally are realising that people are their biggest and most valuable asset and that employee ‘buy in’ is critical for a successful organisation.

For many leaders, this is not easy. Empowering employees is a leadership skill. Historically, work cultures have adopted a top-down leadership approach, where the leader’s style is authoritarian in nature, delegating tasks and giving direction. The last decade has seen a shift in this approach.

A distinction has been made between delegation and empowerment. Delegation is the simple assigning of tasks, whilst empowerment aims to give an employee more autonomy with the aim of developing commitment, enthusiasm and expertise.

According to an article in Forbes Magazine, companies like Google, Disney and Four Seasons are leading the way in working towards empowering their employees. Four Seasons was even awarded Fortune’s 2017 “Great Place of Work Legend,” as it’s employees named it employer-of-choice for the twentieth consecutive year. 

Ed Evans, Four Seasons Executive Vice President and CHRO, attributes the company’s success to its employees and culture: “The same level of care that we extend to our guests applies to our people. By empowering our employees and giving them the tools and trust needed to succeed, they in turn, carry our values forward, connecting deeply with our guests and creating the memorable experiences that Four Seasons is known for,” he said in reaction to the award. 

One of the key skills of a leader is to listen and understand each employee’s expectations. Of course, in large organisations, this should be done by Team Leaders or department heads. It’s important to realise that every employee is not in a position to take on the role of a more autonomous decision-maker and there may be a number of factors for this, e.g. time constraints, personality, and professional goals. The real skill of a leader is revealed when he or she is able to identify and empower those employees who both want and need autonomy in order to shine and be the best they can be.

For these employees it is critical to create the space for conversations and building trust where employees feel that they are being heard and that their decisions are being trusted by management to solve problems. This is what gets employee ‘buy in;’ the feeling that their decisions and opinions play a role in the ‘big picture’ of the company.

Holding employees accountable for their successes and failures also often instills a high level of trust and pride, giving them an emotional commitment towards the company or organisation as a whole.

The role of the person in the leadership position is almost that of a mentor or coach, nurturing and guiding employees through their own autonomous decision making and striking the delicate balance between empowering and passing on responsibility. The process of empowerment must be seen by employees as a process for their development and to add value to the organisation, rather than a leader shirking responsibility. Again, the skill of the leader, his/her communication approach and relationship with employees will play a factor in how the empowerment process is perceived in the organisation.

In summary, employees who feel empowered by their leaders and organisations feel a greater sense of job satisfaction and commitment resulting in better job performance.

I thought I’d finish this article with a fun (not to be taken too seriously) quiz on –  “What’s your potential to be an Empowering Leader?”  It would be great to hear your scores.

If you are in a leadership role and would like to chat on what steps you can take to empower your employees why not book an Orientation Call with me. I might be able to help.

"The confidence I have right now is really valuable; it's a great feeling the sense of direction and purpose I have right now."

Director, Law Practice