Most managers will confess to having times, or at least days, when they feel like they're managing a bunch of 5-year-olds. Demanding 5-year-olds.
Who want to be taken care of, told what to do, have their problems solved. Who whine and complain about how things aren't fair. Who won't take responsibility for their actions.
It's not fun. But worse yet, it's bad for business.
Instead of a bunch of 5-year-olds, what you really want are empowered employees.
A definition of employee empowerment
First, we should talk about what an empowered employee looks like. Empowered employees are autonomous. They take responsibility for their work, performance and development. They participate in decision making, and often make their own decisions - within a defined scope of course.
They feel accountable for their performance and success, as well as for the performance and success of the organization.
Employee empowerment does not absolve managers of their responsibility to lead or manage employees. Rather, it creates a more collegial work environment, where everyone is accountable and has something to contribute.
The benefits of employee empowerment
Among the benefits of employee empowerment (PDF), a paper by think tank CentreForum cites: better financial results, and improved employee motivation and engagement. Other benefits include better accountability, higher customer satisfaction, better productivity, increased organizational responsiveness/nimbleness and reduced turnover.
And employee empowerment is a key way to get better results through a high performing, aligned and engaged workforce.
Some managers wrongly view employee empowerment as something that "disempowers" them. Rather, it's about driving greater employee autonomy, accountability and engagement.
So how do you empower employees?
An empowered workforce requires excellent communication, good manager-employee working relationships, and an ongoing conversation about both employee and organizational performance.
From a talent management perspective, here are 5 things you can do to encourage employee empowerment:
1. Foster self-evaluations
When you invite an employee to complete a regular self-evaluation of their performance, you invite them to take responsibility for their work and success. They should identify their accomplishments, challenges, areas for development, strengths and weaknesses.
When they share their self-assessment with their manager, they also become active and accountable participants in the performance review process. It allows them to influence their performance ratings and all the talent planning decisions that are made based upon those ratings.
2. Promote 360 degree feedback
Requesting feedback from others is another way for an employee to take responsibility for their performance and development. It helps them see their performance through the eyes of others.
Sometimes, requesting that feedback is hard because it makes them hear things they don't necessarily want to hear. But it helps increase their accountability to themselves and to others.
3. Have employee draft their own goals
Having employees draft their own goals helps to increase their accountability for those goals. It also empowers them, because it gives them a say in their work and priorities. Employees should always consider organizational goals when setting their individual goals, and directly link their goals to the organizational goals they will support.
That helps them see how they're contributing to and accountable for the organization's success, making them feel a more empowered part of the organization. You'll certainly want to have them review their goals with the manager, and come to agreement on these. But the responsibility for setting goals that help the organization achieve its goals should rest with the employee.
4. Have employee draft their own development plans and identify appropriate learning activities
You also want to make employee more accountable and empowered for their own development and career progression. After all, it's their career. So task your employees with drafting their own development plans, based on their learning needs. And have them identify learning activities that suit their personal learning style.
As an organization, you need to make resources and budget available for this activity. And managers should certainly help employees identify their learning needs, and review their development plans to ensure the organization's needs are being met.
But the responsibility for drafting and completing development plans should rest with the employee
5. Ask employees to give their managers feedback
Finally, you can empower your staff by providing them with a process for providing feedback to their managers. In an empowered workforce, the manager/employee relationship is seen as symbiotic, with both parties contributing to each others success.
So, as feedback expert Jamie Resker suggests, managers should regularly ask employees: "What's one thing that am I doing to support you that I should keep doing?" and "What's one way I could support you more?"
This dialogue helps solidify the employee/manager relationship, helps them work together more effectively, and empowers the employee to get the support they need to deliver high performance.
Having an engaged workforce is critical to organizational success
If you want to build a world-class workforce and establish talent as a lasting competitive advantage, empower your employees. You'll drive up their performance, alignment and engagement.
For more tips, visit our Center excellence on employee engagement.
What advice do you have on how to empower employees? I'd love to hear it; please share your feedback below.