Back to Basics: What Is Employee Empowerment?

April 5, 2022 Mike Lovett

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In many workplaces, it can seem like there is too much that needs to be done. It’s an overwhelming feeling that’s compounded when projects and tasks get bogged down by inefficient processes and unnecessary oversight. It’s a chain reaction that leads to less productive and disengaged employees.

One antidote to this kind of work environment is employee empowerment. By delegating assignments and responsibility, leaders give employees the power to help improve the organization and grow into empowering leaders themselves.

What is employee empowerment?

Employee empowerment can be defined as a management philosophy that extends autonomy, framework, resources, and support to employees so that they have a degree of independence and control in their day-to-day activities with less management oversight.

Some employee empowerment examples include allowing employees to help improve processes, create and manage internal systems, and lead resource groups has repeatedly shown to lead to “stronger job performance, job satisfaction, and commitment to the organization.”

What are the benefits of employee empowerment?

Empowered employees are more productive, engaged, and committed to the organization. With the tools and resources to lead initiatives and sit in the driver’s seat as they work toward their goals, they’re more likely to go the extra mile, be transparent, embrace change, and provide a better customer experience.

And the benefits extend not just to employees, but also to the leaders that empower them. In a Harvard Business Review analysis, researchers found “empowering leaders are much more effective at influencing employee creativity and citizenship behavior than routine task performance.”

Such leaders are also more likely to be trusted by their subordinates and had a more positive impact on newer employees to the organization, compared to leaders who did not deploy employee empowerment strategies.

How do you empower employees?

As with most business decisions, successfully empowering employees requires open communication and clear expectations. Encouraging communication and providing coaching and support when needed are employee empowerment techniques that strengthen trust and help move projects forward. And creating a framework for decision-making helps employees understand the boundaries they’re working within and where there is room to push them.

"It takes a genuine two-way conversation to achieve alignment between employee’s interests and a leader’s expectations. On one hand, leaders need to be deliberate about sharing a broader perspective on the company’s performance and focus, as well as implications for the organization.  

"On the other hand, employees should be able to express thoughts about their individual work and the role they see themselves playing in driving success. It is important to note that the more employees are given room to lead this part of the exercise, sharing not only ideas but also execution strategies, the more engaged and transparent they are likely to be."

To continually encourage employee empowerment, recognize the achievements and efforts that stemmed from it. Rewarding employees for leading and taking initiatives is a dependable coaching strategy to see those efforts mirrored around the company. That’s especially true when that recognition is made public.

When you empower employees, you create a more productive and engaged workforce capable of untangling red tape, thriving in the face of chance, and improving efficiency across teams, departments, and the entire company.

About the Author

Mike Lovett

Mike is a senior content marketing specialist at Workhuman where he writes about the next era of the workplace. Outside the workplace, he’s an avid gardener, a frequent biker, a steadily improving chef, and a fantasy sports fanatic.

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