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Empowerment is Great, But Make Sure You Have These Things First

By Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Empowerment removes barriers to unleash employee motivation. For it to work, there needs to be a strong foundation of culture, recognition, and aligned incentives.

Empowerment is a great idea that essentially has the organization getting out of an employee’s way- removing barriers, increasing motivation and productivity. But it can be tricky to implement effectively across all employees. As I write in a recent post on Compensation Café:

Without the appropriate scaffolding, however, many of these improvements can reveal shaky foundations rather than allow the company to build upwards.
As structure is removed, companies need to make sure that elements are in place to continue supporting employee performance, things like culture, recognition, and aligned incentives. Supported by these foundational elements that reinforce desired behaviors, empowerment can become an effective strategy in improving performance across the board.

If empowerment is the removal of burdensome structures or practices, organizations need to have other elements in place to guide and drive employee performance. While top-performing employees tend to be more aligned to these elements already (and removing barriers does increase performance), others may rely more on structures than they realize. Simply removing them without providing direction may actually result in few of the performance benefits for a large portion of the workforce.

The solution? A combination of a mission-driven culture, recognition that is tied to core values, and a balanced rewards portfolio. These practices signal to employees what performance looks like and how it can be achieved, aligning behavior while increasing motivation across different levels of performers. Organizations that empower their employees against the backdrop of strong cultural and recognition scaffolding will be better positioned to reap the benefits of “unleashed” motivation.

Does your organization empower you? If so, what helps you to be as effective as you can be?