Empowerment in business means knowing how to "humanize" the work environment so management and employees work together to enhance productivity and achieve greater personal and professional success. An empowered company understands and appreciates that the "human factor" can add or subtract from the bottom line. Empowerment is a company-wide commitment to respect all employees as intelligent and responsible human beings.
The benefits of empowerment are many. They include higher levels of employee satisfaction, a sense of shared purpose, and greater collaboration. The overall result for the organization is to deliver enhanced value to the customer.
A 1999 survey by the National Association of Working People examined companies with high levels of employee satisfaction. The survey found that such companies were leaders in work culture attitude and in practices relating to employee empowerment. They permitted genuine control over identifying problems and creating solutions. They gave workers more responsibility for the performance and quality of their jobs. They rewarded workers for exceeding expectations, and they showed appreciation for work that was done. Employees were given flexible work schedules and in some cases allowed to set their own objectives. In addition, these companies typically provided recreational and leisure facilities for employees.
Empowerment is an entire company mind-set for successfully doing business in a global marketplace. Businesses began asking: What exactly is an empowered workplace? And, how do we know when we have achieved an empowered workforce?
Highly successful companies encourage team members to work together for the betterment of the whole company. A commitment to empowerment influences and nurtures individuals to become active participants in the successes and challenges of the entire company. So, empowerment is both an individual and a team effort.
An empowered company begins with self-empowerment. Owners and managers cannot empower others to perform their best until they are empowered themselves. Empowered management begins by hiring leaders who possess healthy self-esteem, superior people skills, and the willingness to share expertise to bring out the best in employees. Empowerment is a skill and can be learned. Managers can begin by reading empowering materials; attending seminars and workshops aimed at the "whole person"; taking time to rejuvenate their own mind, body, and spirit; learning to manage time and energy effectively; and participating in empowerment training. Effective management teams must have a firm grasp on the latest business techniques as well as an understanding of the importance of human potential and high self-esteem.
Promoting and maintaining consistently high self-esteem in managers and employees is a vital ingredient to a highly empowered workforce. High self-esteem within the company is achieved by encouraging creativity, individuality, problem solving, and an open and honest exchange of ideas among all the employees in a non-threatening environment. The opposite of an empowered workforce is one riddled with negativity, low morale, and a distrust of management. A unempowered workforce is an unproductive workforce.
Empowerment involves a company-wide program based on promoting well-defined company goals, high morale, fairness, recognition, teamwork, active participation, extensive communication, and a purposeful working environment. Empowerment is a total commitment to doing business in a productive and positive manner.
Managers and workers have the basic need to feel they are contributing and making a difference. Employees who consistently feel enthusiastic about what they are doing, do a good job. An empowered company encourages employees to actively look out for and solve problems. The main benefit to the empowered company is quality improvement. Empowered workers feel responsible for the industry reputation and consumer perception of their company. Empowered employees take pride in their work.
An empowered management team does not manage by iron-fisted control. Successful managers promote an environment of sharing, openness, growth, and reward. The morale and productivity of a workforce are a direct reflection of the attitudes and values of the management team.
Empowerment also requires flexibility. Adaptability is vital to implementing any empowerment program. Employees will quickly lose enthusiasm and interest if a program is inflexible, threatening, or unworkable.
Promoting a sense of importance and fair play is as important to success as any business plan or marketing campaign. Business success begins with each individual in the company, and empowerment begins by empowering everyone who can contribute to the success of the business. If employees have low self-esteem and a bad attitude, the company suffers. Since a company is known by the attitude of its employees, the impression of company competency expressed to the outside world begins with the image displayed by each employee.
Empowerment training benefits everyone in an organization. When employees feel good about themselves, they want to share their enthusiasm by helping the business succeed. An overall positive employee attitude minimizes infighting and back-stabbing and keeps morale consistently high. Empowerment in the workplace involves empowering workers with the skills and self-confidence they need to achieve their personal and professional best.
An empowered company begins with empowered management, so empowerment training should begin at the top. Lasting empowerment is a process of building trusting relationships and partnerships between management, employees, and customers.
Education, training, and positive reinforcement are critical to the success of any empowerment program. Part of building trust between employees and management is giving workers the tools they need to make an empowerment program successful. An effective empowerment program requires a sincere commitment to learn and assimilate new professional, personal, and technical skills. Empowerment includes self-development opportunities such as seminars and tape programs. A library of empowering resources is a valuable and positive resource that a company should not overlook.
Valuing the opinions and ideas of every employee is another foundation of empowerment. Workers should be encouraged to fine-tune problem-solving skills. Learning to problem-solve often involves trial and error. Patience and encouragement by management will produce a quality-conscious, self-sufficient workforce.
Being a valued part of work teams is what empowerment is all about. Management and employees must work together to develop a common vision and compatible goals. Employees at all levels want to feel respected and valued. Working as a team to make the company's vision a reality encourages worker involvement and mutual respect and trust.
Employees want clear, consistent goals and direction. In today's competitive business world, most companies offer decent wages and working conditions. An empowered company adds trust, respect, education, and positive direction to their list of benefits. They reward a job well done by providing for intellectual and emotional growth. They know how to make all the employees part of the company's successes, as well as partners in facing its challenges.
Empowered companies have a strong corporate sense of community. A feeling of belonging to a corporate community is important. The lines of communication must be well defined and open. Extensive and honest communication may even help employees do their job better. Fear of the unknown can be demoralizing and destructive.
An empowered environment encourages the best from all the team members. By providing empowerment opportunities, the company in return has a right to expect the employees to work smart and commit themselves to bettering their jobs and themselves. No one in an empowered company should be unproductive. When people find their work rewarding, they work harder and smarter. Empowerment encourages job satisfaction to become a top priority.
Empowerment does not happen overnight. It takes time to see the results of empowerment training. A belief that employees want to do a good job is essential. Working with individuals to set professional goals will enhance the empowerment process. People will generally set higher goals for themselves than management would set for them. Empowerment involves management taking a proactive approach toward soliciting suggestions and ideas. Workers have many valuable time-management and money-saving ideas. Most people are willing to share their observations and thoughts if they feel safe enough to do so. Management must nurture an environment in which employees are encouraged to use their own judgment and common sense.
An empowered environment is reflected in the overall attitude, production level, customer satisfaction, and profitability of a company. Top management has the responsibility of setting the tone for lasting empowerment. Empowerment is more than a buzz-word, it is a commitment to the entire company working together as a team. Management and employees must open the lines of communication to efficiently and effectively empower one another to greater success. Empowerment in business is built on a trusting, competent relationship between management and employees and between employees and customers.
[ Sharon A. Michaels ,
updated by David P Bianco ]
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