Empowering your employees means giving them a certain degree of autonomy, along with the resources and tools they need, to make decisions that can improve your customers’ experience of doing business with you. Empowered employees can take action and control decisions about work that needs to be done, because you’re giving them ‘ownership’ over their duties and responsibilities.
Why empower your employees?
Developing empowered employees is a decision you need to make at the top to demonstrate your trust in your team’s abilities. There are numerous benefits to empowering your employees. Here are our Top 3.
1. Boost staff confidence and skills
Empowering your employees creates opportunities for them to take ownership of the work they do. Having the right tools and resources (including training) will give them the confidence to make effective decisions without needing supervision. The amount of autonomy you give your staff to set objectives and goals that align with the company’s needs creates an environment that supports personal and professional growth, and develop your business’s future managers and leaders.
2. Boost your customers’ experiences
Empowered employees benefit your customers as well. Giving your staff the power to make value-adding decisions when they’re dealing with customers helps improve streamline the process of doing business with your company. In the face of ever-increasing customer expectations, it’s vital for your staff to have the power to respond to customers needs quickly and effectively.
3. Boost efficiency through continuous improvement
Empowered employees have a say in how to improve processes and help create and manage new systems and tactics. Using a company-approved continuous improvement methodology, employees can run certain activities with less oversight from higher-level management, setting their objectives and making decisions about tasks, priorities and deadlines.
What does an empowered employee look like?
For an employee to feel empowered they must have:
- the authority to make decisions within a “limits of authority” framework relating to costs, budgets, approach to work, priorities and deadlines
- ready access to information using role-based access control, to make informed decisions appropriate to their position
- the resources and skills to help them make decisions, and carry out their tasks effectively. This includes a degree of skill in understanding the nuances of customer interactions, which comes from a combination of experience, practical training and ongoing management support.
- their manager’s and employer’s trust. Empowered employees are confident they have their employer’s trust to make decisions that will be in the company’s interest, and that their employers will support their efforts when necessary, within the established frameworks.
How to empower your employees
1. Management support
Empowering your employees may start with them, but they’ll need management’s support and leadership to make a smooth takeoff. Your employees may be nervous to start with; or they may be eager. Start by handing over authority to within boundaries you are all comfortable with. An excellent way you can show your support is by giving them access to the resources they’ll need to achieve the level of expertise they need to be successful. These might be access to training, coaching from experienced managers, workplace support, and assistance with tasks. Supervisors and managers will need help too, to learn how to best support employees in their new ’empowered’ capacity.
2. Information sharing
Being able to access the right information at the right time is critical for making good decisions. This information may take the form of the detailed procedures and processes held in your Way We Do account. It can also take the form of data others in the organisation have gathered in the course of their own work interacting with customers — information that can help improve processes and procedures other team members can follow. By giving your employees documented processes and procedures within a workflow, you’re making sure they have all the information they need to go look after your customers well, and make effective and timely decisions.
3. Less need for ‘let me ask my boss’ situations with low-level decisions
Empowering your employees to make certain decisions speeds up the process and reduces the need to revert to a supervisor or middle manager on every point. It also means delegating more responsibilities to your employees, freeing supervisors’ time to focus on other tasks. This increased decision-making authority also means your employee has the autonomy to make decisions as required based on the circumstances.
4. Create clearly defined boundaries
Being closer to your customers means your employees have a more direct knowledge of what processes work and what should be done. But giving them autonomy doesn’t mean they have complete control over all activities and decisions, or give them free reign to self govern. It comes with conditions. The responsibilities you delegate to your employees should only relate to specific tasks, and within the bounds of a clear decision framework. Any improvements your employees make or suggest are similarly bounded, and must contribute to their achieving set organizational goals and objectives.
Using Way We Do to empower your employees
As we’ve shown, successfully empowering your team means you need to give your employees access to the tools and resources they’ll need to get the job done right. Here’s how Way We Do can help.
1. Provide detailed and streamlined processes
For employees to make the right decisions, they need access to well-documented processes and procedures. A well-documented process with clear decision pathways helps your employees carry out their tasks successfully and make confident decisions when they’re dealing with customers.
Streamlined workflows also help employees identify the right tools and resources to use and when. With the right information, at the right time, your employees will be able to make quicker decisions on things that influence your business’s critical success factors. Way We Do workflows let you give your employees the processes and procedures that are instrumental to carrying on with the day-to-day, smoothly, and independently.
2. Cover training needs
The right skills and capabilities are essential for your employees — even more crucial when they have a level of decision-making autonomy. As your employees take on more responsibilities, it’s important to make sure they have the training they need to handle the added load with ease. Use Way We Do’s Activated Checklist tool to create on-the-job training modules for your business. Regular training also helps your employees better understand and cope with change, and ensures they’re adequately prepared for new tasks and responsibilities as they arise.
3. Delegate authority
The most important aspect of employee empowerment is delegating responsibility for duties and responsibilities within a clear “limits of authority” framework. Use Way We Do to create detailed role descriptions, and make sure these are readily accessible. Assign required roles to each procedure and process to make sure your employees have full visibility of what work is under their control, and what level of approval authority they have.
4. Initiate tasks with Way We Do and external integrations
Increasing employees’ responsibilities can also mean more administration and reporting work for individuals. Using the Way We Do APIs through third-party connectors Microsoft Power Automate and Zapier, you can encourage automation of specific tasks to increase productivity — for example, initiating a customer complaints resolution process when an email or complaint submission comes in.
Apart from task initiation, the integrations can also help you and your team complete tasks in other systems and populate reporting templates so your management team have the information they need to see how work is progressing. We run through some different examples of task initiation integrations on the Way We Do YouTube Channel.
Managing the employee post-approach implementation
When implemented well, employee empowerment can bring significant benefits to your staff, and to your business. Research conducted by the Havard Business Review linked employee empowerment to more robust job performance, job satisfaction and commitment to the organization. However, simply giving employees greater autonomy, or telling them about their new responsibilities doesn’t automatically yield the promised perks. You and your management team still have work to do post-implementation to make it a success. When you’re developing your empowerment framework, remember these key factors.
1. Employee empowerment is an ongoing exercise
You don’t need to give your employees full authority straight away. It can start in small scales — for example, by giving them full decision-making and planning authority on small projects. Mastery doesn’t happen immediately. Frequent activities like training, workshops, and perhaps even certifications, will help your employees grow their skills and competency levels. As they develop and progress, you can gradually assign further responsibilities to them.
2. Coaching and mentoring play a strong supporting role
Having more experienced employees coach and mentor other team members will help people ease into their new role and responsibilities. Having the support of a coach or mentor nearby will reinforce any training your staff may have had, and help them build their confidence in the role. This positive support will also help your employees feel up to any new challenges or responsibilities that come their way.
Pitfalls to avoid
Like any new approach you bring to your business, there will be a few things to watch out for as you implement your empowerment framework.
Increased information security risks
As we said earlier, one of the keys to empowering your employees is giving them access to information. This will call for a degree of trust in your staff as you make more information accessible to them, some of which may be highly sensitive. You can manage any data security risks by regularly reviewing access controls for your business’s systems and documentation and making sure they’re appropriate for each staff member.
Ignoring employee concerns and feedback
It’s important to listen to and address any concerns or feedback your employees may raise if you are to build and maintain trust in your organisation. Include those employees you’ve empowered, or a representative, in any operating decisions that involve changes to their roles and responsibilities, and make sure you implement any corrective actions appropriately. Your staff may raise concerns and issues after you’ve implemented your empowerment framework as a result of the changes you’re all making. Have a well-established change management process in place to help deal with these concerns as they come up. Good communication and trust across all levels are key to the success of your employee empowerment journey.