Having a productive, respectful, and overall positive work environment is the goal that most bosses and employees strive for.
However, achieving this goes beyond just wanting it, and it takes plenty of effort just to get to a point of empowerment at work.
That’s what I want to focus on in today’s article. How do we empower people to do their best and be comfortable with who they are while at work? How can we go beyond just being respectful of one another to actively boosting each other up in a mutually-supportive environment? How do we go about maintaining that supportive environment, even during difficult times?
What Does Empowerment at Work Look Like?
Empowered employees feel comfortable setting their own goals and working both autonomously and collaboratively. They are confident enough to create their schedule and get all of their work done when they say they will.
Empowerment goes beyond this, though. It means that employees feel safe enough to take their own directions, when appropriate. They don’t live in fear of being reprimanded or rejected. They take pride in their work, because they see (and are constantly reminded of) the value in it.
Because they experience positive effects, empowered employees are likely to be more productive and loyal. When asked about the most important factor when dealing with a problem or opportunity at work, 70% of employees agreed that empowerment was the key.
1. Delegate Tasks
Trust between managers and employees is critical to empowerment at work.
Trusting employees to tackle new assignments, even ones that are out of their comfort zones, prevents complacency. Having room for growth, employees will not look for a new job.
Try to give people new assignments to take on. Be sure that it’s something they will be able to accomplish, given their skillset and other projects. However, don’t be afraid to push them ever so slightly out of their normal wheelhouse.
2. Encourage Creative Thinking
When people pitch ideas, are they often rejected right away? Are employees afraid to speak up during brainstorming sessions out of fear of being ridiculed? If so, your workplace is stifling the creativity of its employees.
When there’s a problem that needs to be solved, there are often no perfect answers. Employees should feel comfortable bouncing ideas off of one another and building on each other’s thoughts.
Adopting a “yes, and” approach to creative thinking will also help employees feel like their voices are heard and their ideas are valued.
3. Give People the Keys to Success
Empowered individuals are not only able to set their own goals and timeline, they also know the resources they need to be successful.
An empowered worker feels comfortable asking for those resources and having an open dialogue if they aren’t getting the support and materials that they need to be successful. An empowering leader is able and willing to provide those resources.
4. Set Expectations and Hold Others Accountable
In order for employees to successfully set their own goals and schedules, they need to have a set of guidelines to adhere by to ensure that they don’t abuse the freedom. Furthermore, employees actually have to do what they say they’re going to.
Managers should agree with them on a set of expectations (based on the guidelines) in the time allotted, and expect regular updates with key indicators of success.
5. Encourage Flexibility
Empowering employees to take on more autonomy will make more room for mistakes.
This is, however, not necessarily a bad thing. If mistakes do arise, it’s important for team members and management to be flexible and probing, rather than point fingers.
There are certainly non-negotiable expectations, and employees shouldn’t make a habit of making careless errors. Nonetheless, working without constant performance anxiety will help individuals improve their work.
Making Empowerment Sustainable
It might take some time for this idea of empowerment to take hold. Making sure that nobody becomes apathetic, particularly during difficult periods, is the first step.
If you are planning on encouraging more empowerment at work, clearly communicate guidelines, expectations, and values. It is helpful to have them spelled out and placed where all employees can see them.
A certain level of patience is needed to overcome the natural resistance to the culture shift. Growing can be difficult and painful.
Empowerment is a powerful tool to create a more productive work environment, as well as a better culture. It helps employees reach their potential and feel emotionally safe as they come to work each day.
If you are considering a culture shift toward empowerment, I would be happy to have a conversation with you. Schedule a meeting with me for actionable advice and guidance as you take your next steps.