Empowerment is the degree of autonomy and self-determination a person or a community holds within themselves. Empowerment enables people to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way; acting on their own authority. Empowerment enables humans to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence, and to recognize and use their resources.
When does empowerment work and when does it not? Many leaders often try to empower their employees by delegating authority and decision-making, sharing information, and asking for their input. A recent meta-analysis of 105 studies on this “empowering” leadership style found that it works best in motivating certain types of performance and certain types of employees. Studies show that empowering leaders are much more effective at influencing employee creativity and citizenship behavior (behavior that is not formally recognized or rewarded like helping coworkers or attending work functions that aren’t mandatory) than routine task performance.
When leaders empower their employees, they are also more likely to be trusted by their subordinates, compared to leaders who do not empower their employees. Another outcomes from this study shows that leaders who empowered employees were more effective at influencing employee performance in Eastern, compared to Western, cultures, and they had a more positive impact on employees who had less experience working in their organizations.
"Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders," explained psychologist and leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio in an article for Psychology Today.
What does employee empowerment look like in the workplace? Many agree that it’s a great way to improve employee engagement and retain your top talent. Allowing employees to take on leadership roles yields high impact, self-value and long-term positive effects on the company and individual. When companies provide employees with enough support individually and professionally, they also integrate employees more closely into the company mission. Below is a visual on what employee empowerment may look like in a workplace:
Below please are some alarming workplace stats that show the importance of employee empowerment:
It is no secret that employee empowerment has many benefits. Employers witness better business performance, outcomes, and stronger core company values. Company values play a critical role in talent attraction: 46% of job seekers cite company culture as very important when choosing to apply to a company. To hire the "right talent", you need to define the company values you stand for and make sure that the candidate you're about to hire shares the same values. Building a strong business starts with building a company culture that reflects your core values. Your company values are your company's DNA and they help you differentiate your business from the competition. That's why you can't make any important business decisions without having them in mind.
However, having company values doesn't mean having a polished communication plan around nice values and principles. You have to truly honor your company values in everything you do and set the right example for your employees. It's the only way you can build trust in the workplace. Don't ask your employees to follow the company values you've set for your business if you don't follow and integrate them into your daily work in the first place. Your leadership and communication skills have a direct impact on your ability to motivate, support and inspire your employees. This is why transformational leadership has become so important and a part of the employee empowerment matrix.
When it comes to empowerment in the workplace, it's all about communicating the right messages to the right employees at the right time and in the right way. Today, employees expect full transparency from their leaders. Otherwise, employees lose trust in their leaders and employers. Unfortunately, research shows that there is a big transparency gap in organizations. Only 18% of leaders believe they have a transparent and open model; 37% of them are worried about their ability to create trust, 60% of them are worried about workers’ perception of transparency, and 27% of them believed that there is a competitive disadvantage due to a lack of transparency.
There are different leadership styles and models among which transformational and transactional leadership styles are well known. In contrast to transformational leadership, transactional leadership is based on the use of rewards and punishments in order to motivate employees and get their compliance. On the other hand, transformational leadership redesigns the entire workplace experience, the perceptions of organizational values, and it drives employees' motivation and engagement through inspiration and authenticity.
Hot trends in corporate culture and management technique evolve from decade to decade, often in alignment with prevailing social trends. Personal responsibility and self-awareness are key. Empowerment is all about balance and surrounding yourself amongst good people.
The best leaders surround themselves with people they don’t have to manage. At some point, the ability to thrive in an empowered workplace is a genetic trait. The job of any leader is to try and identify the right people early on. It isn’t easy, but no one ever said leadership was easy. Employee empowerment is the global buzzword at the moment. Empowering employees can help an organization in many ways.
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill