Empowerment is the tool when it comes to motivating employees in the long term. In times of advancing digitization, it is the key to long-term success for companies. Read here how empowerment works as an integral part of corporate culture and which 7 steps on the way to more empowerment help your employees to surpass themselves.
The world is changing – and the way we work and live with it. With technological progress, new technologies, products, services, business models and even entire markets are emerging at an unprecedented rate. The barriers to market entry for new players are also becoming ever lower as a result of digitization . Customers have a greater choice of alternatives. This means that the competitive pressure is constantly increasing. In addition, work content and processes are becoming more and more dynamic and complex in many industries . At the same time, customer needs are changing faster and faster. Customers today have very different needs than they did a decade ago. This in turn leads to corporate employee commitment is becoming increasingly important.
This development presents management and executives with the task of making their own employees fit for digital change. Because as a corporate value, it is above all the employees who are required to contribute not only their work performance to the company. They should also identify with the company comprehensively, use social and emotional skills and act as independent and assertive “entrepreneurial personalities”. Because due to the ever-increasing competitive pressure, the customer centricity perspective also comes into play more and more into focus. A few years ago it was a strategic success factor for individual service companies, but it is now part of the survival strategy of entire industries. Today’s customers no longer want to struggle through hierarchical structures. He wants a solution to the problem – preferably immediately. Otherwise, he suddenly switches to the competition. Entrepreneurial thinking and acting, however, cannot be prescribed by instruction. It develops in connection with the extended autonomy of the employees. In this way, they can develop greater competence to act. But how are employees motivated in the long term to achieve extraordinary things and not get caught up in the daily grind? This is where empowerment comes in.
What is employee empowerment? And what is it for?
As an extrinsic employee motivation, money only contributes to a certain extent to job satisfaction. Rather, it is intrinsic motivation that drives employees . Empowerment to motivate employees to perform is not a new concept. Its roots go back to the 1920s, when the Hawthorne experimentat Westinghouse proved that when people get enough recognition for their work, employee productivity increases. With the advent of the management concept of empowerment in corporate cultures, productivity increases through employee participation and personal responsibility. Driven primarily by the start-up scene, empowerment is now also increasingly found in corporations. It is considered an important investment for the future and the key to long-term business success .
The term “empowerment” means empowering individuals or entire teams to do something or authorizing them to do something. Empowerment aims to equip employees with new skills and responsibilities. The aim is to make better use of human skills to survive in the increasingly dynamic corporate world.
Empowerment consists of four skills:
- Employees are given greater scope for action and decision-making. Various measures are taken to make this possible
- equipped with the necessary information
- improvement of the relevant qualification
- Incentive systems to induce employees to use the scope for action and decision-making and to make expedient decisions
The 3 keys to more empowerment:
“Autonomy” means making independent decisions and assuming responsibility. They are decisive for the drive of the employee. With the help of their own information and the knowledge of their superiors, the employee is given the freedom to make their own decisions.
“Mastery” means that people strive for self-efficacy, which motivates them to further develop their own skills and contribute them in a goal-oriented manner. It describes the feeling of being very good at what you do.
“Purpose” means that employees need a vision, goal or reason in and for their daily work practice. In particular, the meaningfulness or benefit of an activity motivates employees to perform at their best. Much more than is possible with extrinsic incentives like money.
What are the benefits of employee empowerment?
- Empowered employees see more meaning in their work (and therefore also in their lives) because they identify better with the company and their tasks
- They are more willing to put their best ideas into action and improve their workspace
- Internal synergy effects sustainably promote employee motivation
- Employees become entrepreneurs of their own company
- Breeding ground for innovation and inventiveness
- Accelerated decisions
- Lean internal and external processes
- Concentrated employee and team knowledge
- Independent employees and teams. Empowered teams achieve more than individuals
- Strengthens the cohesion and creativity of your own team
- Positive change in how managers treat their employees
- Enables the greatest possible identification with the vision of the company
- Promotes social and emotional skills
- Dismantles traditional and hierarchical structures and is therefore also considered to be the driving force behind the transformation to a digital company
- Hierarchies are replaced by self-thinking and self-acting employees and teams
How can empowerment be implemented in the company?
If employees are to increasingly decide and act for themselves, they must first be empowered to do so. These are the 7 most important steps on the way to more empowerment in the company:
Step 1: Lead by example
If empowerment does not start at the top of the company, the strategy will lead nowhere. Management and executives are required to promote the framework conditions for empowerment. They have to learn and internalize how they will have to deal with employees in the future. This includes setting a clear vision and direction of where the journey should go. You should signal to your employees that they are doing the right thing.
Step 2: Gradually hand over more responsibility
It is probably naïve to believe that every employee strives for more autonomy and self-determination. As promising as the management concept of the empowered employee sounds, in many cases it can also overwhelm employees. Therefore, gradually give your employees more responsibility. After all, it doesn’t always have to be the management of a milestone project. The following questions will help:
- How can my employees take on more responsibility?
- What does this responsibility look like?
- How much can I trust my employees?
- What about the wishes and expectations of my employees?
Step 3: Establish transparency, openness and communication of information at eye level and break down hierarchies
Employees who are not informed cannot act responsibly. Therefore, think and design the flow of information transparently. Leave out traditional, hierarchical structures. Establish knowledge management that does not accumulate knowledge at the top level, but passes it on to the base. When everyone gets the same information, it also fosters trust across the organization. Comprehensive information such as B. about corporate vision, profit and market shares, enable employees to understand the strategies and actions of the company and to align their own actions accordingly.
Step 4: Create autonomy through differentiation
Once employees are armed with the information they need, the new way of working needs to be defined. Here it is important to steer tasks, responsibilities and skills in a certain direction by delimiting them and to integrate them into the overall picture of the company . The aim is for each individual to recognize who and with what role, where and how their own performance contributes to shaping the overall picture of the company . The new autonomy and clear demarcation within the company promotes structures and processes that empower employees.
Step 5: Establish an open feedback and a positive error culture
You will notice that every employee deals differently with the new, empowered situation. For this reason, the constant exchange of workflows, structures and processes is important. It not only creates mutual trust and a shared sense of achievement . Regular exchange also prevents or even eliminates dissatisfaction and excessive demands. Anyone who establishes a corporate culture also needs an environment in which constructive feedback and open and transparent handling of errors is possible.
Step 6: Enable flexible working conditions and freedom for further development
Do employees have the opportunity to deal with relevant topics outside of their usual work environment in addition to their daily workload, such as in the context of further training, an event or hackathons. Regardless of whether in the company or externally – this can develop into an important breeding ground for new ideas, innovation and motivation . Flexible working models should also be part of the corporate culture in the spirit of employee motivation. Especially with Generation Z entering the labor market, home office, remote work or sabbaticals are becoming increasingly important in order to meet the needs of employees and to motivate and retain them in the long term. A ll of this serves the long-term success of the company.
Step 7: Encourage your employees to step out of their comfort zone
Empowerment can inhibit one or the other in his work. Your own fear of negative experiences or failure can be too great. Entrepreneurial thinking and acting then falls by the wayside, as does personal employee development. This needs to be overcome by giving employees support to step out of their comfort zone and break through boundaries. On the one hand, this requires tact on the part of executives. Constant dialogue and dealing with the individual needs of employees are also important. Therefore, establish a corporate culture that encourages your workforce to constantly face new challenges and ensure that they can master these new challenges equally.
Employee empowerment does not work overnight. In particular, it requires the willingness of management and executives to engage in new ways of thinking and working. Those who can let go and give employees and entire teams enough space to work independently and make decisions will be comprehensively rewarded in the end. Employees can become entrepreneurs in their own company. But don’t worry: you don’t need to fear your role as a manager. On the contrary, you will become even more visible as a boss. After all, you now have more time and space for essential managerial tasks.