Introduction 

Employee empowerment is a business strategy where employees are provided a level of autonomy to make decisions with tangible impact over processes and quality standards within their assigned roles. Empowered workers have a clear and explicit control and responsibility to effectively carry out their day-to-day business tasks, without excessive supervisory overreach, and empowered to participate as a valued contributor, to organizational improvement and change initiatives.

Empowerment is not abdication. It needs to be a commonsense component of the business strategy and be relevant and practical to individual employee’s job assignments. Empowerment also needs to be deeply rooted within an organization’s culture and personality that continually: challenges, encourages, motivates and incentivizes employees to be answerable for the outcome of their work product, most nobly the solving of complex problems with appropriate supporting decisions.

The traditional command and organizational control structure are dated and being changed and enhanced with an improved team-based collaborative structure supported with highly responsive and rapid decision-making. Empowered workers have proven to be more productive and inclined to perform at a higher value level when measured against those working in traditional settings.

There is no silver bullet! Successfully empowered organizations require changes to people, processes, and products. Empowerment is not a program, so much as a pervasive style of leadership.

The current economy is demanding a higher velocity of sustained innovation with the continual introduction of new and innovative technology and work practices to maintain or obtain a competitive advantage. Accordingly, genuine and long-lasting organizational transformation, cannot involve merely executives and managers, but must also incorporate the active participation of vital non-managerial employees working in a total cooperative manner!

“An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.”
Stephen Covey

Why Empowerment?

Today, the most valuable and least replicated competitive advantage is a business with a smart, collaborative, skilled, and experienced workforce! We live and work in a global marketplace in which competitors quickly imitate successful business models, technology, products, and processes. Thus the playing field is continuously leveled anew with the frequent changes in emerging technology, disruptive market conditions, and evolving customer purchase decisions.

In this business environment, it is imperative that successful businesses have the commitment and resolution to continual manage, enrich, and leverage the energies and talents of their workforce as a non-replicated competitive strategic advantage.

The benefits of a successful empowerment-focused organization include:

  • Improve Productivity – Decrease Cost: streamlined processes are highly productive as they require fewer employees to direct, check, supervise, monitor, coordinate work activities.
  • Improve Quality and Service: high-performance work standards, measures, and quality requirements are built-in and reinforced at the process work source.
  • Improve Decision-making: empowered people respond more quickly with appropriate decisions and plans to resolve process and customer problems and capitalize on opportunities. Employees unfettered with the bureaucracy drag will address issues and exploit opportunities with impressive speed and quality.
“Research has regularly demonstrated that when employees feel empowered at work, it is associated with stronger job performance, job satisfaction, and commitment to the organization.”
Harvard Business Review, 2018

The Empowered Organization

Empowered organizations characteristically have four distinct elements:

  1. Limited Span of Control: It is difficult to feel empowered with excessive levels of hovering management control. Productive organizations avoid unnecessary and redundant management and reporting levels.
  2. Inverted Organization: In the traditional view, management is at the top while customers are on the bottom; in an empowered environment, customers are at the top while management is in a support role at the bottom.
  3. Decentralized Control: A large, cumbersome, and centralized organization is unlikely to create a positive empowerment setting where employees feel free to share power, take risks, and improve the work environment.
  4. Process-based Structure: Functional based organizations discourage quick cross-division and cross-border problem resolution. Business silos tend to be problematic for workers to reach across the silos to work together successfully. Aligning the organization’s structure with the core business processes helps break down unnecessary functional barriers, streamline the work activities, and free employees to work collaboratively.
“Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level.”
Peter Drucker

    Empowerment and Customer Service

    The empowerment of employees leads to superior customer service by providing employees the ability to make ‘on the spot’ decisions while engaged in time-sensitive customer situations, without lengthy delays and difficulties. Empowering employees to increase productivity and process quality and effectiveness with a focus on:

    • Obsession for high quality and responsive customer service.
    • Improvement of the customer experience.
    • Promote the brand in all customer interactions.
    • Solve customer service issues and improve customer loyalty.
    • Incessant training and knowledge-building to continually improve customer service, problem-solving, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills.

    Although the mainstream of employees like working with customers and derive fulfillment from helping them, many feel that their organizations create superfluous barriers to properly serving customers.

    Empowered Organizations: Critical Success Factors (CSFs)

    The CSFs for successful set-up and maintenance of a proactive organization include:

    • Long-term Commitment: empowerment is viewed by executives, managers, supervisors, and employees as a mission-critical component of the organization’s long-term business model and strategy.
    • Employee Expectations Buy-In: employees at all levels understand and accept the positive values and associated benefits of empowerment and impact on their and colleagues roles and responsibilities.
    • Executive ‘Walk the Talk’: executives lead by example and continually demonstrate that employee empowerment is a critical element of the corporate culture and a driver of market success.

    Empowerment Program Set-up Checklist

    The empowerment program set-up activities are as follows:

    1. Prepare Empowerment Program Charter and Goals.
    2. Quantify Empowerment Business Case.
    3. Conduct business process streamlining analysis.
    4. Conduct business process decision points and supporting information analysis.
    5. Identify decision-making authority changes.
    6. Identify process restructuring changes.
    7. Perform strategic alignment analysis for process and decision-making authority changes.
    8. Identify and assess potential operational and financial risks; create a Mitigation Plan on identified high-potential risks.
    9. Create supporting performance metrics and measures.
    10. Develop Empowerment Communications and Support Plans for promotion, launch, training, and ongoing support.
    11. Create Empowerment Implementation Program Plan.

    The Way Forward

    Knowledge Compass consultants successfully help clients create, set-up and manage employee empowerment programs that assimilate with corporate culture and strategy, thereby motivating and encouraging employees to  ‘live the brand’ and continually improve productivity and profitability.

    Knowledge Compass provides consulting services with the use of an array of Frameworks, Analyses Tools, and Interactions from their Best Practices Consultant Toolbox.