Workplace happiness depends on leaders who know how to empower employees. “The Arrival of the People-First Workplace” has begun, according to a recent PSFK editorial round-table.
“It’s high time for all companies — whether operating in a converted loft or from the top floor of a Midtown skyscraper — to adopt a people-first workplace. Or, as our report tells it, ‘corporations run the risk of fragmenting internally if they continue to separate employees from the high-value service they provide customers,'” PSFK’s Bogar Alonso writes.
A big part of putting people first is empowering employees to do their best work possible. And the organizational payoffs are big. TalentCulture calls employee empowerment “a powerful strategy” toward workplace happiness and growth: “Used properly it can energize a company’s culture, increase profitability and positively impact the customer experience.”
Yet, as TalentCulture and other workplace experts point out, too many organizations are missing the chance to empower employees adequately. Read on to find out why, and how empowering employees builds lasting workplace happiness.
What Is Employee Empowerment?
“Empowerment in the workplace is an often-misunderstood concept,” writes Anthony L. Emerson for Credit Union Times. “Employee empowerment is a term that many managers and organizations think they understand, but few actually do, and even fewer really put into practice.”
Many managers assume that empowering employees in effect steals away their own power, making it difficult for them to lead and control effectively. But this is not the case.
“Empowerment is actually a culmination of many of the ideas and tenets of employee satisfaction,” Emerson writes. And, perhaps counterintuitively, “companies that seek to empower employees demand stronger leadership and accountability.”
Employee empowerment isn’t a grab for power over the organization but a sharing of information, resources and tools that make it easier for employees to act on the company values set forth by leaders. Employees feel empowered to make their own decisions and do their best work.
“At its core, empowerment is about giving employees the freedom and authority to adapt and respond in real-time with solutions that help the customer,” TalentCulture’s Adam Toporek writes.
The benefits of employee empowerment are often most visible in customer-service environments.
“Many of the greatest customer-experience brands are known for their empowerment,” Toporek writes. “Ritz-Carlton famously empowers its employees to spend up to $2,000 to make a customer happy, and you’ll likely never find a Starbucks barista who’s not empowered to give you a free drink or coupon if you have a service issue.”
The risk that an employee “might give away too much pales in comparison to the potential loss of a customer.”
Employees who are empowered to keep customers happy as they see fit takes a burden off managers, who can then focus their time on big-picture issues and strategy. Besides, no customer wants to hear a front-line customer service rep say, “I can’t do that for you. I’ll have to check with my manager and get back to you.”
But employee empowerment isn’t just for retail or other customer service jobs! Empowered employees in any industry are more productive, creative, innovative and committed.
How Employee Empowerment Leads to Workplace Happiness
Why does the people-first, employee-empowerment method work so well?
The key is communication. How your organization implements employee empowerment can depend greatly on industry, culture and size. However, communication is the common theme.
“Companies committed to employee empowerment provide more information in greater detail than the average company,” Emerson writes for Credit Union Times.
In the empowered workplace, employees are better informed. And because they’re better informed, they understand their role in the company better, they understand how to do their jobs better and — most importantly — they feel part of something bigger. That feeling of connection motivates the empowered employee.
Secondly, the empowered workplace treats communication as a two-way avenue for discussion. Employees feel valued when their input is welcomed and heard.
Finally, the communication is accompanied by practical options for action. This could mean:
- tools for solving simple customer issues without manager input
- flexible scheduling
- involvement in hiring decisions
- inclusion in social media promotions
This is the bedrock for workplace happiness: a company that motivates employees by making the work more meaningful and relevant to them. And because it’s based on a company-wide cultural shift, the benefits are lasting.
In the words of Steve Jobs, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”
You Can’t Empower Employees Without Gratitude!
Employee empowerment doesn’t happen without gratitude. Part of the communication key to empowering employees is expressing your appreciation for their hard work.
This isn’t as simple as handing out compliments. Gratitude goes deeper and creates a bond. Gratitude lets employees know why their work matters.
Learn more in our free eBook, “Transform Your Workplace With Gratitude,” full of practical tips that you can put to use starting today! Learn from positive psychology and leadership experts how to grow and sustain a workplace culture of gratitude that attracts employees and customers alike.
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