Powering Workforce Experience (Wx) through Empowerment
Employee empowerment is the clarity and the intent among an organization’s leaders to allow people to take more ownership and accountability of their work. Various research studies highlight that empowered employees deliver better performance, have higher job engagement, and tend to stay longer in their organizations.
Leaders are instrumental in creating a sense of empowerment and autonomy and enabling people to take charge of their careers. They share control and allow team members to flourish. Some of the things great leaders do to enable and empower teams are:
1. Set clear expectations: They convey the precise outcomes needed for success and engage in open dialog about obstacles foreseen and any challenges that may be encountered. They seek candid input about the complexity of goals and make it possible for people to safely discuss pitfalls and gaps in the proposed approach. Netflix’s HR manual is legendary, because of it simplicity and clarity. Instead of wrapping people up in layers of bureaucracy, by clearly setting expectations to ‘act in Netflix’s best interests’, the organization is able to let people work better and faster.
2. Delegate to develop: They yield control and ownership to people, while allowing opportunities to fail and acting as a safety net. Trust in people’s abilities to be in the driving seat is key. However, much like a driving instructor, they don’t actually drive. They simply sit alongside, providing corrective feedback and ensure that the person in the driving seat safely navigates to the destination. Companies such as Disney allow their ‘cast members’ a great deal of autonomy in ensuring that every touchpoint for a customer is magical.
3. Enable innovative pursuits: Much like Google’s 80:20, where employees are encouraged to devote 20% of their time to innovative personal projects of their own choosing, great leaders encourage people to think of the future. Their vision leads them to not only think of future opportunities, but also to enable their people to participate in building it. 3M earns about 3000 patents every year, simply by encouraging employees to devote 15% of their time to projects outside the scope of their daily jobs.
4. Provide mentoring: They provide all the necessary resources to make people succeed, and continue to guide and mentor their teams. They provide credit for success and accept responsibility for failures and ensure that people don’t feel like they are being thrown under the bus for failing. Bain and Company has a mentor assigned to each of its consulting staff, and has been able to significantly improve upon inclusion and diversity at the workplace, as a result. As a leader, it can be difficult to give up the sense of control, especially if a team member is not seen to be 100% ready. However, even if someone seems to be 70-80% equipped to do a job, it is worth empowering them to take over and continue to groom them to improve.
The larger goal of empowerment is to free up your own bandwidth and allow you to take up bigger challenges as well, making it a win-win for the organization, your people, and you.