How do you empower employees? A business or team can only be as successful as the sum of its parts. There are several companies with effective leaders that struggle with employee turnover or poor performance. According to one Gallup poll, 24 percent of employees who aren’t in a leadership or management role feel disconnected from the company or team. This can decrease employee satisfaction, which significantly affects performance; if employees no longer care about their job, why would they care about doing it well?
Why you need to empower employees
Employees are craving empowerment. You need to empower employees to do their best work and make them an integral part of your company. By doing so, you will see improvements in disengagement, and in turn, boost performance. Here are a few ways to empower employees to do their best work:
1. Challenge your employees (within reason)
To avoid employees becoming bored or stagnant with their duties or roles, set goals. This helps to push them past their comfort zone and realize their potential. The goal is to set the bar high, but not too high—the goals should be attainable, yet still challenging to reach.
To set goals that empower your employees, keep these seven tips in mind:
- Align goals with company objectives.
- Allow employees to identify their own job-specific goals.
- Use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Time-based) rule.
- Make them attainable.
- Keep goals between employees consistent.
- Reward those who achieve their goals.
- Work closely with those who miss the mark.
All of these tips allow you to use goals as a way to empower employees. They’ll just need a little guidance along the way.
2. Define opportunities for upward mobility
No employee wants to be stuck in a dead-end job. If your staff feels there is no opportunity to advance in your company, they’ll seek opportunities to do so elsewhere. Be transparent and communicative about how staff members can earn more money, take on a bigger role, or advance in leadership.
“Even in the best-case scenario where managers are holding regular performance reviews with their employee, employees often don’t understand how to move either horizontally or vertically in an organization,” according to Louis Efron from Forbes. He continues, “But, for any employee that is worth retaining, a manager must make clear to them how and where they can move forward on their career path.”
In many cases, there may not be a clear trajectory for an employee within a company. In this case, uncover employees’ strengths, desires, and interests to see how they can take a larger role within the organization. When they know there’s room for growth, they’re empowered to get to that next level.
3. Encourage open communication
Do you have an open-door policy in your office? Do your staff members know that they can talk to you or other managers when they have questions, ideas or concerns? It’s important that your staff members feel their input matters instead of a dividing line between management and lower-level employees.
"When employees feel they can communicate freely with their leaders and each other, they’re more likely to feel valued, satisfied and motivated at work,” according to experts from The Office Club. “Finding a boss who eagerly listens to questions or concerns is harder than you think, so make your company and leadership style stand out with effective communication.
To encourage open communication, give employees the opportunity to share feedback on big, company-wide projects. Don’t forget to include every team whenever possible and use monthly meetings to remind employees about where they fit within the greater scheme of things. When they see how their work is having an impact, they’re empowered to do more.
4. Offer praise and recognize strengths
While employees should be intrinsically motivated to do a good job, there still needs to be an aspect of humanity involved in the workplace. In short, workers need frequent feedback and praise. They want to know their efforts are appreciated and that their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.
You may think you don’t have the budget for this, but praise and recognition doesn’t necessarily mean monetary rewards. There are countless ways to recognize your employees for a job well done, including:
- Regular verbal praise
- “Shout outs” (flyers, cards or emails)
- Activity-based rewards
- Small gift cards for coffee, food or other items
- Half-day at work
Be specific in your praise, this will help employees identify what it is they bring to the table; when they realize they’re good at something, they’re empowered to do more of it because they know they can make a difference.
5. Promote vacation time and work-life balance
Even the most dedicated employee gets burnt out if he or she doesn’t have a work-life balance. Happy employees are both career-oriented, and dedicated to their life outside of the office. When you let them have time for the things that are important to them, they’ll have more focus and energy during the time they spend at work.
“Your employees will actually be more productive and better at their jobs if they are well-rested and rejuvenated,” says Peter Daisyme, of Business.com. He continues, “You don’t have to mandate full weeks off at a time, but you should foster an environment where a long weekend here and there is not only tolerated but actively supported.”
When you’re sympathetic to their needs and circumstances, they’ll be more willing to work hard. You show appreciation to employees and in turn, empower them to do the same.
Empower employees to work harder and, in turn, you will see improvements across the entire company including retention—it's a win-win for everyone.
For more information on how you can empower employees to survive the most daunting corporate difficulties, such as massive change, check out this blog post on Staying Engaged During Corporate Change.