If one were to begin defining empowerment in the workplace, one could start with looking at bees. Bees’ highly decentralised form of government allows the worker bees, who are closest to the information, to act upon it immediately and make the most informed decisions, instead of returning to the colony for the queen bee to make a decision. Bees understand that the queen bee is not always in the best position to make a decision because she usually spends her entire life inside the hive and has limited knowledge of the outside world.
Employee empowerment can be defined in a number of ways. We define employee empowerment as, when you give employees a certain degree of autonomy and responsibility for decision-making regarding their specific organisational tasks. When you empower employees, you give them the ability to make certain decisions, rather than employees who only follow the standard procedures when working independently. It allows decisions to be made at the lower levels of an organisation where employees have a unique view of the issues and problems facing the organisation at a certain level.
Empowering employees is a win-win situation for both the employee and the organisation. From the employee’s point of view, it helps them improve their skills, develop, think practically and take decisions as per the required situation – it is an opportunity for them to take control of the situation and be independent.
According to the Harvard Business Review, research has shown that, when employees feel empowered at work, it’s associated with stronger job performance, job satisfaction and commitment to the organisation.
A study by the Gallup Organisation found that organisations that empower employees experience 50% higher customer satisfaction. When employees are not empowered, customers must work their way up the chain of command in order to get their problems resolved. Empowered employees can resolve issues immediately leading to increased customer satisfaction.
Pepperdine University identified 40 of the most empowered companies and compared their financial performance across over 12 categories to 500 stock exchange averages. Their results clearly indicated that empowerment correlates with financial success.
Increased empowerment has also been linked to greater job satisfaction. A study surveyed 1,168 employees from 31 different organisations and found that staff members are most satisfied in their jobs when they feel empowered in their day-to-day experiences at work.
Empowerment leads to increased accountability. When empowered, a person feels that their boss has confidence in their ability to make decisions. That confidence means they will get the job done and that they will do the job to the best of their ability. They have the resources and the authority to step up and take action.
Lee, A., Willis, S., & Tian, A.W. (2018). When empowering employees works, and when it doesn’t. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/03/when-empowering-employees-works-and-when-it-doesnt.
Leonard, K. (2019). What are the benefits of employee empowerment? Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/benefits-employee-empowerment-1177.html.
O’Malley, M. (2010). The wisdom of bees: What the hive can teach business about leadership, efficiency, and growth. England, London: Penguin.
Stanley, D.J. (2005). The impact of empowered employees on corporate value. Graziadio Business Review, 8(1), 10-21.
Toporek, A. (2016). How employee empowerment impacts culture. Retrieved from https://talentculture.com/how-employee-empowerment-impacts-culture/.
Wagner, R., & Harter, J.K. (2006). The elements of great managing. New York: Gallup Press.