We’ve all seen it: the employee who shows great promise but won’t step up, or the employee who avoids making eye contact during team meetings in hopes that they won’t need to contribute. Or, worst of all, the employee who has no idea how their daily efforts contribute to the company’s overall success.
These are all classic signs of employees who aren’t being empowered.
Employees only act as empowered as employers make them feel. When employees don’t feel empowered at work, they’re unlikely to take initiative or be top performers. A workforce full of “yes" men and women won't push an organization to success.
Here are five tips for helping employees feel empowered:
1. Start with a clear strategic vision.
The first step in empowering employees is to give them something to get excited about and to actively work toward. That something is the company’s vision statement.
Unlike a mission statement, which mostly serves shareholders by explaining the company’s reason for being, a vision statement is created to motivate employees. It describes where the company is, where it’s going and how it’s going to get from point A to point B.
Put the vision statement at the center of everything the company does to inspire and empower employees to work toward a common goal.
2. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
Empowered employees have the knowledge and the confidence to make decisions. To ignite that knowledge and confidence in employees, make sure their individual work goals are aligned with those of the company.
Employees who are able to connect their efforts to the overall work of the company will find it much easier to make decisions that are in line with the organizational vision. So help employees set relevant work goals.
Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager report found that at least two-thirds of employees who strongly agree that their manager helps them set work priorities and goals are engaged. The more engaged employees are, the more productive they are.
Related: 6 Things True Leaders Do
3. Recognize efforts and reward successes.
The key to making employees feel confident enough to take initiative and make decisions is to simply reward those that do. Recognizing these efforts is the ultimate employee motivator, as it encourages the employee to continue doing what they’re doing, as well as inspire their team members to follow suit. This lets employees know their thoughts and opinions are valued and appreciated, making them all the more likely to speak up.
4. Remove roadblocks and provide assistance.
Eliminate any hurdles -- organizational policies, practices or habits -- that may keep employees from feeling or acting empowered. If you don’t have a culture based on open communication, for instance, employees may feel less inclined to come forward with new ideas and strategies.
Instead of relying on the traditional top-down communication from management, invite and welcome employee feedback by creating plenty of opportunities for employees to give their 2 cents.
Most important, empower employees by giving them the tools they need to succeed and lead. Provide the necessary training, a mentor, quality feedback -- anything and everything that will help them on their way to becoming more empowered.
5. Don’t hover.
To truly enable employees, employers need to be willing to take a step back. Some employees may find it easier to step up if they don’t feel like their every move is being monitored, not to mention evaluated. Monitoring an employee’s every move can have the opposite of the intended effect by impeding their ability to grow as professionals.
Sometimes the easiest way to empower employees is to give up control. Not only does this put more power in employees’ hands, but it also builds a greater sense of trust between employers and their employees.
As Bill Gates famously said, “As we look into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
What are some other ways employers can empower their employees? Share your tips in the comments section below.