In many ways, your employees form the foundation of your company; they support the day-to-day activities that carry your business forward, and their successes translate into success for your organization as a whole. But in order for your company to fully benefit from the unique skills and perspectives of its staff, they must have the freedom and resources to make good decisions on their own.
According to a recent study conducted by Cornell University, companies that allow employees some level of autonomy enjoy four times the growth and a third of the turnover of traditionally managed organizations. In addition to being more productive and engaged, employees who feel empowered to make their own decisions can also inspire innovation throughout your organization.
Don’t let your team members’ potential fall prey to bureaucratic red tape and restrictive management environments. By following a few simple tips, you can help your employees feel empowered to take initiative and play an active role in your company’s success.
- Set Boundaries
Although it may seem surprising, clear and consistent boundaries are an integral part of an empowering workplace environment. By providing generous boundaries that clearly define each employee’s role, responsibilities, and capacity to make decisions, managers create the opportunity for team members to grow and innovate within pre-determined limits.
For example, a business leader might allow customer service representatives to allocate a specific monetary amount toward discounts and similar customer accommodations. By giving employees the tools to address client concerns without consulting their supervisors every time, business leaders can not only empower them to solve problems independently, but also save time and boost productivity.
- Foster Open Communication
Employees are unlikely to feel empowered in the workplace if they do not feel that their ideas and opinions are valued. Instead of allowing your organization to be restricted by a top-down communication style, provide ample opportunities for open, honest dialogue and make it clear that each team member’s input is valued. To this end, it can be useful to create structured channels for employees to regularly share their feedback with leadership.
It is important to remember that communication is a two-way street. While creating an environment that welcomes employee opinions, you should strive to provide personnel with regular, actionable feedback, which can often help employees develop the confidence to act with more autonomy. Business leaders should also strive to genuinely listen to and understand their employees; by asking questions and making observations about the way the business is operating, entrepreneurs will be in a position to set realistic goals for the company.
- Reshape decision-making processes
In order to help employees feel empowered to make decisions and take risks, your company must have a management structure that accommodates some level of autonomy. It can often take a bit of time for employees to become comfortable making decisions without managerial approval, but by gradually altering your company’s decision-making framework, you can help your team learn to take initiative intelligently and effectively.
Introduce employees to an informal decision-making framework that helps them weigh their own confidence in a decision against its potential risk and determine whether outside feedback is necessary. When an employee does happen to seek your guidance on a decision, initiate a discussion about the concerns that led this team member to request your approval. With any luck, this conversation will help illustrate your priorities and vision for the company, giving employees a roadmap to make future decisions on their own.
- Be forgiving
In order to create an environment where employees are empowered to take risks, you must be prepared to accept the occasional failure. Help employees view failure as a natural part of innovation, illustrate the differences between acceptable and unacceptable mistakes, and provide ample opportunities—such as brainstorming sessions and testing environments—for your employees to flesh out their ideas.
- Recognize effort
Because not every attempt at innovation will be a success, it is important to recognize and praise employees for simply going the extra mile. Recognizing and rewarding employees for making empowered decisions will help to build their confidence while encouraging others in the organization think creatively and take initiative.
- Share your vision
As a business leader, it is likely that your company’s mission, vision, and values play a significant role in your day-to-day decision-making. Employees, however, cannot act in accordance with these goals unless you make them evident. Clearly communicating your company’s vision and integrating your organizational values into daily operations will enable employees to act in accordance with your business goals.
Strive to refer to your company vision in strategic planning sessions and other interactions, clearly display your mission statement in the office and online, and encourage employees to reflect upon and demonstrate your company values. Clearly articulating your vision for your business can not only facilitate empowered, goal-oriented decision-making, but can also help motivate employees to make a positive difference in the organization.
- Create opportunities for growth
One of the most effective ways to encourage employee empowerment is to provide avenues for personal and professional development. Dedicate company time and resources toward management training, skill workshops, and additional resources that will help team members expand their professional knowledge and build their confidence.
In addition to providing formal professional development opportunities, it is also important to create a working environment that fosters independence and growth. Avoid unnecessary oversight, which can often deter employees from making empowered decisions, and be sure to delegate roles and responsibilities that will allow employees to led others, solve problems, and expand their skillsets. In addition to inspiring employee empowerment, delegating can also help you improve your own trust in the individuals who support your organization.