Susan M. Heathfield defines empowerment as “the process of enabling or authorizing an individual to think, behave, take action, and control work and decision making in autonomous ways. It is the state of feeling self-empowered to take control of one’s own destiny”.
Leigh Richards and Demand Media define employee empowerment as the process of allowing employees to have input and control over their work,
and the ability to openly share suggestions and ideas about their work and the organization as a whole.
These definitions offer some useful insights that should help employers and managers to understand and appreciate why their enterprises and organizations may be experiencing low productivity. Those who wish to take comfort in the fact that because they enjoy a reasonably good relationship with their employees, and that there are no surface problems since their employees are usually punctual and infrequently absent, should do a serious rethink.
How many of you would have asked yourself this question? Are my employees committed, loyal and conscientious? Are they eager to share ideas and can serve as strong ambassadors for the enterprise or organization? If you come up short in your answers, then the rhetorical question which you need to pose is, why?
Every employer and/or manager would want to think of himself or herself as a good boss. There is nothing wrong with that, but unfortunately it is sometimes only wishful thinking. How many employers or managers can proudly boast of trusting their employees and reposing a level of confidence in them? Do you engage your employees in the decision-making process, seek their opinion or ideas, or even delegate authority to them?
If the answer to all of these is yes, then the next question to be posed would be: how often do you do this?
It is often said that to embrace change is not the easiest of things. People generally become set in their ways of doing things, and it is reasonable to assume that this applies to employers and managers.
There is always room for improvement, and hence it comes down to the will of those who have to make the decision to institute a programme of adjustments. New management strategies suggest that teamwork is essential. It also speaks to putting in place systems that are designed to get the best out of employees. The process starts with the placing of trust in the employee.
Trust cannot be seen as a matter of convenience. By encouraging workers to take responsibility and to be accountable is a way of empowering them. They become aware of the confidence placed in them and so are inclined not to fall below expectations.
Since we live in an imperfect world, it is inevitable that some persons will fall short. This however is not a good enough reason for the taking of a rigid position not to empower the group of employees.
Improved productivity should be at the centre of any action to empower workers. The fact that the employer shows respect for his/her employees, this in itself becomes an important inducement factor. The employer who listens to what his employees have to say, whether individually or collectively, and has an open-door policy, establishes a worker management relationship that makes for good business.
One of the miserable failings of employers and management is not giving credit where it is due. Those who choose to take the credit, for which they are not entitled, destroy any possibility of the empowerment of their workers.
It is somewhat unfortunate that the discussion on empowerment tends to be limited to improved wages and other forms of incentives schemes and programmes. Those who are broadminded would agree that the overall treatment meted out to workers and the full embracing of them as part of the enterprise or organization are what matter most of all.
(Dennis De Peiza is labour management consultant to Regional Management Services Inc.
Visit the websitewww.regionalmanagement services.com Send your comments to email@example.com)