"Employee empowerment" is a term that is used to express the ways in which non-managerial staff members can make decisions without consulting their bosses or managers. These decisions can be small or large, depending upon the degree of power with which the company wishes to invest employees. Employee empowerment can begin with training and converting a whole company to an empowerment model. Conversely, it might merely mean giving employees the ability to make some decisions on their own.
The thinking behind employee empowerment is that it gives power to individuals and thus makes for happier employees. By being able to make choices and participate on a more responsible level, employees become more invested in their company. They often view themselves as representatives of the company.
When employees feel as though they have choice and can make direct decisions, this often leads to a greater feeling of self-worth. In a model where power is closely tied to sense of self, having some power is a valuable thing. An employee who does not feel constantly watched and criticized is more likely to consider work to be a positive environment instead of a negative one.
For employee empowerment to work successfully, the management team must be truly committed to allowing employees to make decisions. Managers might want to define the scope of decisions that their employees can make. Building decision-making teams is often one of the models used in employee empowerment, because it allows for managers and workers to contribute ideas toward directing the company.
Autocratic managers tend not to be able to utilize employee empowerment. These types of managers, who are often called micromanagers, tend to oversee all aspects of their employees' work and usually will not give up control. A manager who is dedicated to employee empowerment must be willing to give up control of some aspects of the business.
One easy way for managers to begin empowering their employees is to install suggestion boxes, in workers can place suggestions without fear of punishment or retribution. Simply placing a suggestion box somewhere is only the first step, however. Managers must be willing to read and consider the suggestions. They might provide a forum where questions or suggestions receive a response, such as a weekly or monthly newsletter. In addition, managers can hold meetings where suggestions are addressed.
At least some suggestions have to be approved for employees to feel that they are having some effect on their company. Failure to approve or implement any suggestions reinforces that all the power belongs to the managers and not the workers. Employee empowerment of any form can work only when managers are willing to be open to new ideas and strategies. If no such willingness exists, the employees are likely to know that they have not been empowered at all.