What is employee empowerment?

Employee empowerment is a management strategy that encourages self-reliance, independence, and accountability among personnel. Rather than centralizing the leadership only among executives, employee empowerment calls on each employee to display leadership qualities appropriate for their position and capabilities. 

Trust is the foundation of employee empowerment—employers need to believe that their employees will act intelligently and responsibly. Knowing that their employers trust them, in turn, gives people the space to think, act, and express themselves independently. While each company will determine how to apply employee empowerment, some common components include:

Why should HR leaders care about employee empowerment?

According to the self-determination theory, humans have a natural desire to improve and succeed. Instead of treating people like cogs in the machine, employee empowerment enables personnel to infuse their work with their unique talents and contributions. The opportunity for employee autonomy can lead to higher levels of:

What can HR leaders do to facilitate employee empowerment?

Empowerment comes from within. HR leaders can establish the right conditions to encourage employee empowerment through these steps: 

  • Get executives on board. If senior leadership isn’t already aware of the benefits of employee empowerment, then it’s time to remind them. Employee empowerment isn’t just about helping people feel good. It has business benefits as well. While employee empowerment may be considered part of soft HRM, it does translate into solid results, such as increased retention, engagement, ROI, reduced expenses, and efficiency. Bringing this data to the table can help enlighten leaders on the significance of employee engagement
  • Set clear guidelines. To decentralize power while avoiding micromanagement, people must understand their organization’s core values, principles, and policies. These serve as a compass for employee behavior and decision-making. 
  • Equip employees with the practical tools for autonomy. People need access to necessary resources and relevant information. Providing this support to people enables them to make decisions and function independently while aligning with the company culture. 
  • Communicate frequently. Routine, two-way feedback can encourage conversations regarding successful practices, problem areas, and resources or guidance people may need. These constructive conversations contribute to employee empowerment and help people progress professionally and reach their desired goals without micromanaging them every step of the way. 

How can facilitating employee empowerment improve company culture?

Letting go of the reins is not easy. But by establishing guardrails and a roadmap, people will have a clear understanding of how to exercise their autonomy. In turn, encouraging independence in the workplace can nurture a healthy company culture that values people and that people value in return.