People are the most important assets of an organisation. Succeeding through the ‘Talent of People’ is one of the fundamental concepts of EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management). However, an important point is that organisations need to nurture and create an environment which enables to free the talent of people and one of the ways is by empowering their employees.
But, how does an organisation go about putting employee empowerment into practice?
Employee empowerment is a radical change for organisations and the management of (any) change requires significant planning and a focused strategy. A CEO of a company who was applying for the EFQM Award said to me, ‘Is there a list of do’s and don’ts for employee empowerment?’
Having a list of do’s and don’ts in this respect will not be helpful, as there are several things that need to be considered before, during and after the implementation of employee empowerment. Of critical importance is knowledge and understanding and this should follow with an awareness of potential difficulties and problems that may arise when putting ‘employee empowerment’ into practice.
Based on my research findings and honest responses from leaders, senior management, middle management and non-management participants, I have drawn up some important alerts which may be helpful for CEOs and Strategy Planners (Huq, 2010). Just sharing three points here that an organisation need to think about initially:
- Acquire knowledge about employee empowerment. Ultimately, everybody in the organisation need to understand what employee empowerment is. However, the onus is on the CEO first to make sure that he/she has knowledge and understanding about this important policy that the organisation is about to implement.
This needs to be flagged up all the time – the importance of understanding what employee empowerment is.
Morrell and Wilkinson (2002) point out that, ‘The term (empowerment) is complex and subject to different interpretations. The implications of this are that it will not be perceived in the same way by different organisations, nor will people within the same organisation think of empowerment in the same way’ (p.121). Related to this, (Conger and Kanungo, 1988: 471-472) caution that our understanding of employee empowerment is restricted in terms of both theory and practice.
Hence, it is absolutely necessary and for the benefit of CEOs, leaders and employees that there is an understanding of what employee is and there is an acceptance of this meaning. After all, how can employees be expected to behave or work in an empowered way, if neither employees nor employers know what employee empowerment is? Furthermore, what behaviours should be expected from employees and equally what behaviours should employees expect from their employers? These are essential aspects of employee empowerment that need to be understood.
- Identify key people (from management and non-management positions) that need to be involved in the initial stages, sell the idea to them and get them on board.
- Organise brain storming sessions with the above team and clarify what the organisation wants to achieve through employee empowerment and why. Questions for consideration may take the form of:
– Why is the organisation addressing employee empowerment?
– In what way will it benefit their organisation?
– In what way will it benefit their customers?
– What benefits would they like realised for their employees at all levels?
It is important to involve people from management and non-management positions. This was a significant error on the part of one of my case study organisations, which had placed substantial investment in employees in management positions only. This created anger and annoyance amongst non-management people, many of whom refused to get on board, as they felt left out of the initial process. An important point often overlooked by leaders and managers is that if organisations need to employ agency workers they must value and include them as well in their employee empowerment practices accordingly. These are some of the reasons why the psychology of employee empowerment is so important. I will write about this in another post.
So, with regards to do’s and don’ts:
Do gather knowledge about employee empowerment
Don’t do it if you don’t know it.
© Copyright Dr Rozana Ahmad Huq. November, 2014.
Thank you for reading, until the next Huq Post ….
Conger, J.A. and Kanungo, R.N. (1988); The Empowerment Process: Integrating Theory and Practice, Academy of Management Review, 13, 3, pp. 471-482.
Huq, R. (2010); Employee Empowerment the rhetoric & the reality, UK, Triarchy Press.
Morrell, K. and Wilkinson, A. (2002); Perspectives On Practice. Empowerment: Through the Smoke and Past the Mirrors? London, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Ltd.