What is Employee Empowerment: The Key to Unleashing Potential and Fostering Autonomy in the Modern Workplace

Wha is Employee Empowerment The Key to Unleashing Potential and Fostering Autonomy in the Modern Workplace min

When it comes to encouraging productivity in the workspace, leaders strive to provide their teams with rewards that will incentivize them to work better and achieve optimal results for themselves,
their teams and, ultimately, their organisation. Employee empowerment can play a critical role in optimizing outputs and encouraging efficiency across departments. In this blog, we discuss the basics of employee empowerment and how, when done right, it can help you to create a culture of autonomy and productivity.
According to Motion Recruitment’s Salary Guide for IT Professionals, recruiters are facing a growing skills gap in IT, with data analytics, IT, mobile, and/or web design management, and executive management most in demand. This extends beyond the world of tech, with Business Wire reporting on the growing gap, and the importance of investing in current talent and workforce retention.

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Defining Employee Empowerment

The concept of employee empowerment is the opposite of the much-maligned micromanagement, giving an organization’s employees the power and the agency to make decisions independently, empowering them to act in a way that they feel is appropriate – and beneficial – to their role. When done properly, this management model can lead to improved productivity, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction.

Understanding the Empowerment Process

In order to be effective, employee empowerment has to be done properly. The process should be a gradual one that, over a period of time, nurtures an environment of trust and respect, developing employees’ confidence via the use of positive feedback and rewards, and listening to their needs and ideas, demonstrating a willingness to not only listen but to consider and act upon feedback.

Understanding Motivators

Empowerment comes with its own rewards, but in order to give to and gain the most from employees it is important to understand what motivates them. This can include intrinsic motivators such as a sense of achievement, belonging, learning opportunities or personal development and extrinsic motivation, such as bonuses, the prospect of promotion leading to a pay rise, rewards and praise. A combination of these can see the development of a positive workplace where achievements and commitment are celebrated.

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The Benefits of Employee Empowerment

When done properly, empowering your employees will see:
● Increased motivation – when employees feel that they have greater autonomy over their
outputs and outcomes, from where they work to when, how, and who with, they are more
likely to pick a style of work that suits them, leading to greater motivation and more
impactful work.
● Greater trust in line management and the broader leadership team, all the way to exec level,
is a natural side effect of a well-managed employee empowerment model, as talent at all
levels of the ladder display mutual respect and work to earn each others’ trust and respect.
Mentoring and coaching play an important role in the empowerment model and as
managers guide their team members to make good decisions, trust and respect will continue
to grow.
● As highlighted by Harvard Business Review, higher levels of creativity – space to be
autonomous means space to be creative, encouraging an environment of innovation and
experimentation, within predetermined boundaries. The analysis attributed this boost in
creativity to two separate psychological events: employees with empowering leaders see
more meaning in their work and greater correlation with their own values, and they develop
greater levels of trust in their leaders which in turn means that they are likely to be more
willing to go to higher levels of effort without feeling disgruntled or exploited.
● Ultimately, well executed empowerment can lead to greater profitability.

Time management is essential

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Getting it Right – the Line Between Empowerment and Delegation

To be effective, employee empowerment has got to be done right. There is a fine line between empowering an employee to be autonomous and make their own decisions, and delegating additional work to that same employee. The two are ostensibly the same action, with a few subtle
differences that tip the balance from the negative (delegation) to the positive (empowerment). The element to tip the balance is almost always mentorship. An empowering leader will guide their mentee through the process, giving autonomy but remaining in the background to support where needed. Often, in the early days, it is more time-consuming for a leader to empower than it is for them to do themselves – or even delegate and micromanage. However, the long-term rewards of empowerment are significant and far outweigh the initial time investment and the longer term, lighter-touch guidance and coaching that is essential for successful employee empowerment.

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Knowing When to Foster Empowerment For Improved Performance

The line between empowerment and delegation – or enabling and burdening also depends on the
type of task in question, as well as the quality of the relationship between the employees and their leader. One study found that rather than feeling enabled when it came to more simple tasks, employees felt burdened. The feeling of being burdened is less likely to arise when there is a longer, deeper relationship and hence more trust between the leader and team member; in the presence of these strong working relationships, empowerment can see an increase in productivity even for the most routine tasks.

More complicated tasks come with a different set of challenges. When delivered by a leader with whom there is not sufficient trust and respect, the empowerment act can be seen as one of incompetence, laziness or uncertainty in their own capabilities. This perception can lead to underperformance on more complex tasks and can have a negative impact on routine activities.
However, the tasks at which employees are most likely to excel and rise when empowered to do so are the tasks that employees feel will develop their own skillset and offer them the most scope
for growth and self-development.


It’s all about relationships. Empowerment is undoubtedly a hugely powerful tool that can boost employee satisfaction and productivity while nurturing a highly skilled, creative, loyal workforce.
However, a successful empowerment model is built upon a carefully tended relationship between
employer and leader. Successful empowering leaders take the time to build trust with their employees, determining where their strengths, challenges and preferences lie, in order to create a safe environment in which employees can flex their talents and bolster their own and their organisation’s capabilities.

Much of the risk of empowering your employees can be mitigated via communication. If both parties understand what is expected of them, and employees are aware of regular touchpoints at which they can feed back to their managers, or ask them for support or guidance, it is possible to ensure that perceptions of empowerment and just how far that autonomy extends remain clear to all parties.

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