Employee Empowerment – What does it cause? How does it work?

Employee empowerment has been the main subject of the past two posts on this blog and we will not stop at that – although the next one might well be directed at organisational (and/or) corporate communication.

Lets consider the subject at hand: how employee empowerment works, and what does it cause to happen?

For one, in most cases, if the organisation which considers employee empowerment as a measure to progress, it is bound to bring about change and has to manage it..

Thakkar (2011), states that “successful balancing [in an organisation] requires employee trust [and] employee empowerment. The author goes on to define employee empowerment as “giving the employee a reason to be proud of be doing what s/he does” and goes on to point out that “loading employees with responsibility without empowering them is like making them fly without providing them with oxygen”.

If these practices have been known to exist in an organisation, then employee empowerment is going to lead toa radical change, which will originate amongst the employees and needs to be managed as all resources do. If the HR managers of your organisation are confronted with the above-mentioned mistrust or distrust, then they have to undergo training themselves in order to learn  how to manage such a change prior to making it occur on the one hand, and to adapt the processes to the organisation’s needs rather than vice versa as mentioned in a previous contribution.

Communication plays an important part in handling the change. “Ultimately the success of any change effort depends on how effectively the strategy for and the substance of the change is communicated to those who are the targets of change.” (Witherspoon and Wohlert, 1996 in Frahm and Brown (2003:3)

The authors go on to quote other specialists in the field as they state, “within the implementation phases, communication is often a top down sales pitch” (Okumus and Hemington, 1998) which is “argued to lead to cynicism about change” (Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997; Wanous, Reichers and Austin, 2000 in Ibid)

Such cynicism has to be overcome in the organisation so as to allow the management with an opportunity to lead by example as they bring about a coherence between that which is ‘broadcast’ to the outside world, that  what is ‘preached’ within the organisation and that what is practised by the ‘preachers’. (Thakkar, 2011). Incoherence is known to be rampant in organisations “where there is a lack of communication between the departments governing the organisation’s internal and external communication policies.” (Motiani, 2010).

Nayab (2011 a) points out that in order “for employees to be given the responsibility, the organisation’s culture  :shares information openly, encourages open communication with regular [constructive] feedback, facilitates leadership by guiding the empowered employee, involve the employees in strategic planning exercises so that  they are aware of the organisation’s vision and objectives, and apply that knowledge to strategic work.”

The other question asked above is, How does employee empowerment work?

Nayah (2011 b) points out that “organisations that engage in providing empowered employees with the means to carry out their work, will gai, thanks to: better employee performance, novel and better adapted ways to overcome operational issues, exploit opportunities and improve products and services.”

As we have seen, employee empowerment requires engagement on behalf of the organisation which wishes to reap its benefits. As in any case, employees only given responsibilities without the necessary resources to carry them out will only end up frustrated and that can only take all persons involved in a downward spiral.

As I  close this section on employee empowerment, I’m reminded of Archimedes Principle which states “an object, immersed in a fluid shall be buoyed by a force equal to that of the fluid displaced by the immersed object.” Similarly, an employee who is empowered and when the organisation is sufficiently flexible to let him act, will reap from the benefit of his work (which can be compared to the buoyancy).

Reference:

Frahm, J. and Brown, K.,(2003), Organisational Change Communication: Lessons from the Public Relations Communication Strategies, ANZCA03 Conference, Brisbane, available at http://www.anzca.net/conferences/anzca03proceedings.html

Motiani, K (2010), A Study of the Correlation between improved Intra- and Inter-Organisational Communication and Operational Efficiency and Efficacy in Luxembourg’s Non-Profit Organisations, University of Liverpool

Nayah, N., (2011 a), Overworked Employees Are not Empowered. Learn Why Here, Bright Hub: Business-Team Building and Empowerment available at http://www.brighthub.com/office/human-resources/articles/123587.aspx

Nayah, N., (2011 b), How Employee Empowerment has pushed Companies Ahead, Bright Hub: Business-Team Building and Empowerment, available at http://www.brighthub.com/office/human-resources/articles/123676.aspx

Thakkar, H., (2011), How to manage change from Employees?, Learning and Development, HR Planning, available at http://www.hrgyaan.com/how-to-manage-change-from-employees/