Can an employee be empowered to the point of acting as the owner of an organisation? Is empowerment all about relinquishing control? If not, how can the leaders of the organisation actually keep the power whilst empowering the subordinates?
Holmes (2013) touches on the subject somewhat squarely by alluding to “training employees to take full advantage of new sales opportunities” So in essence, the investment is manifold in that the employer provides the training, invests in the time of his employees that undergo the training, and what goes without saying, will incentivise any efforts made by sales force to up the sales figures’ and market share ante. All of it, at the very risk of seeing them walk away to the competition and employ his training to his own detriment.
As such, if the employer does make them aware of their responsibilities (empower, I’m told), by treating the company as their own, but fails to make them feel that they are running their own company and has them running to him better job involvement, suggestion to improve or even every operational decision, give-away, then the employee will be right to feel disinherited by his employer who only feigns to adopt the leadership path. At the advent of the first best opportunity beyond the known pastures of the organisation, and into the greener pastures of the outside world, the employee is bound to seize it and run with renewed energy, albeit a more circumspect approach.
So you might well ask, what stops employers and managers from empowering their subordinates? Because most of them have only thought of it without really considering it any more seriously. Bowen and Lawler III (1994:422) point out “Many lessons have been learned in manufacturing about how to best use quality, circles, enriched jobs, and so on. And the added good news is that many service businesses are ideally suited to applying and refining these lessons.”
Let us just hope that current managers, and employers of service businesses, especially multisite ones, will be able to take ownership of the situation and adapt empowering approaches to their specific needs on the one hand, but that there will be studies carried out to get the information out into the world to prove that employee empowerment, employed correctly, will bring unexpected results with itself.
Can empowerment be quantified? If so, how much empowerment is good, how much is satisfactory and how much is insufficient? If, however, it cannot be quantified, how does one then go about getting dependable and objective data from a field of subjective practices amongst others?
Quantifying employee empowerment is best possible within the context of its application to a business, a site or a department. Let me explain: if employee turnover was the issue that triggered the measures, then one can evaluate the reduction of employee turnover. If employee empowerment was introduced to improve sales figures, then either the sales team needed to be empowered with added responsibilities but also the authority to decide what works best for each salesperson. The diversity of approaches will bring not only a better understanding through varied market analyses which are all going to be based on individual analytics. If, on the other hand, the empowerment was introduced to improve communication within the organisation, various tools can allow a very objective evaluation of intra-organisational communication
D.E. Bowen and E.E. Lawler III (1994), “The empowerment of service workers: what, why, how and when”, The training and development Sourcebook, Ed. C. E. Schreiner, Human Resource Development Press Inc. Massachusets, USA, available at http://www.google.lu/books?hl=en&lr=&id=vnyFFWL0loEC&oi=fnd&pg=PA413&dq=employee+empowerment,+profit&ots=ag_EOFicdw&sig=T6MndRsvcdwgsz7ZvbpcCETaan4&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=employee%20empowerment%2C%20profit&f=false accessed on 1.4.2014
C. Holmes (2013), “Growth coaching must balance technology with employee empowerment”, the Chet Holmes Method, availabe at http://www.chetholmes.com/tips-and-advice/?p=29#sthash.EvRtCBvq.dpuf accessed on 1.1.2014