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Exploring the Link Between Empowerment and Employee Motivation

written by: Tara Duggan•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 8/16/2011

Employees who feel they have control over decisions made in the workplace tend to work harder and longer to achieve the company's strategic goals. Lower absenteeism, higher employee satisfaction and elevated morale characterize workers who feel empowered on the job.

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    Job Satisfaction

    Motivation Frederick Herzberg, psychologist and business management consultant, observed in the 1960s that while poor working conditions and an inadequate salaries contributed to job dissatisfaction, remedying the situation doesn’t necessarily increase job satisfaction. Meaningful work, achievement, recognition, responsibility, promotions and career development typically mean more to employees.

    Enabling empowerment motivation for employee satisfaction and improved performance involves allowing workers to take charge of their own tasks, career development and workplace relationships. Doing so allows employers to create a more satisfying job environment. Rewards, such as bonuses or other financial incentives, provide temporary increases in satisfaction and productivity but to ensure long-term success, employers need to recognize that employees want an opportunity to express their opinions and provide input about how work gets done. People performing the work tend to have the best perspective on daily problems and possible solutions. When people feel like their opinions matter, they tend to take ownership or find solutions to complex issues.

    Effective managers provide opportunities for their subordinates to learn about the organization, related work processes and strategic goals as well as relevant metrics and measures. Successful managers define what must be done but give their employees the chance to define how that work gets done. This type of empowerment not only typically improves employee satisfaction rates also allows employees to devise innovative solutions to complicated dilemmas.

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    Performance

    Effective managers conduct team building exercises to improve communication, facilitate effective decision-making and improve interpersonal relationships in the workplace. This helps workers get to know one another, build trust and exchange ideas. Successful managers recognize that motivating employees requires thought and contemplation because not everyone responds the same way to challenges. By conducting informal focus groups, online surveys or interviews, an empowering manager learns more about the type of infrastructure his employees need to function productively. By coaching his staff, he encourages his subordinates to develop the skills, knowledge and capabilities required to make their own decisions without management intervention. This also frees the manager from tactical tasks to focus on more strategic activities. The process of empowering employees begins by sharing authority, information, tools and rewards so that employees become motivated to commit to achieving strategic goals. As a result, a manager usually finds his own performance improves as well.

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    Innovation

    Empowering employees to seek new alternatives to completing job tasks allows workers to improve processes, lower costs, eliminate waste and reduce product or service defects. Coaching employees to accept feedback allows them to use valuable input to improve work flow. By working with employees instead of merely disciplining them, managers create a productive work environment where it’s okay for employees to make mistakes and learn from their experiences.

    Developing innovative solutions to technical problems involves implementing new approaches and strategies. Effective managers empower employees and encourage creative problem solving. They run brainstorming sessions that allow employees to contribute to envisioning the ideal future for the company. Starting with a question, such as how can the company improve customer satisfaction without increasing costs, the employees discuss ways to handle customer problems more efficiently. They also consider alternatives to current techniques.

    Employees who feel empowered typically become more motivated to examine their own business behavior and look for ways to evolve. This enables the entire company to compete more effectively in a global, dynamic marketplace. Encouraging employees to experiment with new concepts and try out different strategies prevents monotony and usually helps generate new viable business plans in the long run.

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    Employee Involvement

    Involving employees in critical business activities typically includes enabling them to contribute effectively to strategic planning. Successful managers recognize the link between empowerment and employee motivation to solve complex customer problems. Adequately defining customer requirements usually requires a detailed needs analysis. Including employees in the process allows project team members to help identify key stakeholders, gather requirements to learn more about true interests and concerns and assess the resources required to implement a solution.

    Employees involved at the start of project tend to more enthusiastically help create awareness, spur interest, evoke desire and take action to make the vision a reality. To overcome resistance or obstacles, successful managers empower employees by persuading them, encouraging participation in decision-making, facilitating brainstorming sessions, negotiating with them during scheduling and planning and providing direction when required. These tactics result in shared ownership for innovative ideas, which is personally and professionally rewarding for an employee.

    With public recognition for their participation, employees feel more positive about their role, miss work less frequently and stay on the job longer. Successful managers also accept feedback and discuss concerns openly. When employees feel they have authority and power, they typically report higher levels of job morale. With lower levels of employee turnover, companies save on the costs associated with recruiting, hiring and training new employees.

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