For employees to be empowered, they must have control of their immediate environments.
They must have the necessary mindsets and skill sets—either through hiring or training—to do their jobs effectively and authority to make decisions that maximize the quality, speed, and effectiveness of their work outcomes.
Following are ten key factors that must be present for employees to begin to feel empowered and act on doing what is right for themselves, their company, and their customers:
- Theory Y leadership. Company leadership must demonstrate McGregor’s Theory Y management style, in which authority is shared. Theory X leadership, in which all decisions are made from the top down, and cultures in which employees are empowered to make decisions instantly in their realms of responsibility and expertise, are by default, mutually exclusive.
“The process of spotting fear and refusing to obey it is the source of all true empowerment.” -Martha Beck
- Redistribution of power. Per #1, senior managers must be totally committed to the redistribution of power and authority. This presents one of the greatest challenges to culture transformation. Theory X managers at every level of a company have significant difficulty giving up control over even small decisions.
- Bottom-up decision making. In the old bureaucratic control model, brainpower is assumed to be located only with management in the hierarchy. But this has proven not to be true. As customers have become more demanding, front-line teams have been tasked with responding swiftly to them. As a result, the emphasis moved in some companies from optimizing efficiencies from top to bottom to developing more flexible, innovative and responsible decision-making by close-to-the-customer teams. By default, visionary companies moved away from control and compliance management models to a greater emphasis on entrusting individuals and teams with expertise in their areas to act in the best interests of their companies and customers. In a more committed and empowered organization, front-line workers have the authority to halt a production line or solve customer complaint decisions on the spot, without getting okays from managers higher up in the hierarchy.