The purpose of empowerment in an organization is to decentralize management and control throughout the organization. The overall effect is to build customer loyalty by creating internal employee ownership of productivity, quality, and the principles for which an organization stands.
The sole purpose of creating an empowered organization is to develop employee commitment. The role of the leader in this capacity is to ensure that the same common mission and set of values is communicated throughout their organization and are consistent with those of other individual leaders in the organization. This means that leaders must match words with actions to instill the right character and culture within their organization.
As control is decentralized within their organization, both leaders and employees assume a greater role of responsibility in decisions affecting effectiveness, productivity and profitability.
Leaders must make sure that decisions impacting efficiency, cost-cutting, and overall value are made with as much participation of the frontline employees they impact as possible.
The key to organizational empowerment is to make employees part of management rather than individual cogs in a wheel, holding them accountable for their individual actions. This creates positive organizational change with distinct advantages:
- Employees become more cost conscious.
- Employees become involved in the cost-value trade-off decisions that must be made if an organization is to remain competitive.
- Employees work toward continuous improvement in value efficiency as well as quality effectiveness.
- Employees experience an overall reduction in frustrations as well as an elimination of continued inefficiencies within the organization.
Empowered employees who are included and involved in the management of an organization respond by acting like owners themselves. This is something that managers and leaders cannot achieve with slogans or manipulative methods to force employee compliance and conformance. These faulty methods run counter to motivational principles.
As employees become empowered and assume personal ownership, attitudes and behaviors begin to shift in accordance with their personal beliefs. They become more conscious of workplace factors impacting the effectiveness, productivity and profitability of their organizational unit.
This is the desired objective of the organization: frontline employees focused on making essential decisions that improve the quality of the product or service and the value it provides the customer.
Organizations must become increasingly cost-conscious in an increasingly global and competitive environment. Empowered organizations flatten decision making and bring it directly to the “trenches” of the organization. Employees in the front lines are able to make more effective decisions because they are properly focused.
This insures that cost cuts and efficiency improvements are made in the right places without injuring the quality and value of their product or service. To make this truly effective, leaders must ensure a system is in place that makes cost consciousness every employee’s concern.
The less involvement of employees at the front lines of an organization, the more unseen and hidden costs are overlooked. The farther away these decisions are made from their point of impact, the harder it is to arrive at the right decisions without harming both the quality and value of a product or service.
Within an empowered organization, the more frontline people—who most directly benefit from a reduction of costs and enhanced value—actively involved in decisions, the more effective decisions will be. This is important to note since too many organizations place an emphasis on cost controls rather than on the production of value. While this may look good on paper, these decisions undermine the overall quality of products/services and diminish customer satisfaction levels.
Within the empowered organization, employees will often extend their job descriptions on their own and work diligently to eliminate the inefficiencies that create cost-value problems in their workplace. This is often the more widespread kind of commitment organizations will experience when they empower their employees and give them the authority to manage their work and make decisions on their own.
This only occurs because employees are empowered to question existing methods and concepts and are encouraged to experiment with new ideas and concepts for the sole purpose of increasing efficiency. This is highly effective in reducing frustrations and cutting costs where they really matter, rather than in random and often painful ways that compromise the quality of the product or service being produced.
Excerpt: Organizational Empowerment (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)