Employee Empowerment

Empowerment has nothing to do with fatuous statements like “Our people are our greatest asset”. Almost all companies who say such things treat their employees badly, keeping them constrained and confined in rigid roles, supported by limiting job descriptions and masses of bureaucracy.

Empowerment IS about changing behaviours and developing talents … but about doing it, not talking about it!

Empowerment needs an underlying supportive culture … and it needs leadership to create and sustain that culture. So, often leaders have to change first … before they can change the organisation to be supportive of staff. Empowerment has to be ‘sewn’, nurtured, encouraged and fed – continuously.

A simple 6 step guide to creating empowerment

1. Make sure everyone knows the organisation’s mission and vision, where it is going and over what timescales … and then make sure they know where they fit in…. what their responsibilities should be in helping that plan move forward. (So one prime requisite is open, honest, transparent communication)

2. Makes sure also that everyone knows the organisation’s values – these are what frame the culture. Make sure leaders ‘walk and talk’ these values. (Talking alone is not enough.)

3. Understand the values and behaviours that must be eradicated from the organisation – the blame culture, the lack of respect for ideas, cynicism, lack of recognition for contribution – and ruthlessly stamp on any identified cases.

4. Work with staff to identify what they need to commit to the plan and their responsibilities – in terms of tools, equipment, support, training, development. Then work with them to make sure they get it. (Remember, this is not a one-off exercise, but a process that needs to be continuous.)

5. Get staff to formally accept their assignments and responsibilities…. Making sure their responsibilities are matched with appropriate authority. (Remember, responsibility is something taken on, not something given from above. Another prime requisite of empowerment is the delegation of responsibility/authority to the level where it is most effective – where quick decisions and actions improve matters and remove errors and delays.)

6. As part of this role-setting, makes sure middle managers and supervisors are trained to be facilitators and mentors – not controllers.

This will take some time to get right – but it will bring great rewards if you get it right and stick with it. Empowered employees perform well.


Productivity is my 'bag' ... it is what I know about. I am President of the World Confederation of Productivity Science -http://www.wcps.info and Director of the National Productivity Centre in the UK http://www.natprodcentre.com - go to this site for some good free resources and some (paid for but low price) e-learning on productivity. I also edit the International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management. My views on productivity and on learning (which I think are related) are su...

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