Facilitating Employee Empowerment for Better Engagement

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Imagine working at the happiest-place-on-earth; a place where customers have great fun and good memories; a place where they want to come back again-and-again. Isn’t that wonderful? To create this high level of service to the customers, it takes a highly empowered and engaged workforce to do it. Is there such a place? Well, Disneyland is one of those. It is an organization that is also well known for highly engaged employees. In fact, in a 2016 Forbes poll, Walt Disney company came up top company Americans would want to work for.

“According to EY/DDI/ The Conference Board’s Global Leadership Forecast 2018, the direct link between engagement and bottom-line results are clear. When asked how to drive for better results, the respondents said the focus is on enhancing organization talent (72%), building high performance culture (72%) and engaging employees (69%)”

Undoubtedly, an engaged workforce will create good business achievements, as such companies are now putting more emphasis on how to facilitate better engagement.

One of the key predictors of high engagement is the level of empowerment in the organization. Empowerment is the authority or autonomy given to the employees to make a decision or influence a decision-making process, and yet be accountable for the results of that decision. It is easy to make such statement but how do organizations go around empowering their employees? How do we balance the need for immediate results and yet allow the team to manage their own work?

  • Firstly, and foremost, start from the top – A survey done by Qualtrics on employee experience in Singapore & Malaysia, shows only 50% of FTE are satisfied or somewhat satisfied. The top 2 key drivers of job satisfaction are confidence in company’s leadership and managers helping to resolve work issues. The correlation is strong. Management must be mindful to provide support and guide their team. Embed the spirit of guiding and allowing in our interactions with our team. It does take effort and practice to do it, hence, make it a point to do it daily. Be top down, not top only view.
  • Clear roles and responsibilities–Be articulate on expectations and the key deliverables. When there is a disconnect between a leaders’ expectations on how to get a job done and how the employees perceive it, conflict and dissatisfaction will arise. Be clear on the parameters and what is the limit of authority that is allowed. Use R.A.C.I –who is Responsible, Accountable, does the leader needs to be Consulted or just Informed?
  • Provide support by having regular check-in– Create follow-up time on regular basis, block the calendar.Make it a habit to have regular catch-up on your team’s progress and any assistance they need. Don’t underestimate this step. Similar with performance management process, good process has good check-in conversations.
  • Let go. Allow doing and not telling. This is probably the hardest to do as leaders have the tendency to instruct and dictate especially in crisis mode. Learn to let go, not totally but within the boundary set. As leaders get more comfortable to delegate, employees will be more confident to carry on their assignments and trust will be created.
  • Allow mistakes, don’t punish – Some of us in one way of another have worked with bosses who do not tolerate mistakes. We become afraid and insecure to make decisions. It’s like a spiral down “syndrome”. Mistakes are made all the time as part of learning. Leaders must be conscious to not only guide the employees to learn from these mistakes but also allow then to take responsibility for it. Take action on the employee if the mistake is grave but guide them to learn from that mistake.
  • Trust is the cornerstone of engagement– reinatrustbuilding.com. Do share openly to facilitate trust. Leaders must be transparent to share the good and the bad. Don’t just deliver good news and avoid the negatives. In meetings, town halls, be open about company performance, be open about the challenges the leaders are facing, be open about forthcoming issues. During small group or 1-1 discussions, have trust building conversations by showing vulnerability yet create confidence. When management is being open, this will create trust and the employees reciprocate by being more empowered to do a great job.In this world of VUCA, continuously strive for openness as to increase sense of belonging and togetherness.
  • Provide the tools and be transparent of processes. Have standing-operating-procedures (SOPs) in place, for example in the customer service, there are SOPs on how to manage different customers’ issues.  Employees will be more prepared and hence, more confident in doing their job. Provide the best resources to your team. Resources can also materialize in different support system such peer group chats, cross-functional projects collaboration.

Harvard Business Review mentioned that when employees feel empowered at work, it’s associated with stronger job performance, job satisfaction and commitment to the organization. Employees will go the extra mile, have we-can-do attitude and provide better service to both internal and customers. As Howard Schultz of Starbucks says“People want guidance, not rhetoric. They need to know what the plan of action is and how it will be implemented. They want to be given responsibility to solve the problem and the authority to act on it”.Let’s strive to empower our employees as ultimately, we all strive to be another Disney.

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