We've all heard about it on the news or read about it in an article. The Great Resignation has found many employees saying "Thanks, but no thanks" to their current employers and jumping at opportunities that offer better options. Unfortunately, the last few years have made employees feel helpless and powerless in their destiny. It's easy to understand – between lay-offs, inflation, and an unstable market. Now, employers are tasked with finding creative ways to empower employees or risk losing them.
In today's competitive workforce climate, it makes sense that companies want to promote a culture of employee empowerment. Empowered employees are emotionally attached to their work and are more creative, productive, and engaged because they have opportunities to experience ownership within their jobs. Their level of engagement will be the key to retention, and their success will impact your company's bottom line.
The vital question is: what is employee empowerment and how can it help my company? This article will answer these questions and give you informative insights into why empowerment is an important business strategy.
But first – you may be asking what makes us an authority on employee empowerment. So allow us to introduce ourselves.
BrightUp is an emotionally intelligent financial wellness benefits provider created to empower employees with the financial planning tools and advice they need to become and stay financially secure. We take a holistic approach to wealth-building with evidence-based tools that employees can use to take back their finances. So if you're looking to empower your employees to become financially free – you came to the right place.
Let's keep exploring the topic of empowering employees!
What is Employee Empowerment?
Ultimately, "employee empowerment" can mean different things to different people. For example, some might think it means giving employees more control over how they do their jobs. On the other hand, others may think there should be a certain level of freedom and flexibility granted to employees to get their work done in the way they see fit.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) says that employee empowerment is a management philosophy and set of practices designed to enable employees to take the initiative, make decisions, solve problems independently, and feel a sense of accomplishment.
At BrightUp, we think it's about equipping employees with the financial support and tools to achieve their goals. Our opinion – and the opinion of many – is that employers have a responsibility to ensure the quality of life in and outside the workplace. That's because employees depend on their employers to make them financially stable.
Every employee wants to feel empowered by their managers. It can be challenging to execute, though. Empowerment is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Every manager or business owner needs to decide how to best create empowerment for their staff. There are several common misconceptions around empowerment, but companies can empower their employees and grow their business in the process with the proper preparations.
Now that we've established what employee empowerment is, let's talk about what employee empowerment looks like in and outside of the workplace.
Empowerment In the Workplace
It's a common misconception for most managers that employee empowerment equates to giving up power or control over employees. While it may entail giving employees some new areas of responsibility, it doesn't have to mean giving them the keys to the kingdom.
When practicing employee empowerment, the focus should be on communicating your trust in your employees to make decisions in the best interest of the business and their teammates.
Here are four examples of employee empowerment practices that companies use today:
- Asking for input
- Delegating authority
- Allowing autonomy
- Career goal setting
Employees who have the opportunity to engage in their roles, feel heard, and feel free to accomplish tasks in the way they see fit can make all the difference between a loyal employee with buy-in to organizational goals and an employee who is just clocking in and waiting to clock out.
When it's time to make decisions, ask your employees what they think instead of making a unilateral call. . You might be surprised by their answers, and they'll feel empowered when they realize you value their judgment. When someone has a great idea, embrace it!
Give employees enough freedom in their daily tasks so they aren't micromanaged and can make decisions independently. This kind of freedom is empowering and leads to high job satisfaction and productivity.
Companies that resist these methods of empowerment will continue to face challenges in attracting and retaining talented employees. By 2025, Gen Z will make up 27% of the workforce. And what do Gen Zs want? Empowerment! Work-life balance! Financial stability! And they'll do whatever it takes to achieve those things – including jumping ship if they don't feel like they're getting what they need from their current employer.
Speaking of work-life balance, we'd be remiss if we didn't highlight the importance of assuring the empowerment of your employees outside of the workplace. Let's keep discussing!
Empowerment Outside of the Workplace
Empowering your employees and permitting them to think outside the box is a great way to create a productive and innovative workplace. But sometimes, empowerment doesn't have to happen on the clock.
Employers should help employees live healthy, successful lives outside of work. If you can help workers improve their lives when they're off the clock, it will make them better employees and better people in general.
Here are some ways employers can assure empowerment outside of the workplace:
- Pay employees fairly
- Support volunteerism
- Offer wellness benefits
- Provide a flexible work schedule
While money is a powerful motivator for many people, it's not the only factor. Giving your employees a platform to volunteer offers them an opportunity to give back in a way that benefits others and themselves. In addition, wellness programs that benefit their body and mind can help them feel more engaged and present at work. Finally, by allowing your team members to work when they're most productive, they'll be more likely to get their job done efficiently and well. Many people also appreciate having flexibility within their schedules because it lets them handle personal obligations while completing their work on time.
We'll talk more about how to implement ideas like this. But, first, we'd like to illustrate just how impactful employee empowerment can be for your business.
The Impact of an Empowering Leadership Style
Harvard Business Review is a well-renowned resource for leadership and company management advice. A 2018 meta-analysis conducted by the publication tracked 105 studies on the "empowering" leadership style and its ability to motivate performance in certain employees. The analysis concluded that empowering leaders are:
- More effective at influencing employee creativity and citizenship behavior than routine task performance;
- More likely to be trusted by subordinates;
- More effective at influencing employee performance; and
- More likely to positively impact employees who had less experience working in their organization.
Aren't those all attractive business goals to set and achieve?
Another study focused on the relationship between empowering human resource management (HRM) practices and workplace proactivity. An online questionnaire administered to over 1,000 employees was designed to measure:
- orkplace proactivity
- Empowering leadership
- Psychological empowerment
- Professional autonomy
- Workplace flexibility
- Access to knowledge
The study results revealed that psychological empowerment played a significant role in the relationship between the identified HRM practices and proactive workplace behavior. Professional autonomy improves their assessment of their impact, competence, meaning, and self-determination. They also achieve higher levels of autonomous motivation, feel more empowered, and therefore display higher levels of workplace proactivity.
Imagine if your employees weren't just focused on productivity but on producing from an empowered, proactive mindset! Sounds appealing, right? Now let's dig into what you're here for: proven methods for employee empowerment.
Proven Methods of Employee Empowerment
There are several ways to empower your employees in ways they might not even know they need. Leaders can do this by stepping up, being creative, and taking charge. When it comes to employee empowerment, there are some tried and true methods. There are also some more creative methods. We'll plan to cover both.
Psychological empowerment creates psychological safety within the workplace. The Center for Creative Leadership defines psychological safety as the "belief that you won't be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes." It means team members aren't risking embarrassment, rejection, or punishment for participating.
According to Dr. Timothy Clark, author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation, employees will go through four different stages before they feel entirely comfortable engaging and contributing to the team:
- Inclusion Safety: Employees feel safe to be themselves and are accepted for who they are.
- Learner Safety: Employees feel safe to exchange in the learning process by asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, experimenting, and making mistakes.
- Contributor Safety: Employees feel safe using their skills and abilities to make a meaningful contribution.
- Challenger Safety: Employees feel safe speaking up and challenging the status quo when there's an opportunity to change or improve.
So how can leaders empower employees psychologically? Here are a few creative ideas:
- Bring lower-level employees into higher-level conversations. If your organization is re-examining its workflows and processes or considering a new line of business, talk to the people these changes would impact the most. Front-line workers are the eyes and ears of the organization internally and externally. These employees will feel more included and heard. They can also provide insights you may not usually use in your decision-making process.
- Show interest in the whole person, not just the worker. COVID-19 forced employers to get to know their employees better when everyone had to sign in to work from their living rooms. But that didn't happen in every workplace. Leaders who take the time to get to know their employees as individuals empower them to speak up for their wants and needs more often. It also helps them feel safer and more likely to be understood.
- Give feedback and recognize excellence. Employees want to feel like their work contributes to a broader goal. Sometimes, they need reminding. Make a point to verbalize positive and negative feedback to give them a better sense of where they stand and how they impact the organization. Don't just speak up when something's wrong. It will make them feel like you're taking them for granted when things go right.
- Allow autonomy in decision-making. Autonomy is critical for feeling safe and empowered for those somewhere in the middle between upper management and the front lines. These people are in their positions because they've shown that they understand the impact decisions have on the front line. So let them make decisions as they see fit. Not everything needs a top-down management strategy. As long as the outcomes are aligned with the goals, do you need control over every detail of achieving them?
Providing financial support to employees with pay and benefits can help them feel empowered because it gives them more control over their lives outside of work.
As an employer, you have a powerful opportunity to empower your employees by providing proper financial support. Of course, pay and benefits play a substantial role in employee satisfaction, retention, and even productivity. Still, you don't have to stop there. Ensure that employees know that they are valued as people first and workers second. You'll also ensure that they will be more engaged and loyal to your company.
Here are a few ways you can empower your employees financially – with the help of BrightUp:
- Provide financial flexibility with compassionate capital. Everyone gets hit with a financial emergency now and then. Unfortunately, many workers report that even a $400 expense could send them searching for help from a family member or applying for a payday loan. More and more employers are providing company-sponsored loans, flexible payment options, or access to a financial provider – like BrightUp – that works with sub-prime credit scores.
- Connect employees with financial coaching options. Workers at varying levels of your company probably have different financial literacy and confidence levels. An employer-sponsored financial coach can provide the support and handholding your employees may need to achieve a financially secure lifestyle. BrightUp offers human-centered coaching to help workers set, track, and achieve their financial goals.
- Provide an all-inclusive financial planning tool. While there are a lot of financial planning tools and apps out there, not all of them are created equal. In addition, most of them require a subscription to unlock their full potential. By working with a company like BrightUp, you can provide the financial planning tools they need to succeed without the extra hit on their wallets. Helping them see all of their accounts in one place, track spending trends, and celebrate milestones can empower employees to take back their finances.
- Personalize financial education to their specific needs. Not only is everyone's level of financial literacy different, but their situations are different too! Not every educational article will apply to everyone in your company. So if you're going to provide financial education to your employees, make sure you're providing a variety and not a one-size-fits-all teaching style.
The better your employees understand how their money works, the more they can save and invest. Providing financial literacy materials, classes, or workshops can help them better understand how to use their paychecks to improve their lives. Whether these are wrapped up into a big employee financial wellness benefits plan, or pieced out into individual offerings, companies who want to attract and keep loyal employees will need to take these steps to provide financial stability.
You might think that career planning is up to the employee or a waste of time. But developing a formal career plan with your team members can be an effective tool for company growth, increasing employee engagement and retention. After all, when employees see a clear path forward at your organization, they're more likely to stay in their positions longer, ultimately benefiting your business. According to LinkedIn data, 88% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for more than five years if they feel there are growth opportunities within their organization.
Here are a few ways to implement career empowerment in your workplace:
- Reimburse professional development expenses. Most employees are interested in further developing their skills in an area that interests them or helps them do their job better. However, many are strapped for cash to pay for that training or the time away from work to take the classes. Employers can provide a stipend or reimburse employees with the funds they need to take their skillset to the next level.
- Have more visioning conversations. Check-ins with your team members shouldn't always just be centered around tasks and performance. Allow them to voice their long-term wants and desires for their careers. Where do they see themselves in five years? What roles do they desire to fill? You can work together to draft a plan to get them there. Employees are less likely to leave a clear growth path.
- Provide cross-training opportunities. Not everyone wants to stay on the same trajectory for their entire career. Maybe your employee has been exposed to another role in the company and would like to learn more about it. Map out transferable skills that can help employees better support one another and support employees in exploring their options at your company. If they feel like they'd like to make a change in their work, they don't feel like they have to leave the company to do so.
As an employer, you have the opportunity to create a learning culture that promotes professional development and provides clear career paths for your team members. By coaching team members on developing career plans and scheduling regular meetings to check in on progress, you can help them achieve their goals and demonstrate that you care about their careers. This shows them they're valued and empowers them.
Empower Your Employees with BrightUp
If you want to attract and retain the best employees, you'll have to show them that they're empowered to do their best. Like many things in life, empowerment doesn't come easy. If you're going to invest in your employees and help them grow, you can't expect immediate results. It's a process — something you have to build upon with time and consistency.
We hope that these considerations about psychological, financial, and career empowerment provide a roadmap for you and your own company to implement an effective change. Furthermore, we hope you'll look to BrightUp when considering which financial wellness benefits you can provide to empower your employees in and outside of the workplace.
When you provide BrightUp to your employees, you give them access to a full suite of wealth-building and well-being tools. So if you're ready to embrace your responsibility to your employees' financial well-being, contact a BrightUp employer representative on our website today. You can also call us directly at (833) 513-1302, or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let's empower your employees with a financial wellness program together!
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Written by Slam Media Lab