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Empowering the Employee

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A 2014 survey by Global Perspectives has found that UK workers have some of the lowest engagement with their jobs in the world. It is a considerable leadership challenge to nurture an employee so that they feel loyal to the business whilst being self-motivated and able to take the initiative – but now, based on these new statistics, UK businesses need to think carefully about how best to motivate their staff. With this in mind I have outlined a few steps leadership teams can take to empower their employees so that they are productive and reliable members of the team.

The survey by Global Perspectives found that in every category measured, UK employee engagement had decreased over 12 months and that in 2014 only 37% of workers felt they were encouraged to be innovative in their roles. Empowering the employee should be the end goal for every manager, however these statistics suggest that for one reason or another employees aren’t getting what they want from their roles.

One of the reasons managers may be struggling to empower their employees is that it is often difficult to strike a good balance – leaders shouldn’t stifle their employees through micro-management but should also ensure they do not leave them completely to their own devices. When people first start a new job they will require a certain amount of one-to-one time to get to grips with the way things work around the office and so a hands-off approach at first will be detrimental to the learning process.

Managers need time to fully understand how to get the best out of their team.

Proper training can help leadership teams to understand the best techniques needed to create a positive working environment; one which cultivates employees to feel self-assured, confident and self-reliant. In order to empower employees and build strong relationships between teams, there are a number of steps that managers can take to ensure they get the very best out of their workforce.

Promote open communication

Many businesses, whether it is intentional or not, have a rather hierarchical office structure which is built on top-down communication from the management team. However the most effective kind of office culture is completely open and transparent. According to data collected by, companies that promote good communication are 50 per cent more likely to have lower levels of staff turnover. And businesses with high levels of engagement reported 22 per cent higher productivity.

A culture built upon secrecy and poor information flow can give people the impression that they are being treated unfairly, and this can create unrest amongst colleagues and can have a negative impact on morale. This is often because employees working within these sorts of office structures have no direct contact with the top management teams and therefore feel far removed from the decision process.

To combat this, it is important that leaders work to break down these barriers and put in place structures that open up the flow of information and encourage employees to express any feedback regularly. It is important to regularly let employees know that their input is valued and that their thoughts and opinions are being taken seriously.

Give employees room to make their own mistakes

Managers may adopt many different leadership styles but one that is particularly detrimental is micro-management. Employees working underneath micromanagers can often feel unable to take risks because they feel their boss is breathing down their neck and correcting them before they have a chance to think for themselves. This sort of management style is counter-productive as in a working environment it can lead to a workforce of overly cautious employees who seek constant approval before taking any action.

So why do people micromanage? Often it stems from insecurities that the manager has about their own abilities and can also reflect how much trust the manager has in their staff to complete a job properly. Sometimes micromanagers have risen up in a company but struggle to let their old job go, and so often are inclined to try to do two people’s jobs at once.

Although giving up control can be daunting for leaders, it is crucial to empower employees to allow them to realise their full potential - as monitoring someone’s every move can dramatically impede their progress and ability to grow. To combat this, managers should be given sufficient training to understand their new roles and should hold regular one-to-ones with their employees to help build a good work rapport.

To combat a crisis of confidence, employees should be encouraged to try new things that are low risk for the business but which give them the opportunity to make decisions and work on their leadership skills. Pushing employees out of their comfort zone, although initially daunting for both parties, can ultimately lead to a more enthused and charged workforce.

Appreciate your employee’s efforts

Fair enough, employees are getting paid to come in to work every day, but nevertheless a bit of appreciation goes a long way. The best workers are motivated by more than just money and empowered workers need a certain amount of job satisfaction to get them out of bed every morning. In order to push employees to perform to the best of their abilities they need to feel like their leadership team appreciates their contribution and the hard work they put in every day.

Leaders should be open and willing to offer thanks where it is due; regular appraisals and feedback meetings can be great opportunities to relay to employees what they are doing well and how they can improve further. Whereas pay rises are great incentives, to increase everyday satisfaction it is important to understand where individual’s strengths lie and to build upon so they can advance in their roles.

Give back to employees

Employers can empower their staff by giving them complete control over their personal files by using workforce management systems, which allow them to access information such as hours worked and rotas as well as request holidays without directly involving HR departments.

Working outside of the traditional hierarchical work structure can help create stronger staff bonds that are built upon mutual respect and transparency. Giving employee’s room to make mistakes and take the initiative allows individuals to discover their true potential and become more productive members of the team.