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Susan M. Heathfield

Employee Empowerment Rules

By November 25, 2013

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Preparing for a business presentation about forward thinking Human Resources, I decided mid-way through writing the summary that I was approaching the topic in the wrong way. I started by listing the Human Resources systems that I believe are necessary for forward thinking Human Resources such as performance management as opposed to performance appraisal.

As I listed systems it struck me that this was opposite to the approach I should be using. For those of you who have to give talks occasionally, perhaps these thoughts will help.

I decided that the fundamental question I needed to answer is what's in it for them. Why would an organization want to spend the time, money, and energy adopting forward thinking Human Resources practices? They can be more costly; they require a learning curve; they divert energy from the organization's day-to-day business - often with no assurance of success.

Or, are forward thinking Human Resources systems the producers of the organization's day-to-day successful business? To answer this question, I'll write a periodic blog post about the key factors you are attempting to create in your organizational environment to which forward thinking Human Resources systems can contribute or even create.

How Employee Empowerment Is Created by Forward Thinking HR Practices

The first is employee empowerment. You want to create an environment in which employees feel enabled to direct their work and make decisions about the areas of their job for which they are responsible. You don't want them waiting for the permission of their manager. To create empowerment, you need to develop a strategic framework for your company so that employees have a context within which to make decisions. When they clearly understand the direction, they make better decisions that are in accord with the company's direction.

Clear direction requires effective communication and regular feedback about how their decisions worked out. Not second guessing them, although honest feedback is critical, you want to encourage further decisions, teach them about how to make effective decisions, and reward and recognize them to reinforce the kind of decisions you'd like to see occur more often. Here are potential levels of employee empowerment.

Thanks for reading and thinking with me. What do you think about employee empowerment as a strategic business practice, an organization value, and a way of engaging people and tapping into their best contributions?

Image Copyright Lisa Gagne

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