Employee empowerment and staff happiness are hot topics in the management world. What can managers do to empower staff and thus make them happier?
A growing body of evidence points to serious business benefits when they’re embraced and encouraged. So what makes staff happiness, and specifically empowerment, so important?
Though it’s easy to get lost in the sea of trending management techniques, one of the most effective ways managers can get results is by focusing on employee happiness. This simple drive will improve business performance and bring many other benefits.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Why happy and empowered staff are important;
- Collaboratively setting goals;
- Encouraging improvement;
- How trust empowers employees;
- Why employees need to make mistakes;
- Giving employees freedom to get the work done;
- Rewarding effort over talent, and;
- Promoting from within.
Why happy and empowered staff are important
If the happiness of your employees is important to you as a manager, there’s strong evidence it should be a key priority. Firstly, employee happiness has been linked to productivity, with one study finding happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy ones. And happiness is clearly tangible to customers, since sales increase by 37% when employees are happy.
Clearly, it pays for businesses to keep their employees satisfied with their jobs. And a key part of building a happy workforce is to empower staff, which has benefits at both the individual and organisational level. Some of the most successful companies, like Facebook, are built on an empowered corporate culture.
Empowered staff are able to buy into their roles, improve their skillsets, and take responsibility for bold decisions. All of these behaviours can generate positive results for your business.
The following are seven steps you can take to empower your employees, make them happier, and reap the rewards:
Collaboratively setting goals
Involving employees in the process of outlining their aims has multiple benefits. Doing so will help them to feel like they have control over their roles, increasing their engagement with their work.
They will know they are working towards goals which they want to achieve, rather than merely ones which the business considers important. Providing clarity on their career path is one of the key ways to motivate employees.
It also makes it more likely the milestones you set with them will be agreed upon and realistic, two key factors in defining goals which follow the SMART framework: Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, and Time-based.
Part of any employee’s goals should be to improve in some way. Motivated employees have a need to learn and to grow. If your business doesn’t provide the opportunities for them to do so, they will likely find somewhere else.
Continued education can take many forms in a business. It might be allowing employees some time each month to shadow a senior colleague elsewhere in the business to broaden their knowledge of how the whole company operates. Or taking a management course as part of a longer-term plan to eventually move into a supervisor role.
But even letting employees improve themselves in ways which don’t have a direct business link can still be beneficial. They will be happier if they’re able to work around external activities, will have good things to say about working for you, and may even learn some transferable skills while they’re at it.
Trust empowers employees
Giving your employees free reign to make decisions and solve problems can be incredibly beneficial. Not only does it make them more productive by removing the need for them to get their plan of action approved, but it also shows them your trust in their capabilities. This will make them feel valued and valuable.
Of course, you can’t forgo any responsibility for their actions and let them loose but do expand the boundaries within which you’re happy for them to operate. Importantly, these boundaries need to be clearly set out and agreed upon so there’s no confusion.
For example, you could give a marketer a fixed budget and let them experiment with several different advertising channels to see which works best. By undertaking the research and evaluation of each channel themselves, rather than having you prescribe what to use, they’ll hone valuable skills as well as feeling they are trusted to do their job.
Employees need to make mistakes
As you provide your employees with more freedom in an effort to empower them, it’s inevitable they will make some mistakes. After all, they are only human and they’ve been given a remit to experiment and learn. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process.
However, you of course need to keep your business’s success in mind. This means there are two categories of mistake: those you’re happy for employees to make, and those you aren’t.
Defining acceptable risks will help employees to understand the impact their actions have on the wider business. It will also allow them to evaluate the risks in however they choose to solve their problems they’re tackling.
Acceptable risks might include trialling a small batch of a new product to see if it appeals to your target audience. Ensure this risk fits within the boundaries you’ve defined with the employee, like a set budget.
Then you will, in the worst case, have spent that budget on a valuable learning experience as well as new information about your customers. In the best case scenario, alongside these will be a brand new avenue to explore which could be a lucrative source of revenue.
An unacceptable risk is one where the costs far outweigh the benefits. This is likely to include taking a chance on any product with safety concerns or spending a large amount of money on a speculative venture. Behaviour which could impact your business’s reputation, like deceptive marketing or public criticism of another company, also falls into this category.
Giving employees freedom to get the work done
As well as trusting they can choose the right methods for the job, another way to boost employee empowerment, and thus happiness, is to let them choose when they do the work. Offering flexibility in the hours which employees work may not always be possible, but if your business can manage it, you will likely find it offers real improvement in employee satisfaction.
For businesses which manage shift workers, shift times may be fixed, but the allocations of specific shifts or even days might not. Traditionally, letting employees pick and choose their days on a regular basis would lead to a headache for the manager in charge of overseeing the rota. But smart online scheduling tools like Findmyshift allow for a far greater degree of customisation.
Using shift management tools, managers can give employees the chance to request, swap, or cancel shifts, with ultimate approval for each decision remaining with the business. This provides an easy way to let employees choose the days and times which work for their lives without risking missed shifts or creating additional admin.
Rewarding effort over talent
While your company should invest in finding and recruiting talented individuals, this shouldn’t be what you reserve your praise for. Employees who put in effort are likely to be those who will also seek out opportunities for improvement, go above and beyond the remit of their role to serve customers, and care about the approval of management.
Rewarding effort sends a message to employees that those who try their hand at activities beyond the few which come naturally to them will succeed. This will help to build more rounded and versatile employees. It also empowers them by demonstrating that putting in work pays off. Since this is something anyone, regardless of talent, can do, it makes your workplace a fairer place.
Promoting from within
Showing your employees that the best performers among them will be considered for promotion is a sure-fire way to boost morale. In addition to improving staff happiness, promoting from within is cost-effective and often much faster than hiring externally as well. Candidates already know the company, and you will have a far better picture of their skills and experience too.
Succession planning is key enabler for making internal promotions a success. It allows you to motivate employees far in advance of actual promotion opportunities by letting them know they will be considered for roles as they arise.
It also lets you work with earmarked employees to develop the skills they’ll need once they do take up a higher position. Doing this ahead of time will ensure a smooth transition as and when they do get the job.
There are several ways in which managers can empower employees with the ultimate aim of improving employee happiness. It’s important to note many of these methods require trust and faith in your employees and their capabilities and do also come with an element of risk.
When handled properly, these risks will justify themselves through employee growth and satisfaction. The end result will then be happier employees who work more productively for your business.
Follow these tips and reap the rewards which come from a workforce of happy, empowered employees.
About the Author
Jake Waller uses his background in engineering to simplify complex topics for a variety of tech firms. He covers employee engagement and productivity tips for small business managers on the Findmyshift blog.