Any manager worth their salt will know that their business aims are best served with a team of happy, productive employees. The link between employee satisfaction and business success has been made abundantly clear through several studies; perhaps the most telling is that the stock prices of the Fortune 100 best companies to work for rise 14% per year, compared to 6% for the competition.
It’s therefore in the interest of managers, especially those at small businesses, where every team member counts, to ensure their staff enjoy their jobs. And a key factor in that enjoyment is empowerment.
What is employee empowerment and why is it important?
Empowered employees are given a degree of autonomy when it comes to decision-making within their roles. As opposed to a system of micromanagement, which can have negative effects including stress, fatigue, and employees feeling undervalued, giving employees responsibility shows trust. When your employees see that you believe in their abilities to do their jobs, and don’t need to be constantly supervising them, they too will believe in themselves and perform better.
Empowered employees also allow businesses to be more responsive, since employees can make decisions on how best to serve customers without seeking managerial approval for every step. While there is sometimes a trade-off in coordination, and some risks, the benefits to employee satisfaction and engagement cannot be overstated.
So how can small business managers empower their employees and reap the rewards? We’ve pulled together some of the best ways to show trust in those under your command.
Encourage problem solving
Rather than dictating exactly how they should carry out the activities they’re responsible for and how they should tackle the challenges they might face, show your employees trust by letting them work things out on your own.
Of course, there’s a caveat here, in that you shouldn’t just throw employees in the deep end when it comes to new tasks they haven’t tackled. But if, for example, you need to make a one-off delivery, give them a budget and let them find whatever method they deem suitable.
This is also a great way to promote positive changes and innovation. Established tasks that have always been done a certain way don’t always employ the best methods—times have changed! See if your employees have new ideas that they could bring to the table.
Let them know how to take risks
Inherent in handing over more “power to the people” is some element of risk. There will often be a reason things are done in a certain way and doing things differently could result in worse results than before. As a manager, it’s up to you to set the boundaries of what’s acceptable and what’s not.
This will vary from business to business but be sure to get clear ground rules that rule out any seriously detrimental activity. Trialling a new store layout might confuse a few customers initially and make a bit more work for employees in the short-term, but it’s unlikely to lose you much business and it could improve sales.
On the other hand, taking risks when it comes to safety, compliance, and large amounts of expenditure are likely to be ones y
our business cannot afford. Ensure your employees know what they are and are not authorised to try, so that you see innovation rather than devastation.
Offer them flexibility
Empowerment isn’t just about how we work, but when we work. A simple way to let your employees feel in control is to give them greater freedom in choosing times, shifts, and days that suit them. Everyone has a life outside of their job and often the two don’t mesh together perfectly.
Small business managers reading this may be unsure, since the prospect of more flexible working likely conjures up terrifying scenes of hours spent on staff rotas; inconsistent, crossed-out schedules; and missed shifts. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Online scheduling tools are a great way to empower your employees with shifts that suit them without creating additional admin. Solutions like Findmyshift allow employees to request, swap, and cancel shifts with managerial approval. They’re happy to be working the right hours for their lives and you’re confident everyone is still on the same page and the work will get done.
The degree to which you’re able to be flexible will depend on your unique business needs, but whatever leeway you can afford to give your employees, every little helps!
Involve them in their roles and goals
The final to make employees feel empowered is to give them control of their future. Not to the extent that they’re setting their own paygrade, perhaps, but at least in terms of what they should be aiming to achieve.
Check in with employees regularly on their responsibilities. They may have certain tasks they perform well at and enjoy, while others are trickier. As long as these aren’t the sort of responsibilities that no one is willing to take on, you may be able to reshuffle things and make their days more enjoyable by playing to their strengths.
They should also have an idea of how they might progress in your business, and while this needn’t be a formal process, do have conversations with them about what would be realistic targets to achieve in their role. If they want to take on more sales, come up with a figure they could look to hit, or if back-office work is their preference, perhaps they can take on a project optimising some part of the business.
Turn their goals from something dictated by management to something they’ve bought into. This will not only help them to feel empowered, knowing that their career is moving in a direction of their choice, but they’ll be more likely to strive for these goals as a personal challenge.
We hope these tips bring your business ever great success through empowering your employees and creating a happier workforce.