Employee engagement specialist and Founder of etimes, Nigel McPolin, claims: ‘Employee engagement is not a corporate strategy. It is an ethos. It is how people expect to be treated. It is how your company makes your employees feel.’ As CEO of the leadership and development training business based in Northern Ireland, McPolin underlines the importance of valuing and empowering employees in the current climate. As the world of work has evolved through the pandemic, empowering and inspiring confidence in the workforce has become more important than ever, adapting for hybrid and remote working environments. Leading employees with clarity and compassion is paramount to a successful and happy working culture. Equipping employees with the attitude and skillset to succeed within a reassuring team can lead to higher job satisfaction, lower staff turnover and increased morale, according to recent research.
So how can an empowered workforce be achieved? In simplistic terms, “empowerment” is the act of granting authority to employees and facilitating autonomous decision-making. This can be realised through three key factors: delivering inspiring leadership; enabling a culture of trust; and valuing employees.
An empowered workforce is created through effective management. An approachable and transparent team leader is able to lead by example and create open communication in the workforce. Brené Brown, celebrated thinker and speaker, advocates a ‘people first’, empathetic leadership style, stating: ‘we have to care for and be connected to the people we lead in order to be effective.’ A manager’s ability to listen and respond to their team’s needs is crucial in fostering a supportive and productive working environment. Ensuring every individual in the workforce feels included and respected on a personal level allows employees to feel heard and valued, encouraging connection, and thereby, productivity. Clear communication and honest feedback between leaders and their team, as well as open conversations and approachability, is critical in encouraging independence, innovation and creativity.
A Culture of Trust
According to Breathe HR’s Culture Economy Report 2020, 21% of employees surveyed in the UK cited micro-management as a reason for distrust in leadership. Employee empowerment directly opposes micromanagement, and entrusting employees with autonomy over their workload is vital in facilitating an engaged workforce. Allowing employees the freedom to make independent decisions (and inevitably, mistakes) engenders the feeling that their work is meaningful and valuable within the context of an accepting and supportive culture. A positive effect from the pandemic and remote working has been the increased autonomy afforded to employees working from home. The CIPD Good Work Index 2022 reports that ‘workers that make use of the flexibility to work from home also report higher levels of control in various aspects of their jobs’. Employees trusted to work on projects independently also have higher productivity rates and job satisfaction. Decentralising leadership and sharing information cross-organisationally allows each employee to feel like an active participant in the company’s success, fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty. Strategic delegation by managers can allow employees to feel entrusted and empowered in their role, boosting efficiency.
Along with well-appointed delegation and encouragement, other company practices can also help employees to feel valued in their work. Organisations that provide training opportunities, pay their staff well and facilitate social activities have a higher staff-retention rate and are more successful overall. The CIPD Good Work Index 2022 states: ‘The prospect of better pay and benefits elsewhere appears to be a primary driver of intention to quit’. Upskilling your workforce not only allows employees to feel appreciated, but helps to future-proof your company. Research by LinkedIn suggests that employees who learn new skills at work are:
• 47% less likely to be stressed
• 23% more likely to take on additional responsibilities
• 39% more likely to feel productive/successful
• 21% more likely to feel happy and confident at work
Offering learning opportunities - be it through in-house training or outsourced courses - can help your team to feel valued and encouraged.
Effective leaders empower their team. Employee empowerment is an ethos. Implementing these three key factors in the workplace – inspiring leadership, a culture of trust and valuing employees – creates the strong foundations for an empowered and successful workforce, getting the very best from every level of your organisation.