Managing Empowered EmployeesPart 1
It’s important to recognize that an empowered employee is one who has defined boundaries within which to act, and defined freedoms.
In the traditional autocratic management style, individuals are not only told what to do, but how to do it. In an empowered environment, they should still be told what to do (the strategy of the organization, department, or team), but they should have the freedom to determine how this task should be done. This allows each individual to use their knowledge and skill to the fullest, by giving them the freedom to participate in the execution of the task to a degree not experienced in the autocratic structure.
One might easily envision an instance where, perhaps during a strike, the engineers go in to operate a factory. At the end of the strike the engineers might make a number of recommendations regarding changes to be made to the lines in order to improve productivity. By working on the lines themselves they had identified many different steps which could be taken to improve productivity or process design.
When these recommendations are put forward, the hourly workers on the floor might note that these were the same recommendations that they had been suggesting for years, but because they did not have the credentials of an engineer they had been ignored! To me, this would be a tragic waste of human talent.
Had those employees who have been working with the equipment day in and day out been listened to, then that organization could have gained immensely from productivity improvements as well as employee relations years earlier. The expertise already lay in the hands and minds of those who knew the equipment intimately. It was good that the engineers could identify opportunities for improvement and make changes; but it would have been far better if the organization had been managing from an empowered prospective, which would have allowed the workers to contribute to the “how” of the task for their own area of responsibility.
Stay tuned for Wednesday for part 2 including the 5 guidelines for managing empowered employees!
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