Employee Empowerment

By: Awais Bilal

The present era is of intense competition, increasing complexity, high uncertainty, and marginal profits. Meeting the challenges posed by such an environment is only possible through team work, concerted effort, innovation and adaptability, which traits are non-existent in the organizations having conventional multi-layered hierarchical structures. The answer lies in bringing about change to remain competitive. Accordingly, leading and managing change has become a key responsibility and one of the success factors for leaders and managers in most of the progressive organizations world-wide. Organizational change, however, is a complex process involving multiple interrelated aspects of an organization; changes in one part of the organization often have profound effects on other parts.

In any organization in general, and in those with conservative management environment in particular, any change effort invites resistance from various directions, most importantly from within, because the managers feel threatened to lose power, whereas most of the work force have the fear of losing the job or some of the benefits in a changed, efficiency-based, result-oriented work environment. Therefore, for successful transformation efforts, a holistic, people-focused approach encompassing formal aspects such as structure and systems, as well as informal aspects, such as culture, communications, employee welfare, etc. is needed.

Over time it has transpired that traditional hierarchical "command and control" organizations have been unsuccessfully struggling to gain an edge over their competitors, whereas comparatively progressive organizations with flatter structures, which involved their employees during the conceptualization, planning and implementation stages of change, succeeded in achieving far better results to meet the growing demands for quality and flexibility through popular change brought about through empowerment of its employees. The desired results form change can not be achieved without the involvement and ownership of the change by its employees. Therefore, it is imperative that before thinking of bringing about any change for betterment, efforts are made to create a sense of ownership amongst the employees of the organization. Such sense of ownership can be created through a number of measures, such as (a) creating a spirited, innovative, learning environment where people are continuously looking for new ways to satisfy customers, and have the liberty to experiment their innovative ideas; (b) affording small personal favours to employees, and caring about their well being; and (c) decentralization and delegation of various functions to grossroots level, which essentially means that the employees should be given more autonomy to take initiative and calculated risks when needed, without getting the permission of their seniors and without any fear of reprimand.

Empowered and talented workforce is the prime ingredient of organizational success. A critical feature of successful teams is that they enjoy a high level of empowerment or decision making authority. New knowledge based firms are flat in hierarchical structure, where employees not only can operate with minimal supervision and take the right decisions at the right time at their own, but also have a degree of freedom in managing their professional growth. The managers provide an enabling environment wherein the employees can select appropriate training courses for themselves to enhance their capabilities and skill level. The managers assume more of a leadership, coaching, and mentoring role and provide employees with resources and working conditions they need to accomplish the agreed goals of the team and the organization.

Form the above discussion, it trickles down that remaining competitive in any business in the present day business environment is possible only through change to keep pace with the changed realities, and the change can not be effective without the involvement and empowerment of the employees of the organization. If the employees feel good about themselves, they are more creative and productive, and they do not work hard because they are required to, but because they want to. In other words, employee empowerment, can be and should be used as a vehicle for change to achieve the desired results.

Human Resources
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