Why do business owners have employees?
For many business owners, especially those who started their own businesses from the ground up, the employees came gradually as the company grew. Each time a new hire occurred, the owner ideally made some calculated decisions about what they could do for themselves and what skills were best left to someone else. Perhaps each new employee was hired based on their expertise or specific perspective on the world.
One of the greatest assets that a business has is a diversified set of employees who are able to work together to fill in one another’s skill gaps. However, this only works when employees are empowered to take action. A business can have the most talented team in the world, but if one person is micromanaging everyone else’s actions, that talent will go to waste.
What does it mean to empower an employee?
Empowering an employee is going to look different for every business and for every role. In general, though, it means trusting employees to make decisions and giving them the autonomy to put those decisions into action.
Take Curt Richardson, for instance, he is the founder and owner of OtterBox, a company that grew its sales more than 1000% in just five years. In a recent episode of the podcast How I Built This, Richardson talked about his philosophy for his employees. After a year of employment, every employee is given two days with a life planner to “discover what they want.” Richardson explains that he wants to help his employees “understand their talents” and become “the best they can be” . . . even if that sometimes means they move on to another position or start their own business. This approach has gotten him dedicated, passionate employees who bring their best to his business.
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Here are just some of the many ways that businesses can work to empower their employees:
- Give Control- The more control business operators can give employees, the more invested they’ll be in what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Of course, the level of autonomy is going to vary based on the individual tasks and the way it fits into the larger cycle of the business, but allowing employees to have control over their task management, process, and even schedule can be a great way to empower them.
- Listen- It doesn’t do any good to have a variety of talented people around if no one listens to what they have to say. The value of their perspective and innovations is lost, and they’ll grow frustrated as a result. Good leaders set up time to listen to employees and make sure to actually implement and act on their ideas (and give them credit when they do).
- Invest in Growth- Employees have their own goals, passions, and career needs. Offering opportunities for growth and increased autonomy over time is one excellent way to build empowerment into a business model.
- Provide Time- People need time. They need time to think, to learn, and to experiment. One way to empower people to do their best work is to give them the space to figure it out meaningfully and purposefully. For some companies, that means time off for professional development of the employee’s choice. For others, it means one day a month when employees can work on whatever project they want without outside direction. Leaders are finding innovative ways to give their employees the time to become great.
What are the benefits of empowerment?
People want to feel valued, useful, and productive. Being empowered to use their skills meaningfully makes people feel appreciated. This morale boost is a major benefit of empowerment. It can lead to higher retention and decreased turnover costs.
At the same time, productivity soars when employees are empowered. Delegation increases output because employees are able to find the way their individual skills best fit into the overall business goals. Problem solving becomes more efficient and effective when employees are able to bring forward their own ideas and put them into practice without fear of being shut down.
In short, the entire point of having employees is to create a strong team of individuals who each bring their own talents to the table. The only time those talents can truly be helpful, though, is when the employees feel genuinely empowered to use them.