There's lots of talk about empowered employees. The self-starter that keeps the company's objectives firmly in mind, always operates by the company's values, shows initiative, needs little guidance and tackles even the tough stuff with a positive attitude. But that employee doesn't just show up on your doorstep, ready to jump in and perform for you. It's a manager-employee relationship. A two way street. A give and take. It involves reciprocity.
When you establish an environment that gives employees control over their work, the ability to communicate openly about their ideas and a responsibility in the organization as a whole, you create empowered employees who are more productive, more likely to embrace change, provide better customer service, build positive morale and hold themselves accountable. So, how do go about empowering your employees? What are some simple things you can do right now to change the day-to-day work environment and let your employees make a real difference?
Create a Company Vision, Mission and Values, and the Communicate Them
It doesn't get much simpler than this: you can't play the game if you don't know the rules. One of the most important things you can do for your employees is to create a company vision, mission and set of values, and then communicate them early and often. Your company values will shape expectation for employees and become the foundation for living out your vision and mission. This is an essential step for empowered employees.
One of our values is you are empowered to fix what's broken. Notice it says, "you." It's very deliberately worded. Not "managers" are empowered, not "employees-who-have-been-with-the-company-longer-than-a-year" are empowered, but "you" are empowered. I want every single person who comes onboard with OneSource Virtual to know from day one they can make a difference.
Look for and Reward Input from Every Level
Too many times, companies rely on top-down communication. It can be easy to fall into the managers-have-more-experience trap. Don't make that mistake. It's just as important to listen to and consider feedback from the employees who talk to your customers every day. They are the ones who have the greatest insight on effective solutions. And if you decide not to take action on a suggestion, it IS important to communicate and help an employee understand why you chose a different route. Acknowledging and rewarding contribution, even if it isn't the way you choose to solve a problem at the moment, is a solid way to create empowered employees.
There Are No Bad Ideas
I know you've heard this one before, and it's true. Small changes can make a big impact. Employees who feel they have the opportunity, and most importantly the ability to put their ideas into action can move mountains. If everyone in your company said, "I can do it. I can make a difference," you would change the game. It might be simple as, "I believe the office needs more positive energy. I'm going to say 'Hi' to everyone." Great, encourage it. That's what's happening at OneSource Virtual. We are growing at an incredible speed. With over 500 employees, we are innovating in an industry that hasn't changed in 50 years.
Allow Safe Failure
You have to fail to succeed and make mistakes to learn, right? If you want empowered employees, it's absolutely essential to create a culture where it's okay to be wrong. Most employees don't like to take chances, and constant correction will only cause people to seek approval or avoid action altogether. Make sure your employees know it's okay to try new things (within reason), to make mistakes and give them the opportunity to correct problems. This is how innovation is born, and companies crush the competition.
People are the key to an innovative, productive, successful, and therefore, profitable company. Make sure employee contributions count, and you will always be able to count on your employees. Are your employees empowered? I want to hear from you. Tell me about your ideas or experiences in the comments.