Employee empowerment is a process whereby: a culture of empowerment is developed; information—in the form of a shared vision, clear goals, boundaries for decision making, and the results of efforts and their impact on the whole—is shared; competency—in the form of training and experience—is developed; resources, or the competency to obtain them when needed to be effective in their jobs, are provided; and support—in the form of mentoring, cultural support, and encouragement of risk-taking—is provided (Kreisberg, 2002).
Every employer uses employee empowerment to some extent, though it is often thought of as delegation. No organization of more than one person can survive without some employee empowerment. When the owner of a business, Etc. hires someone to work the weekends, that person is empowered. When a manager hires an accounting graduate to maintain the departmental ledger, that person is empowered. When the director of advertising chooses which slogan should go on the web banner, that person is empowered. In each of these instances the empowered person has been provided with the training and experience they need to be effective in their position. Each has the information to know how their decisions will impact the larger whole. Each has access to the resources he or she needs to be effective. And the assumption is that each will be supported in the decisions they make (Ciulla, 2004).
Empowerment is a process of becoming, not a task or end result in and of itself. Just as with continuous improvement, no organization is ever done with its empowerment implementation; no person is ever "completely empowered". Empowerment becomes part of the culture of the organization. Empowering others becomes a transparent act, nobody within the organization notices when an act of empowerment is exercised. It may be noticeable in the extreme to outsiders, but, if the implementation effort has been successful, it will be second nature to those acculturated within the organization (Brown, 2000).
Clearly, empowerment is neither quick nor easy, except in the case of a newly formed organization where the leaders understand it and have committed themselves and the organization to it. Given that this is the case it becomes necessary to demonstrate the benefits and provide an implementation strategy which builds upon a clear understanding of all that employee empowerment entails (Weston, 2001).
Today's business environment depends on the "empowered employee." The process of employee empowerment increases the demands on an individual's skills and knowledge, both on an interpersonal and technical level. Empowerment is the process whereby employees are supported and encouraged to fully utilize their skills, abilities and creativity to accept ownership and accountability for their job/project. Empowerment includes supervisors and employees working together to establish clear goals and expectations within agreed-upon boundaries (Korukonda, 2000).
Sitterly (2000) indicated that the empowerment process can be characterized by three stages. Each stage represents an increase in employee control.
Stage 1: For people or teams new to empowerment, their circle of control and influence will be relatively small. In general, activities at this level include:
some control and minor decisions
problem solving consultation on some decisions made in the department
Stage 2: As employee skills, abilities and acceptance of empowerment increase, so does the scope of empowerment. In general, activities at this level include:
significant control and more decision making
problem solving consulted on most decisions made in the department
Stage 3: As a work team matures and performs consistently, significant ownership of the department is taken. The scope of empowerment is at its highest. In general, activities at this level include:
major control over work
significant problem solving
makes most decision in the department
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