Employee Empowerment - is the real need for the corporates


Author(s):
Prof. M. Subramanian
Faculty, Institute for Technology & Management, Chennai
E-mail:
madurai_subbu@yahoo.co.in
Dr. A Venkatachalam
Director, Dept. of MBA, SVN College, Madurai
M. Jaiganesh
Commercial Executive, Thermax India Ltd, Chennai
 


INTRODUCTION

"One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man." - Elber Hubbard

People are your most important asset of any organization. Competitors can copy your technologies, products and structures. No one, however, can match your highly charged, motivated people who care. People are your firm's repository of knowledge and they are central to your company's competitive advantage. Well educated, coached, and highly motivated people are critical to the development and execution of strategies, especially in today's faster-paced, more perplexing world, where top management alone can no longer assure your firm's competitiveness. That's why delegation, employee empowerment etc., are in the line for any management's success.

WHO IS AN EMPLOYEE?

Any individual who works for an organization, in general on a full time / permanent basis, is said to be the employee of the said organization.

WHAT IS AN EMPOWERMENT?

Empowerment is a core concept of the new management model. In the new-generation adaptive organization, delegation is replaced by empowerment, and responsibility by ownership. Authority and responsibilities are formal aspects or organizing. They are based upon organizational properties and not individual capabilities. Empowerment and ownership are social aspects of organizing, they are based on efficacy and initiative, and not just on roles and requirements. They belong to people.

EMPLOYEE EMPOWERMENT WHY? ITS BENEFITS & IMPACT

Why Employee Empowerment?

People are your firm's most underutilized resource. In the new knowledge economy, independent entrepreneurship and initiative is needed throughout the ranks of your organization. Involvement in an organization is no longer a one-way street. In today's corporate environment a manager must work towards engaging organization forcefully enough to achieve its objectives.

New knowledge-based enterprises are characterized by flat hierarchical structures and multi-skilled workforce. Managers assume more leadership and coaching tasks and work hard to provide employees with resources and working conditions they need to accomplish the goals they've agreed to. In brief, managers work for their staff, and not the reverse.

Empowerment is the oil that lubricates the exercise of learning. Talented and empowered human capital is becoming the prime ingredient of organizational success. A critical feature of successful teams, especially in knowledge-based enterprises, is that they are invested with a significant degree of empowerment, or decision-making authority.

Equally important, employee empowerment changes the managers' mind-set and leaves them with more time to engage in broad-based thinking, visioning, and nurturing. This intelligent and productive division of duties between visionary leaders, focusing on emerging opportunities, and empowered employees, running the business unit day to day (with oversight on the leader's part) provides for a well-managed enterprise with strong growth potential.

Developing Entrepreneurial Staff

There are two phases in developing an entrepreneurial workplace. Phase I creates the environment necessary to support and encourage it. Phase II is building your staff's entrepreneurial skills.

Empowerment through Coaching

The new breed of leaders recognizes that in today's complex business environment autocracy no longer works; yet the empowerment alone is not enough. Coaching aims to enhance the learning ability and performance of others. "It involves providing feedback, but also uses other techniques such as motivation, effective questioning and consciously matching your management style to the coachee's readiness to undertake a particular task. It is based on helping the coachee to help her/himself through interacting dynamically with her/him - it does not rely on a one-way flow of telling and instructing.".

Employee Ownership of Quality

Quality is not something that management can mandate or dictate. To gain employee commitment to the quality process, your company's management, control, and reward systems must be modified to give employees greater responsibility and opportunity to become quality and customer oriented and motivate them to strive for continuous improvement. Give ownership for quality to your employees, elicit and listen to their ideas about improvement and empower them to make more decisions and perform tasks that are quality related.

Building and Nurturing Customer Relationship

Creating a work environment that encourages rapid response to customers' needs and attentive follow-through is the key to leveraging the power of the service-profit chain. This is only possible when people are empowered to make decisions and are motivated to solve problems. By encouraging employees to go beyond the literal boundaries of their jobs - to make suggestions for improvement - you gain not just a part, but the full potential of their contributions to the business.

A CORPORATE EXPERIENCE SURVEY RESULTS AT GLANCE

Following were the employee-employer survey conducted in various organizations (like ITM Chennai, TVS Chennai, Marc Chennai, iSource Chennai, E-Funds Chennai, Twad Board Chennai) : (Total - 72)

(Q.1) How do you rate the overall empowerment status in your organization on a 10-point scale?

SCALE

RESULT

Less than 5 points

63% (46 respondents)

5 points to 8 points

23 % (16 respondents)

8 points and above

14% (10 respondents)


(Q.2) Do you think that delegation of authority is superior to employee empowerment?

YES

NO

34.5% (25 respondents)

63.5% (47 respondents)


(Q.3) Yes there are changes in the behavioral aspects or basic attitude of my peers and colleagues because of employee empowerment?

SCALE

RESULT

Strongly Agree

23% (16 respondents)

Agree

21% (15 respondents)

Neutral

24.3% (18 respondents)

Disagree

 17.7% (13 respondents)

Strongly Disagree

14% (10 respondents)


(Q.4) Do you recommend employee empowerment to become a culture of all growing organization?

YES

NO

78% (56 respondents)

22% (16 respondents)


A CLASSICAL EXAMPLE & LIVE CASE General Electric Co. USA

Some years ago, in locations throughout GE, local managers were operating in an insulated environment with Chinese walls separating them, both horizontally and vertically, from other departments and their workforce. Employee questions, initiatives, and feedback were discouraged. In the new knowledge-driven economy, former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, "viewed this as anathema. He believed in creating an open collaborative workplace where everyone's opinion was welcome." He wrote in a letter to shareholders: "If you want to get the benefit of everything employees have, you've got to free them - make everybody a participant. Everybody has to know everything, so they can make the right decisions by themselves"

LEVELS OF EMPLOYEE EMPOWERMENT

    Level 1 - Encouraging the employees to play a more active role in their work.

    Level 2 Involving employees in taking responsibility for improving the way that the things are done.

    Level 3 Enabling employees to make more and bigger decisions without having to refer to someone senior.

Employee Empowerment Impact & Benefits

    1. The organization : harnesses individual talents to the full. Changes the managers' mind-set and leaves them with more time to engage in broad-based thinking, visioning, and nurturing.

    2. The department / team : becomes more enthusiastic, active, and successful. Facilitates teamwork and harnessing of collective power of employees.

    3. Employees: entrusted new responsibilities and are stretched beyond what they previously thought they could achieve. Releases the individual wisdom, creativity and energy of employees.

CONCLUSION

    • Employee empowerment is a two-sided coin. For employees to be empowered the management leadership must want and believe that employee empowerment makes good business sense and employees must act.  Let us be clear about one thing immediately, employee empowerment does not mean that management no longer has the responsibility to lead the organization and is not responsible for performance. If anything the opposite is true.
    • Stronger leadership and accountability is demanded in an organization that seeks to empower employees. This starts with the executive leadership, through all management levels and includes front line supervisors.  It is only when the entire organization is willing to work as a team that the real benefits of employee empowerment are realized. For an organization to practice and foster employee empowerment the management must trust and communicate with employees. Employee communication is one of the strongest signs of employee empowerment.
    • Honest and repeated communication from elements of the strategic plan, key performance indicators, financial performance, down to daily decision making. If an organization has not be actively cultivating employee empowerment, it may take considerable time and effort before employees start to respond. Often the first efforts and communications are met with employee derision and mockery.
    • Those who are only interested in trying the latest management fad will give up when met with this response. A good rule of thumb for communications to employees is to enumerate what management considers adequate and then multiple by a factor of ten.
    • When considering employee understanding and acceptance of decisions consider how long it takes for the management team to discuss and then make a decision. Allow several multiples of this time for employees to think about the issue.
    • Management has the obligation to create the environment that fosters employee empowerment, employees have the duty to accept the opportunity and demonstrate they are willing and capable.
    • EMPLOYEE EMPOWERMENT IS THE ONE OF THE BEST WAY TO SUSTAIN, GROW AND WIN OVER THE CUTTING EDGE COMPETITION IN THIS DYNAMIC WORLD.
       


Author(s):
Prof. M. Subramanian
Faculty, Institute for Technology & Management, Chennai
E-mail:
madurai_subbu@yahoo.co.in
Dr. A Venkatachalam
Director, Dept. of MBA, SVN College, Madurai
M. Jaiganesh
Commercial Executive, Thermax India Ltd, Chennai
 

Source : E-mail March 11, 2005

 

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