Making Empowerment Work

Posted by Joseph Sherren on August 12, 2013

While doing some long overdue work around the house this past week, I encountered a breakdown with a piece of equipment I was using. Wanting to get the work completed as soon as possible, I made some calls and searched the Internet to find a place that could fix it. It was recommended I go to Advance Rentals in Summerside, Prince Edward Island.

I was first met by Gordon in the service department, who was extremely busy. He took the time to listen to me and within seconds had the issue diagnosed. He made the necessary repair and within minutes I was on my way.

What really impressed me though, was that he did everything with a happy smile and positive attitude. Unfortunately, great customer service like this is not something you encounter very much these days.

So I asked Greg Bowles, general manager, “What do you do to get this kind of dedication from an employee?”. His response was: “We focus on good management practices. We have been in business in Summerside for over 35 years and some of our employees have worked with us all their careers. A few are actually second generation family employee.”

Greg continued, “We are committed to our employees the same way we want them to be committed to us. We are more of a family which means when work is slow — we do not lay them off. This creates loyalty so when we are really busy, they chip in and do their best. We realize it is our employees that makes a company successful — or not. We also empower experienced staff to make decisions on behalf of the company that is good for the customer and good for the business.”

I hear over and over from successful organizations about the importance of hiring the right people, treating employees with respect and dignity, and delegating responsibilities appropriately. No one likes to be micro-managed. In fact studies show that micro-managing long-term employees is one of the best ways to demotivate them and decrease productivity.

A new study suggests that workers who feel empowered by their employers are more productive and have higher morale, regardless of their industry.

“Empowerment is an effective approach for improving employee attitudes and work behaviors in a broad range of industries, occupations and geographic regions,” said lead researcher Scott Seibert, professor of management and organizations in University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business.

According to Seibert, the study results indicate that properly implemented empowerment initiatives can lead to higher job satisfaction, lower turnover and reduced stress among workers. Empowered employees also are more innovative and perform better at their jobs.

If you are thinking about implementing empowerment in your organization, here are some things to consider:

1) Create a culture of sharing: Sharing information not only between managers, but involve workers in decision-making, provide training opportunities and pay appropriately.

2) Implement a standard model for coaching: A manager who inspires, provides continuous feedback and is a good role model enhances workers’ feelings of competence and helps employees find meaning in their work.

3) Develop a social support and mentoring system: Managers must make their employees feel like a valued part of the organization and encourage employees to recognize each other’s importance.

4) Encourage life-long learning: Managers should encourage training and provide individual workers with challenging work assignments which will expand their area of ability.

Howard Schultz, chairman and chief executive officer of Starbucks said recently, “You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed the employees’ expectations of management”.

My question for managers this week: “What empowerment and control are you making available to your employees that will enable them to provide the best customer service possible”?

Joseph Sherren, CSP, HoF. Canada’s Management Effectiveness Expert. Joe has spoken in over 30 countries and 4,000 audiences worldwide. Be sure to attend our Management Skills Development program scheduled for Sept. 12-13,2013 at Dalvay By The Sea. Call (902) 437-6998 for further information.

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