Employee retention is among the highest priorities of tech companies and businesses in general. Everyone is familiar with the high costs of employee turnover and the associated costs of hiring, on-boarding and training of replacements. Rather than continue going through this expensive routine endless times, businesses are looking for ways to empower their teams, thereby boosting morale, productivity and improving retention rates overall.
If giving your workforce more responsibility and freedom sounds appealing, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Let employees know you trust them. Employees often understand instinctively whether or not their employers trust them. By demonstrating trust in their judgement and abilities, you show you’re willing to “let your staff go about projects in their own way,” notes entrepreneur Peter Daisyme. “They might not accomplish everything exactly as you would have, but they will get the job done with their own flair.”
Get employees involved in the decision-making process. It’s not surprising that an employee feels powerless and ineffective if someone in authority is always making decisions for them. When first embarking on a product upgrade or company-wide initiative, look for opportunities to solicit employee input on the topic. Keep in mind that employees (often those on the front-lines with customers) might well have insights beyond what your high-level data and studies indicate.
By involving employees in key decisions, you benefit both from their specific knowledge and expertise and by once again demonstrating the confidence you have in them.
Allow employees to address challenges on their own. CEOs and managers who readily set aside their own work to address an issue raised by employees help foster an environment of dependency. These circumstances “can create the unintentional consequence of the team becoming disempowered (or lazy),” says business author Maura Thomas, and “reinforces the behavior loop of ‘questions/problems arise; I bring them to my boss; my boss provides answers/solutions.”
By contrast, other leaders “make themselves scarce,” leaving employees with no choice but to solve problems on their own. If mistakes are made, the emphasis is on learning why—and then better preparing for the next challenge—rather than pointing fingers or casting blame.
Look for “lessons learned” in employee missteps. Speaking of mistakes, it’s important to note that employee empowerment comes with some risks. Sometimes an employee will make the wrong call or fail to achieve the intended goal.
“If your team isn’t making mistakes, then you aren’t reaching high enough,” contends social media engagement strategist Bruce Kasanoff. “But if you punish mistakes, you will encourage overly-conservative behavior.”
To guard against this, make clear to everyone that when someone tries their best to address a specific challenge but then falls short, no negative consequences are involved. Instead, look for the “lessons learned” from the experience, so employees feel better equipped to handle the next challenge that arises.
Sponsor opportunities for learning and development. Employees with no workplace-hosted training opportunities often feel “stuck” in their jobs and powerless overall. You can dramatically change their outlook by offering in-house or offsite learning and development classes, webinars, etc., designed to expand their range of knowledge. Gaining new skills is an act of empowerment in itself. Employees who benefit from these opportunities are more likely to stay with a company that cares enough to offer them.
The lack of employee engagement can often be traced to an overriding sense of powerlessness. Presuming you are hiring talented, ambitious team members, it only makes good business sense to give them the power and authority to do the work you hired them to do.