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Four Elements to Empower Employees
Much has been written about empowering employees—to the point of becoming a cliche—but far too many companies pay little more than lip service to the subject or else give employees more responsibility but little compensation or strategic direction from leaders. Why?

Despite all the literature and conferences on this subject, top management still has little understanding of delegation and even little desire to delegate authority/power to fully empower employees. Yet without employee empowerment they will never tap their greatest resource — the knowledge worker. The following sections will more precisely define the four fundamental elements that truly empower employees. The fundamental elements are:

1. Vision, value, strategy sharing
2. Information flow from the source
3. Relevant training
4. Power and authority sharing

As is the case with the crucial elements leaders must establish before launching an organizational transformation, these four employee-empowering elements are intertwined in such a way that a high-level of employee involvement will not be manifested if even one of them is out of alignment or underimplemented.

Vision, Value, Strategy Sharing
Inviting employees throughout the organization to contribute during the initial stages of the transformation phase, i.e., strategic planning, is the best way to ensure that employees make future decisions that are in line with the company's strategy. If an organization is going to put decision-making power in the hands of employees, a shared strategy (with shared values that everyone can relate to and live up to) will replace the need for a detailed list of procedures for how employees or employee teams should handle every situation.

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Information Flow from the Source
In order to do their job effectively, employees need access to all kinds of information. The best type of information is direct and immediate feedback from internal or external customers. Examples include information from customers in the areas of service quality, turnaround time, price, and overall satisfaction. In traditional, hierarchical organizations, information filters through several layers of middle management before it is finally delivered to the frontline employees. In a high-involvement organization, the information flows from the source, customer, process, etc., to the frontline employees.

Without access to this type of information, employees will have difficulty in better serving their customers or becoming involved in the daily problem-solving tasks that would help an organization to continually improve. As said in Chapter 1, organizations in today's business environment must respond quickly to their customers and constantly foster new ideas about products, services, and processes if they are to succeed.

Relevant Training
Organizations must provide employees with relevant training if they are to acquire decision-making responsibilities, have di¬rect customer contact, or work effectively in a team-based environment. For employees and the company to benefit from training sessions, the employee must immediately and consistently put these newly acquired skills to use. Merely having a training budget that sends the employees through the motions of learning something without real consequences is wasting the employee's time as well as the company's money.

Power and Authority Sharing
Giving up power and authority is probably the most difficult element for all levels of management to share, yet it is the most important element for empowering your employees. It is difficult because for decades the old-school, traditional organizations have rewarded and advanced those who oversee big departments and have power over a large group of people. Instead of being rewarded for business results these managers are rewarded for building large departments from which they can oversee and control the largest number of people.

To break this paradigm all levels of management must share decision-making power and authority with employees. A failure to do so undermines the entire empowerment effort. Remember, the whole point of employee involvement (or empowerment) is to create an environment where employees throughout the organization make accurate and timely decisions on a daily basis to best respond to customer needs and de¬sires. Managers from all levels must relinquish and redistribute some power and authority if the organization as a whole is to respond quickly to customers and foster innovation.

Source of Reference:
Christopher Head, Beyond Corporate Transformation: A Whole Systems Approach to Creating and Sustaining High Performance, , Productivity Press. You can obtain this fine book here