How to Empower Employees to Make Decisions: 4 Things You Can Do Today

By Jeanette Coleman, SPHR & SHRM-SCP on Aug 28, 2023
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In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, the ability to harness the full potential of your team isn't just a luxury – it's a necessity. As managers and business owners, we often find ourselves navigating the balance between controlling tasks and letting go, between guiding our teams and allowing them to steer their own paths.

And today's employees want just that - they want to be empowered to make decisions on their own.

Research firm Gartner found that while employees are growing more sensitive to pay disparities in 2023, they are also shifting, now more than ever, toward the need to feel understood, autonomous, invested and valued.

According to Gartner, “People want acknowledgment and growth opportunities and to feel valued, trusted and empowered.” 

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How to Empower Employees

So, how can we truly empower our employees to drive business success? The answer lies in a mix of trust, guidance, context and understanding.

In this blog post, we will delve into four crucial ways to empower your employees:

  1. Mastering the art of delegation
  2. Ensuring clarity through context
  3. Investing in mentorship and coaching
  4. Embracing the inevitable learning curve of mistakes

I'll unpack these strategies and provide actionable insights to transform your management style, fostering a workplace where every team member feels confident, valued and empowered. Doing so will lead to greater employee engagement, stronger retention and a more productive team, but it can be hard to get started.

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Mastering the Art of Delegation

If you’re like many higher-ups, you may find it hard to delegate. The majority of managers don’t feel comfortable delegating, and the reasons for their uneasiness are plenty: they worry that their employees won’t do things the way they would have done them; they’re afraid their employees will make mistakes and the consequences will be severe; and, perhaps, a part of them doesn’t want to relinquish control. 

However, knowing how to delegate is a crucial management skill to master, and data has long shown that business leaders who can delegate effectively generate better business growth and venture success than those who can’t (or don’t). 

Whether you want to delegate, desperately need to delegate or both, well-designed delegation is the first step when considering how to empower employees to make decisions. Sustained delegation also leads your employees to one day become the kind of workers you can trust to take on tasks with little supervision. Here are some delegation tips to get you started: 

  • Recognize that you can't do everything yourself, nor should you

    You may want to take care of everything the way you know is “right,” but if that was working, you may not be reading this article. At some point, you have to share tasks with the employees you supervise—long term, it’s the only way to let them improve and empower them in the future. 
  • You’re not saving any time if you’re doing everything alone

    Many managers succumb to the fallacy that they “save time” when they’re completing a task in 10 minutes that would have taken another employee an hour to do. This illogical line of reasoning is just that—a logical fallacy. 

    Though you may be good at a great many things, when you bog yourself down when many things, you have less time to focus on the tasks that only you can do. Ergo, you have less time to be an effective leader overall. Investing up-front time to teach an employee how to complete a task saves you time in the long run. Plus, they’ll get quicker as they gain confidence and experience. 
  • Delegate based on others’ strengths, not on your weaknesses

    When you're working on how to empower employees and choosing which tasks to delegate (and to whom), consider what talents exist naturally among your employees, and which you want to hone and develop. Playing to the strengths and, where possible, the interests of each of your underlings will help boost satisfaction and engagement. 

RELATED:Why Employee Development Benefits Your Team and Your Business >> 

Ensuring Clarity Through Context

A little context goes a long way to increase alignment. To empower employees to make decisions, they need the freedom to develop their creative problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. You can help employees make decisions to forward your own vision by providing them with all available context behind their tasks, goals and standards.

Think of context as the deepest “why” that you can provide for the existence of an assignment, a process, or a rule. 

Say, for example, that you operate a beachwear store. If you tell your associates to create a life jacket display, they’ll complete the task, but they’ll likely be left guessing exactly what you want to see, how much leeway they have to be creative, whether the display needs to be functional or for décor only… the list of questions goes on.

The less context you give, the more questions they’ll have, and the less likely you’ll return to find a display that meets or exceeds the hopes you had for the end product. 

Imagine instead that you provide your associates with just a bit of context, i.e.: “I’d like you to use your creativity to construct an eye-catching life jacket display in the entryway that will showcase how many different styles and sizes of jackets we have in stock. We want to encourage customers to grab a jacket when they first walk in because sometimes, they forget that they need one. We have a slight overstock of jackets right now, and we should get our inventory cleared before next season’s jackets come in at the end of this month.” 

With a few sentences, you’ve just shared information with them that will empower decision-making. From the small bit of context you’ve provided, you’ve encouraged your employees to get excited about a goal that boosts revenue, clears inventory, and creates excitement among customers.

Context brings your intended purpose to life, so your employees can make decisions using their own ingenuity to help you further your goals. They may surprise you with ideas you didn’t have yourself. 

RELATED:How You Can Use the Skills You Already Have to Become a Better Leader >> 

Investing in Mentorship & Coaching

Tailored mentorship and coaching play a pivotal role when it comes to how to empower employees and develop decision-making abilities. Every employee has unique strengths that deserve to be nurtured.

When strengths are recognized, an employee’s confidence will soar, and they’ll feel empowered to make judgment calls in the areas they’ve been taught to be confident in. Eventually, those empowered strengths will inevitably turn into valuable company assets.

Your ability to identify talents and develop them within your team members is what makes you a great manager, and it's what gives team members the chance to become decision-makers in their areas of high talent. 

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Embracing the Inevitable Learning Curve of Mistakes

Oftentimes, fear holds employees back from feeling empowered to make decisions. It also holds managers back from trusting employees to build decision-making skills. Fear that employees will make a mistake is natural. The truth is that your employees will make mistakes, just like you’ve made mistakes. 

Mistakes are how we learn some of our most important lessons. As a manager, you can be a fail-safe for some of the most consequential mistakes, but you need to give employees room to fail forward. How your employees view mistakes has quite a bit to do with how you respond when they occur. Do you focus on what can go right next time (and how you can get there together), or do you lash out in anger or frustration? 

Employee confidence won’t be built through repeated instances of perfection, but it can be earned through trial, error, and coaching through failures and success. 

RELATED:The Employee Learning Curve: Achieving Employee Development Success >> 

Axcet HR Solutions: Your Partner for Training, Development, and Beyond. 

As your Certified Professional Employer Organization, Axcet HR Solutions is here to help you tackle a full range of human resources tasks, including professional development. Here are just a few of the training and development services we offer: 

  • Customized leadership training solutions 
  • Leadership development and coaching 
  • Compliance training, including training on creating a respectful workplace and preventing harassment 
  • Interpersonal skills training 

With Axcet HR Solutions, you’ll find that professional development expertise is just the beginning of the benefits you can reap by working with a PEO. Wondering if Axcet is right for you? Reach out to our consultants today to learn more.

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