Great Business Ideas: Empowerment

Great Small Business Ideas to Start: Empowerment

When employees at all levels of a company are empowered to make the decisions they feel are necessary, individual job satisfaction, corporate efficiency, and productivity soar.

The idea

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor, argues that companies can improve performance by allowing employees to make decisions without constantly consulting superiors. Such empowerment releases the creative power of a team; given the right work environment and level of responsibility, people will make a much greater positive contribution.

When empowering team members you are letting them get on with the job entirely: they are both responsible and accountable, within certain agreed boundaries. Leaders need to set a clear, unambiguous direction and to ensure that people remain on course, by offering support without taking over.

Empowerment involves:

  • Letting each member of the team get on with their job.
  • Letting those team members closest to customers take decisions themselves.
  • Removing obstacles and unnecessary bureaucracy.
  • Encouraging and enabling people to put their ideas for improvement into practice.

By using empowerment, the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain improved customer service and differentiated itself from competitors.

Employees were trusted to use their initiative and to access a small budget to ensure customers’ specific needs and preferences were met. This provided a distinctive service and customer value at a competitive price.

In practice

  • Understand what you mean by empowerment and what you want to achieve.
  • Identify barriers to empowerment and how they can be overcome.
  • Communicate your ideas and win support.
  • Establish and agree the boundaries, and be prepared to have these boundaries tested.
  • Ensure that your people have the necessary skills, resources, and attitudes to take control.
  • Agree objectives and performance measures. Empowerment is not about dumping work on people and leaving them: it requires support and agreement.
  • Provide support, monitor developments, and iron out any difficulties, particularly in the early days, but make sure that you do not undermine the process.
  • Try to secure early “wins” and successes that highlight the value of the process.
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