Despite the fact that employers will admit it’s a problem, employee engagement throughout North America remains low in the manufacturing sector. If an employee doesn’t feel empowered, it’s almost impossible to overcome low engagement, even in a great working environment. An empowered employee is one who is directly involved in and has influence over their work. They are allowed to make decisions about when they work, how the work gets done and are able to prioritize their duties.

This does not mean that you as an executive or leader have to turn the reins over to your team, but you should start thinking of ways to allow your team to have some say over how things are accomplished. Organizations with the highest level of employee engagement are the same organizations in which employees are empowered, and there is direct correlation between the degree to which employees are self-managed and the level to which they are engaged.  

In order to empower your team, begin to make changes in the following 5 areas.

  1. Open dialog. Being transparent is a powerful thing, if you can trust yourself and be trusted by others. It is empowering to be trusted with information and trusted to give helpful feedback even if that feedback is negative.  An empowered employee feels trusted. Many leaders are not aware of the reality that exists around them.  Bring problems and concerns to your team for their input and ideas.
  1. Frequent face-to-face meetings:  At ETS, we have a weekly office-wide team meeting but also daily “huddles” with each team.  Taking a few minutes before the workday or shift begins to “huddle” is enormously powerful.  Go around the room or circle and let everyone have a chance to bring up what’s on their mind.  Then talk about the challenges ahead.  That way, everyone is on the same page and feels engaged right from the start of the day.
  1. More compassionate leadership. People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. It turns out that the opposite is true too. An inspiring manager creates more engaged teams.  Higher levels of engagement come from employees who work for a compassionate leader—one who is authentic, present, has a sense of dignity, holds others accountable, leads with integrity and shows empathy. This can’t be stressed enough.  
  1. Collaborative Goals: When the specific objectives of the CEO and executive teams  are sent down throughout the organization for teams to review and identify their own specific goals that in turn supports achieving the goals of the organization. It’s a top down and bottom up approach to developing goals that included open dialog, sharing of information, and ultimately a powerful method for setting a clear focus that everyone in every department can buy into. If team members are trusted to come up with their own goals, it makes for more engaged employees.
  1. More Questions than Answers: The more you tell people what to do, the less they listen.  Questions can be a powerful tool for engagement. When you ask your people about their ideas, you engage them in identifying what to do. This is at the heart of empowerment. For those organizations and leaders who have successfully introduced empowerment, their leadership team leads with questions before ever considering what the answers might be.

This list includes a combination of environmental factors, cultural factors and leadership behaviors that are necessary for empowerment. Empowerment itself can’t be achieved by focusing only on one aspect of the business, but instead is a way of operating a business.

To say that empowerment alone is the only way to increase employee engagement would be a misnomer, but it is in fact the single greatest determinant as to the level and degree of employee engagement achieved.

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