The Case for a Three Dimensional Employee Empowerment Model Part I

Published: 10th June 2010
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Introduction



This article introduces a new employee empowerment construct that incorporates employee self-efficacy; the belief that employees are capable of performing in a way that will result in a successful outcome in a particular situation, to improve employee empowerment initiatives' effectiveness and efficiency.



Over the past several decades, much has been written about the benefits of empowering employees. Additionally, human resources practitioners and consultants have demonstrated how employee empowerment improves organizational effectiveness and efficiency.



The intent of this writing is not to refute empirical data or anecdotal evidence supporting the virtues of employee empowerment. Its purpose is to challenge conventional thinking and reveal new insights relative to the design and implementation of employee empowerment initiatives that will eliminate the inherent disadvantages in the conventional processes and increase the overall outcome's effectiveness and efficiencies.



The Employee Empowerment Concept:



Employee empowerment theory postulates that if employees are informed and free to behave in a less encumbered manner, they are enabled to carry-out their job responsibilities more effectively and efficiently.



When employees understand the vision, mission and goals; are trained; are given decision-making authority and are provided an environment relatively free of punitive consequences for making a mistake; they will demonstrate more responsibility, accountability, initiative and risk-taking.



Thomas and Velthouse defined the concept of empowerment as increased individual motivation at work through the delegation of authority to the lowest level in an organization where a competent decision can be made.



The empowerment concept has been tested over the last 20 plus years and has been proven to have significant predictive value.



The Traditional Employee Empowerment Approach



The traditional employee empowerment approach is shaped by two dimensions; the empowerment climate created by the employer and time. Traditional employee empowerment approaches focus on employers creating an empowerment climate that signals to employees that it is okay to behave in a more empowered way.



Over time, an empowerment climate facilitates empowering employees to higher levels of performance by removing the disincentives to employee empowerment behavior.



With the disincentives removed, behavioral scientist theorized employees would 'feel' more empowered and began to behave in a more empowered manner. Empirical data proved researchers like Conger and Kanungo, and Liden and Tewksbury were right, and employee empowerment initiatives took flight!



This is how traditional, two dimensional employee empowerment works. In effect, it is a 'pull' strategy where employers create an empowerment climate by implementing the following organizational practices:



• Sharing organization knowledge like; Vision, mission and goals, Financials, Performance objectives

• Building relationships

• Sharing authority

• Providing feedback and developmental opportunities

• Trusting employees

• Treating employees with respect



Blanchard, Carlos and Randolph boiled down empowerment facilitating, organizational practices to three primary elements;



• Information sharing - Which includes providing information like; vision, mission, goals, financials, performance objectives, quality and productivity to employees throughout the enterprise



• Autonomy through boundaries - Which references organizational structures, policies, procedures and practices that promote autonomous behavior among employees



• Team accountability: - which identifies the team as the decision-making unit with required authority



The Seibert, Silver and Randolph study results referenced in this writing defines the empowerment construct using these three primary elements. The empirical research conducted by Seibert, Silver and Randolph, tested seven hypotheses that examined the relationship between, what they called the 'empowerment climate', which in our model represents the traditional two-dimensional, employer-driven empowerment approach controlled and executed by the organization, and 'psychological empowerment'



Which the researchers defined as "an individual's experience of intrinsic motivation that is based on cognitions about him-or herself in relation to his or her work role" . That is, the employee's psychological reaction to their work environment which is influenced by their values, beliefs and feelings of self-efficacy.



Seibert, Silver and Randolph's research conclusions included:

1. The work-unit empowerment climate is positively related to work-unit performance. So, enhancing the empowerment climate will increase work-unit performance.

2. "The empowerment climate must be considered an important aspect of an organization's effort to foster employees' experiences of psychological empowerment", however, it is not the only consideration.

3. Psychological empowerment mediates the effects of the empowerment climate on job satisfaction and is a link in an indirect relationship between the empowerment climate and job performance.



In their model, when properly implemented, the employer-driven empowerment climate explained 22 percent of the variance in work-unit performance and 12.7 percent of the total variance in job satisfaction; consequently, using the traditional two dimensional approach did result in more empowered employees, and greater efficiencies and effectiveness than the arcane method of top down command and control, but this method leaves significant opportunity for improvement.


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