The Case for a Three Dimensional Employee Empowerment Model Part III

Published: 10th June 2010
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The Neglected Third Employee Empowerment Dimension

The concept of self-efficacy is the core of social cognitive theory. The theory helps us understand the development of behavior and personality as influenced by observational learning, social experience, and reciprocal determinism. These influential elements are the engine behind the accelerated effects of integrating the third dimension.

Bandura's social cognitive theory also represented the "self-efficacy beliefs function as an important set of proximal determinants of human motivation, affect, and action [which] operate on action through motivational, cognitive, and affective intervening processes".

This serves to explain the motivational power inherent in self-efficacy.

In the three dimensional empowerment model, self-efficacy is defined as the belief that each employee is capable of performing in a way that will result in a successful outcome in a specific situation. Self-efficacy beliefs begin to form in early childhood, but as with most behaviors, can continue to evolve and be shaped and influenced throughout life.

As a learned behavior, employees can increase self-efficacy behavior over time with commitment and practice.

As one of the most studied topics in psychology, self-efficacy has been proven to significantly influence psychological states, behavior and motivation. Therefore, when implementing empowerment initiatives, it is not clear why management consultants and employers have focused so much on principally changing the employer's structures, policies, procedures and practices at the expense of effectively providing employees with the tools to increase their self-efficacy.

As the three dimensional model indicates, when appropriate attention is paid to simultaneously increasing the empowerment climate and the employee's self-efficacy, the desired behaviors are increased significantly. This is because employees, in part, learn by observing others.

Their development is influenced by what they observe in their environment, in the behavior of others and their cognitive reaction to those observances; consequently, these three factors are not static or independent; rather, they are all reciprocal.

For example, 1) the employer creates an empowerment climate, 2) employees then observe the new management behaviors which changes the employee's way of thinking (cognition), 3) which increases their self-efficacy and encourages them to behave in a more empowered manner.

Social cognitive theory and the power of self-efficacy does not just apply to empowerment concepts. The theory recognizes the significant difference between an individual's capacity to perform competently and actually performing competently. Let's examine a different, but related familiar example.

We have all attended training programs taught by conscientious and highly qualified instructors that left us far from qualified in the subject matter covered. Our grandfathers were right when they told us 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink'!

If we are not motivated to learn the subject matter, we won't, and a large part, but not the only part of that motivation comes from our level of self-efficacy. The most effective training programs include a module that increases the participants' self-efficacy relative to the training subject matter.

Why a Three Dimensional Approach?

For a number of reasons, when properly implemented, a three dimensional approach results in a more efficient and effective implementation by:

• Eliminating the inherent ineffectiveness of the traditional two dimensional approach - The traditional approach is anchored in a 'pull strategy' where employers create an empowerment climate by changing structures, policies, procedures and practices in hopes of creating an environment that will motivate employees to change their behavior.

Continuing with the training analogy; employers hiring a trainer, providing facilities, and providing the time for employees to attend, do not result in a large percentage of the employees learning the subject matter.

This is not a very effective approach, nor is it very efficient if you have to retrain or suffer the consequences when the employee cannot apply the learning on-the-job. (Improved quality)

• Increasing the number of employees that behave in an empowered manner - The three dimensional model employs both a pull and push strategy simultaneously.

In addition to the benefits derived from the employer-driven empowerment strategy, individual employees will take the initiative to modify their own behavior without prompting from management. (More empowerment)

• Accelerating employee empowerment organization-wide - Because empowerment behavior is occurring from the top down and from the bottom up, not only will there be more employees that behave in an empowered manner, but that higher number will be reached much sooner in the process. (Shorter cycle times)

• Lowering costs - Since the benefits of implementing an empowerment strategy will be realized sooner, the shorter cycle times will result in lower costs.

How do we Implement the Three Dimensional Employee Empowerment Model?

By simultaneously implementing the traditional employer-driven empowerment approach and the employee-driven employee approach

Elements of Kotter's eight step plan for implementing change and Tichy's change management theory are effective way to implement the employer-driven empowerment component.

1. Create the vision for change organization-wide

2. Ensure strategic alignment among the organization's technical, political and cultural systems

3. Implement technical, political and cultural strategies by;

• Modifying the technical resources to produce the empowerment outcome. Some examples are;

a. Strategy

b. Goals

c. Organization design

d. Process improvements

• Modifying the political systems to allocate resources and power within the organization to promote employee empowerment. Political systems include;

a. Compensation programs

b. Budgets

c. Career decisions

d. Power structure

• Modifying the cultural systems which address what values are desired in the organization and what beliefs are valued. For example;

a. Basic assumptions (beliefs)

b. Values

c. Norms

d. Artifacts

4. Communicate the vision and strategies

5. Empower and encourage others

6. Identify, create and reward 'quick wins'

7. Consolidate improvements, reassess changes and make adjustments

8. Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce

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