The definition of employee empowerment
Employee empowerment is creating a working environment where an employee is allowed to make his own decisions in specific work-related situations. The decisions can be big or small, and the size and effect of the decision is up to the employer. The logic behind employee empowerment is to increase the employee's responsibility, to build employee morale and to improve the quality of your employee's work life. Ideally, when an employee feels vested in an organisation, he will be more productive, loyal and more confident.
Some employers tend to forget that their hired hands also have brains. By using the minds of their employees, organisations are able to meet projected goals and objectives a lot faster because there are more people working toward them. Being able to delegate certain responsibilities to your employees will allow you more time to focus on the areas of your organisation where your attention might be needed more.
In an employee empowerment organisation, the employee/manager relationship is inverted. Instead of the employee working for the manager, the manger essentially will be catering to the needs of the employees. Managers must ensure that employees have the proper resources needed to make the decisions that allow the job to be done. In order for employee empowerment to be successful, the employees have to be properly trained and they must also have access to any information pertaining to their additional responsibility. Managers are accountable to make certain that happens (see References).
Employee empowerment can vary from organisation to organisation. Some employers prefer to have empowered employees while another may prefer to have employee-empowered teams. For instance, an employee who previously was only responsible for looking over applications, now has the responsibility of interviewing and hiring employees. Job enlargement is similar to job enrichment, but it is employed by having an employee complete more horizontal responsibilities. For example, if the employee is responsible for doing the payroll and distributing the checks, she would now be responsible for bonus checks, incentives and direct deposit. Her job would include more of what she is already doing. Employee-empowered teams would complete additional responsibilities together (see Resources).
If your organisation is normally micromanaged, meaning all decisions and projects have to be directed or overseen by a manager, then employee empowerment may not be the right choice for your organisation, unless you plan to do major restructuring. Your managers might have a problem allowing the employees to make decisions. If your employees are constantly being watched, they are not going to feel trusted to do anything---much less---make decisions, so it will defeat the purpose of implementing the program (see Resources).
Even though a suggestion box is a step in the employee empowerment direction, it is not employee empowerment. However, if your organisation is normally micromanaged and you would like to proceed toward allowing your employees to have a say in the organisation, then a suggestion box is a good start. However, you need to implement some of the suggestions in order for your employees to take you seriously. In addition, you can also have employee empowering workshops to transition to this kind of work environment.