What motivates people to work? Money may be the primary reason, but beyond a certain limit it fails to. Organizations have been trying out different things to increase the level of motivation of its employees. Employee empowerment is one of them.
Employee empowerment means that an employee is given a chance to be enterprising, take risks without compromising with the organizational goals, mission and vision. His say in the process of decision making in increased. This can be for one particular individual or for the entire organization. In the latter case it is called participative management.
There are pros and cons to this employee empowerment. Whereas it is said and has been observed that participative management may lead to increased productivity, motivation, job satisfaction and quality enhancement; it may also slow down the process of decision making and act a potential security threat in terms of ease of access of information it offers to the employees.
From an organizational perspective the following pros and cons may be associated with employee empowerment.
Pros of Employee Empowerment
It leads to greater job satisfaction, motivation, increased productivity and reduces the costs.
It also leads to creativity and innovation since the employees have the authority to act on their own.
There is increased efficiency in employees because of increased ownership in their work.
Lesser need of supervision and delegation.
Focus on quality from the level of manufacturing till actual delivery and service of goods.
Employees when empowered become more entrepreneurial and start taking more risks. Greater the risk, greater are the chances to succeed.
Cons of Employee Empowerment
At the individual level employee empowerment means you are an integral component of the organization. This may sprout egotism or arrogance in the workers.
Apart from disadvantages at the organizational level, there are certain challenges that emerge at the individual level. Supervisors often complain disgust from the empowered workers. The following points go against employee empowerment:
Egotism / arrogance: Worker arrogance can create a big trouble for the supervisors and the managers. There can be problems in delegating. Employees avoid reporting about their work and feedback can be taken negatively.
Security: Since information comes and is shared by all, there are apprehensions about leakage of critical data.
Risk: Creativity and innovation demands a greater risk bearing capacity and there are equal chances of success and failure. Workers often lack the expertise to execute are enterprise, which can cost big.
Industrial Democracy: Labor unions and workers are empowered and they may misuse the same. Strikes and lock outs become more frequent. Also, labor unions gain insights into management and their functioning and they leak the same.
Participative management or employee empowerment does not mean relentless transfer of authority. It has to be in a controlled and regulated manner. Each aspect has to be carefully studied and levels of participation decided. For example, the level of participation of knowledge workers is different from that of a floor worker.
Undoubtedly participative approach to management increases the stake or ownership of employees. But there is more to it. The following points elucidate the same.
Increase in Productivity: An increased say in decision making means that there is a strong feeling of association now. The employee now assumes responsibility and takes charges. There is lesser new or delegation or supervision from the manager. Working hours may get stretched on their own without any compulsion or force from the management. All this leads to increased productivity.
Job Satisfaction: In lots or organizations that employ participative management, most of the employees are satisfied with their jobs and the level of satisfaction id very high. This is specially when people see their suggestions and recommendations being implemented or put to practice. Psychologically, this tells the individual employee that, ‘he too has a say in decision making and that he too is an integral component of the organization and not a mere worker’.
Motivation: Increased productivity and job satisfaction cannot exist unless there is a high level of motivation in the employee. The vice versa also holds true! Decentralized decision making means that everyone has a say and everyone is important.
Improved Quality: Since the inputs or feedback comes from people who are part of the processes at the lowest or execution level. This means that even the minutest details are taken care of and reported. No flaw or loophole goes unreported. Quality control is thus begins and is ensured at the lowest level.
Reduced Costs: There is a lesser need of supervision and more emphasis is laid on widening of skills, self management. This and quality control means that the costs are controlled automatically.
There is a flip side to everything; participative management stands no exception to it. Whereas this style of leadership or decision making leads to better participation of all the employees, there are undoubtedly some disadvantages too.
Decision making slows down: Participative management stands for increased participation and when there are many people involved in decision making, the process definitely slows down. Inputs and feedback starts pouring from each side. It takes time to verify the accuracy of measurements which means that decision making will be slowed down.
Security Issue: The security issue in participative management also arises from the fact that since early stages too many people are known to lots of facts and information. This information may transform into critical information in the later stages. There is thus a greater apprehension of information being leaked out.
The advantages seem to outnumber the disadvantages. This however is no assurance that one should blindly adopt it for his/her organization. Organizations are different and therefore the culture, the human resources. A deep understanding of both is required in order to ascertain a decision making style and adopt the same.