Empowerment or Pseudo-Empowerment - Your Associates Know the Difference
By Lizz Chambers, CHA, CHE
I know what you are thinking: Empowerment has been done to death. It is so 'last century' (it became the corporate buzzword in late 1980's). The problem is that there has been much dialogue and much written about empowerment, but how many times have you actually worked in an 'Empowered Workplace' supported 100% by management?
From my perspective it was not DONE in the 90's and in the majority of our hotels, it is still not an integral part of our daily operations.
In the sphere of management and organizational theory, 'Empowerment' refers loosely to the process of giving associates greater discretion and resources: distributing control in order to better serve both our guests/customers and the interests of the company.
Unfortunately, in most organizations, I see more of a 'Pseudo-empowerment' management style. The idea is to have associates 'think' they have power in order to change attitudes, so as to make them work harder rather than giving them any real power. When I conduct classes, many times associates seem to feel that they do not have enough empowerment while supervisors and General Managers claim that they give it. But it appears that what management practices is pseudo-empowerment and associates see that for exactly what it is.
Empowerment is much like motivation. You cannot motivate someone but you can create an environment for motivation. You cannot control the actions of another. In much the same way, empowerment is not an action in itself, but is simply the result of a particular style of management. This style of management guides people to learn to lead themselves. It is imperative that the empowered have confidence in their capabilities and that you have successfully established a vibrant corporate culture which runs through the veins of every associate.
The best ways I know to develop an Empowerment Management Style are as follows:
- Orient your associates to who you are-to the heart and soul of your company, your goals, your vision, your values, your corporate culture - so they can join you and not just work for you. Note: Management will never be comfortable with empowerment if they do not have the faith in the values their staff has adopted.
- Your associates must trust you and the company enough to realize that if they communicate openly and honestly at any level in the company, their future will not be damaged or in jeopardy.
- Associates must feel that the work they do really matters.
- When you delegate responsibility, you must also delegate authority.
- Involve your associates in making decisions that may affect them or day to day operations of their department.
- Training and development must be an important part of your strategic plan.
- Show your associates that you value them and appreciate the work they do.
- Have procedures and systems in place to reward the kinds of behaviors you want to see repeated.
- When you ask your associates to take risks, embrace their failures simply as learning experiences.
- When an associate makes the decision to please the guest rather than to please you...praise, do not reprimand.
- Survey your staff to find out how they truly feel about their working environment. Find out if you really have given them the tools and the training they need to perform the functions of their job and to take care of the guests.
- Create an environment so people can have real honest-to-goodness fun at work.
- If you do not believe that your associates are capable of being fully empowered, you must understand that the one at the top is more than likely at fault.
- Post in all departments and believe in the 3-Ps of Empowerment:
- Permission: You have the 'Permission' to take care of our guests. That is your #1 priority.
- Power: You have the 'Power' to do whatever is necessary to take care of our guests - as long as it is ethical, legal and moral.
- Protection: You have the 'Protection' when you take care of our guests. If a decision is made in the best interest of our guests, you will never be reprimanded or punished, even if the decision is not one that your supervisor or manager would have made.
If you adopt an Empowerment Management Style, it will translate directly into:
- Associates handling a guest complaint on the spot without insisting that the guest wait and speak with management, or worse yet, allowing the guest to leave without the issue being resolved.
- Increased associate satisfaction...which will result in increased retention and the ability to attract the best candidates your area has to offer.
- Empowerment begets Empowerment. The more your staff's fear of making important business decisions is decreased and the more decision making is rewarded, the more empowered they will become.
- All of this translates into improved business results and increased profits.
Create an environment where there is no fear of retribution, an environment where associates understand that they not only fill a position but have a purpose. People do not come to work to do a bad job; they come to work to do a good job. Our job as leaders is to orient them, train them, empower them and let them know that there is nothing more exciting than fixing a product deficiency or a mistake. When we truly adopt an Empowerment Management Style, then we can create an Empowered Work Environment where everyone benefits.
About the Author
Lizz Chambers conducts in-house training and training assistance for all properties managed by Newport Hospitality Group. She coordinates and conducts supervisory skills workshops to prepare supervisors to earn their certification through AH&LA's Educational Institute.