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Workforce Empowerment

by Dr. M Marie Sanders


To diagnose the need for empowerment in your organization, start by taking the Samenmais Workforce Empowerment Assessment.

The task of the leader is to tap and channel the power of his/her people.

"When he was asked, "What is your job?" General Electric's Jack Welch said:

"I have three things to do. I have to choose the right people, allocate the right number of dollars, and transmit ideas from one group to another with the speed of light. I am really a communicator and facilitator for the work of others."1

Welch believed that the best strategies would not work without the right leaders. He selected, trained and held leaders accountable to the four E's of leadership:

People experience feelings of ownership in empowered organizations. This ensures that they will do everything they possibly can to create success. Not only are their egos invested in the organization, but their abilities as well. In the end, the result is victory for the person and the organization.

Where are you today? Did the assessment reveal some weaknesses in your organization? Consider the way you handle each of the following processes. Circle the most accurate response to each item in this chart:

Workforce Empowerment2
ProcessUnempoweredOut of ControlEmpowered
Making decisionsCheck with leader on all decisions.Check with nobody on decisions.Check with those affected on decisions.
Planning performanceLeaders writes performance plan and reviews with subordinates.There is no performance plan.Subordinate writes performance plan and reviews with leader.
Making policyLeader decides policy.People ignore policy.Work with those responsible to develop policy.
Solving problemsWait for "them" to fix problems.Bypass "system" to work around problems.Find out who "they" are and work together to fix problems.
Taking initiativeNever volunteer for anything — wait to be assigned.Many people work on the same thing without communicating.Recognize what needs to be done; inform leader and others affected; start action to improve.
Defining rolesRoles and responsibilities are defined by leader.Roles and responsibilities are conflicting and unclear.Work together to define roles and responsibilities.
Setting standardsPerform to standards determined by others.There is no concern for standards.Work together to determine standards of employee effectiveness.

Is it time to make some adjustments in the leadership style of your organization? Consider the following principles and implementation process of the Empowered Workforce...

Principles of the Empowered Workforce3

Trust in people — assume they will work to implement organizational goals if given a chance.

Invest in people — view people as the organization's most important resource, which, if cultivated, will yield positive returns.

Recognize accomplishments — symbolic rewards are extremely important. Show people that they are valued.

Decentralize decision making — put responsibility for making decisions where the information is and as close to the customer as possible.

View work as a cooperative effort — model and reinforce the idea that working together people accomplish more.

What changes will you need to make to increase the empowerment factor of your workforce? Select one or two of the principles outline to implement today. Wait a short period of time. Determine what changes have occurred. Are they positive or negative? Adjust, select a few more and move forward.

Workforces don't swing from unempowered or out of control to fully empowered overnight. Allow time for the transition and reap the benefits!

1 Welch, Jack: Straight fro the Gut; and Joseph Cosco, "General Electric Works It All Out," Journal of Business Strategy 15, no. 3 (May-June 19194): 48-50

2 Michael Connor, Tastemaker International, Cincinnati, OH, 1997.

3 Robert Slater, The GE Way Fieldbook: Jack Welch's Battle for Corporate Revolution (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000).

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About the author

Dr. M Marie Sanders

Dr. M Marie Sanders (USA)

Ms. Sanders holds an MBA and a Doctorate and has 30+ years of business experience in privately held businesses and non-profit organizations. She was a professor for the University of Central Oklahoma teaching undergraduate and MBA classes in the college of business (Leadership and Human Resource Management) and holds real estate broker licenses in two U.S. states.


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