The employer/ employee dynamic was once a very rigid thing. The employer barked orders, the employee followed them. The employer made decisions, the employee enacted them. The employer was master, the employee a paid servant.
But while this may have worked in the coal mines and textile factories of centuries past, things are a little different today. We find ourselves in the age of specialisation, where each worker within an organisation brings a different perspective and set of skills to the table.
In no industry is this more apparent than in Life Sciences, where organisations rely on an incredibly broad range of talents and mindsets to push themselves forward.
How exactly does an organisation capitalise on the individual talents of its team? Two words: employee empowerment.
What is employee empowerment?
Empowering your employees is about breaking down that age old employer/ employee dynamic. There are a wealth of ways to empower your employees, but each is based on a simple premise – to create happy and productive employees who feel like they’re a key cog in your organisational machine.
Examples of employee empowerment include:
Giving employees responsibility: The most effective way to empower your employees is to give them responsibility and hold them accountable for outcomes. Focus on the ends and give the employee the opportunity to make their own way there, rather than focusing on the means.
Demonstrating trust: Constantly looking over your employees’ shoulders shows them that you don’t trust them to do their job. Remove yourself from the process and focus on the outcome, making suggestions and changes from there.
Breaking down the boss/ employee dynamic: The bosses and managers of years gone by were often seen as unapproachable. This meant that small and easily fixable issues were allowed to fester, eventually turning into big problems. Be open and approachable with your employees, treat them as equals, and they’ll pay you back in kind.
Offering opportunities to professionally develop: There’s perhaps no greater show of support for your employees than investing in them. Allowing them to professionally develop will give them the tools they need to succeed. Knowledge is power as the old saying goes.
Showing appreciation for effort: It is incredible the effect that a pat on the back can have. Showing appreciation for effort is the simplest, cheapest and most rewarding way to boost morale and productivity within your team.
Why should you be empowering your employees? What’s in it for you, the employer? While we’ve briefly touched on some benefits above, the true scope of employee empowerment perks might be surprising.
1. You’ll be made aware of issues sooner
By assigning responsibility and demonstrating trust you’ll have given your employees the tools they need to fix problems themselves. And by fostering an open and honest workplace environment you’ll be made aware of these or more serious issues before they grow out of control. Let’s say the email server goes down while you’re in a meeting. If you’ve empowered an employee to work with the IT department to solve this sort of issue in your absence, the problem could be fixed instantly. If you haven’t, the entire team could be at a standstill until you return.
2. If employees make decisions they become more accountable
Think of the message that you’re giving an employee when you tell them ‘you can make the call on this.’ You’re telling them that they’re smart, they’re capable, and you trust them. If an employee understands that the boss trusts them to get the job done, they’ll treat the decision with far more respect, and feel far more accountable for it.
3. Empowerment increases productivity
Empowerment allows employees to be autonomous, reducing the need for a manager or supervisor to guide a process. It avoids feelings of resentment within the ranks, and the time wasting that is so often a form of protest against an overbearing or untrusting boss. And it allows employees to truly enjoy their work and feel like they’re making a difference, which inevitably leads to them doing more.
4. Employees are more satisfied and will stay longer
Having been given responsibility and the opportunity to truly make a difference, empowered employees feel far more satisfied with their work. According to BetterUp, when compared to other employees, those with meaningful work stay with an organisation an average of 7.4 months longer, take two fewer days of paid leave per year, and put an hour of extra work in per week. So not only will empowering your employees see their productivity increase, you’ll also turn these productive team members into loyal long-term employees!
5. Customer service improves
The client-facing departments of a life sciences organisation can benefit a great deal from employee empowerment. Think of the last time you experienced painful customer service. You likely had to move from representative to representative, speak to a manager, or talk to a different department altogether. By empowering employees you’ll avoid the shuttle runs to the manager’s office, with the customer service representative, salesperson or account manager taking control of the situation instead.
6. It develops your employer brand, attracting top talent
In highly skilled industries the competition for top talent is fierce. This is particularly the case in Life Sciences, as the industry is currently experiencing a serious skills shortage in Europe. It’s understandable that professionals within the sector will talk about employers amongst themselves, and how your organisation is spoken about will depend heavily on how empowered both past and present employees have felt. By empowering employees they’ll enjoy their work more, and will help you to develop your employer brand by playing ambassador to other professionals looking for rewarding work.
7. Bottom line: It will improve your bottom line
According to a Hay Group study, organisations with empowered, engaged employees enjoy 2.5x the revenue of competitors with lower empowerment and engagement levels. All other reasons aside, empowerment is good for business. Empowered employees will help you identify issues and make changes that save you money. They’ll be more productive, churning out more work in a shorter amount of time. And they’ll attract other top talent who’ll help to drive your organisation forward in the future.
In successful Life Sciences organisations the traditional employer/ employee dynamic is dead. Forward-thinking companies have realised that each of their employees brings a unique perspective and set of skills to the table, and utilising this broad range of talents is far more constructive than turning each worker into a hamster on a wheel.
An empowered employee is a happy, productive and loyal employee. And if you empower them, they’ll empower you. Contact us for more information!