As a business leader, there are all kinds of reasons to empower your employees. On the one hand, you should care about your team’s growth — about helping workers across the organization fulfill their potential and become leaders themselves. And on the other hand, it’s just plain good for business.
True employee empowerment will come from continued support and coaching, but there are a few tools out there that can help you supercharge your efforts. Here, we’ve gathered a few of our favorites.
Employee empowerment tool #1: The Reciprocity Ring
What it is:
The Reciprocity Ring is a “one-time, face-to-face exercise that makes giving easy.”
Author, psychologist, and Wharton professor Adam Grant offers a succinct description: “Each participant makes a request to their fellow team members. Those teammates are then tasked with pooling their collective expertise, resources and connections to help fulfill each of the requests contributed — it’s that simple. The idea is to show everyone involved how little it usually takes to get something done when an entire group puts their energy behind one individual’s needs.”
Why you should try it:
The collective power of a network is extraordinary. A few years back, I participated in a Reciprocity Ring exercise (twice, actually). Over the course of those two afternoons, I saw requests answered and problems solved, both professional and personal. One participant, a business school student who was about to graduate, was looking for an “in” at a particular company — his dream employer. Turns out another participant happened to be good friends with somebody who worked there, and she offered to make the connection.
Somebody else in our group needed a place to live for a while between leases. In the end, they were connected with another person’s friend, someone who happened to have an empty room to rent.
Collectively, our group was able to crowdsource a tremendous amount of help. These resources had been available the whole time of course, but the Reciprocity Ring provided a framework for all of us to ask for what we wanted/needed and give what we had. What kind of help might your employees be able to offer each other?
Employee empowerment tool #2: The Job Crafting Exercise
What it is:
The Job Crafting Exercise is a workbook-style activity that “prompts you to visualize [your] job, map its elements and reorganize them to better suit you. In this way, you can put personal touches on how you see and do your job, and you’ll gain a greater sense of control at work.” Specifically, that means altering aspects of the tasks, relationships and perceptions that define your role.
Why you should use it:
As with the Reciprocity Ring, I’ve had the chance to participate in a Job Crafting session. The exercise helped me identify some things I felt most passionate about: Writing, content creation and digital storytelling. Beyond that, it got me thinking about how I might adjust my role to place more emphasis on skills and tasks related to these passions.
Keep in mind, the goal of the Job Crafting Exercise isn’t to help people dream up entirely new jobs — that could lead to organizational chaos. Rather, the goal is to provide a way for employees to tweak the roles they already have to make for a better fit.
Leaders that encourage their teams to take ownership of their jobs are far more likely to create a culture of engagement and empowerment.
Employee empowerment tool #3: Open-Book Management
What it is:
While this one isn’t exactly a tool — more like a well-defined and documented process — it’s important enough to mention. As described in Slate, open-book management is “a system in which every employee, from the top managers down to the most junior guy on the factory floor, is walked through the detailed financial statements of the company on a regular basis.”
Why you should use it:
Open-book management is an excellent way of getting employees to realize that they aren’t merely performing their jobs in a vacuum. By understanding the bottom line, every member of your team will gain a better feel for how they can contribute to the business. The choices they make, their solutions to problems, will no longer be carried solely in the context of their job descriptions — instead, they’ll feel a responsibility to act in ways that ultimately improve the financial health of the company.
This arrangement tends to serve well for all involved: The business has more people actively working in its favor, and employees have new, stronger ways to engage with their work.
These tools are some of our favorites, but we’re always looking to learn more. To the leaders out there: What are your favorites? Which ones have helped empower your employees the most? Let us know in the comments below.