Employees that feel empowered have higher levels of job satisfaction and a deeper commitment to their companies. They work harder and stay longer, benefiting from and contributing to a company culture that values and expects excellence.  

But employee empowerment isn’t just about the people closer to the bottom of the organizational chart. The best way to support and get the most out of employees is with strategies, policies, and practices that empower the entire workplace, from top to bottom. 

What is empowerment in the workplace? 

Empowerment in the workplace is the combination of processes and programs that enable and encourage employees to take ownership of their work by giving them bigger and stronger roles in the decision-making process.  

How do you know a workplace encourages empowerment? Day to day, leadership is open with information and actively asks for input from employees. And with greater empowerment comes more responsibility. Leadership expects employees to be proactive and show initiative. The organization sets ambitious goals and holds everyone to high standards. 

Why is workplace empowerment important? 

Empowered employees work better, produce more, and leave less often — all of which boosts the bottom line. 

See stronger job performance and productivity 

Companies are always looking for ways to motivate employees, because motivated employees are the ones who take ownership of their work and proactively solve problems. They’re willing to go that extra mile to take a good idea and make it into a great product or service. 

Research from back in 1977 first showed that autonomy motivates employees. And current studies show not much has changed. In fact, Forbes reported on a recent study that found when empowerment is low, only 4% of employees are willing to put in extra effort. But when empowerment is high, that number jumps to 67%. 

It’s not hard to see why. People are more likely to want to make a difference if they feel they can.  

Retain great talent 

Company culture plays an important role in helping employees decide if they should stay or if they should go. No matter how large the compensation or valuable the perks, people want to stay where they feel they are making important contributions and where they feel those contributions are appreciated and recognized. 

An empowered workforce enjoys an environment that focuses on developing belonging, respect, and mutual trust. Because the company values employees’ opinions and insights, they make it clear they also value their employees. 

Improve employee engagement and commitment 

Imagine two separate teams. The first is working on a project created and managed by someone higher up in the organization, while the second is spearheading a project they created as part of an employee-led initiative. While both projects could be successful, which is more likely to be? When employees have a sense of ownership over their work, it drives them to be more committed and motivated. 

How can you create a culture of empowerment? 

Modern workplaces can take many different steps toward empowering their employees. 

Encourage leadership to trust employees to work autonomously  

As the workforce grows ever more mobile, there are more opportunities for companies to embrace flexibility to create empowerment.  

For example: Jake, Amy, and Charles aren’t forced into the same rigid work environment and are expected to produce the same results. Jake can start his day later, work through lunch, and close his laptop when his wife gets home from work. Amy can work in a social coworking environment, surrounded by resources. Charles can work from home a few days each week and come into the office periodically. They’re still held to the same standard but allowed to meet expectations in their own way.  

Here, employer trust empowers employees. 

Put processes in place to recognize effort and excellence 

Recognition of effort and excellence is a simple form of employee empowerment that requires no real change on the part of employers. It’s not about creating competition or putting down those who didn’t meet expectations. It’s simply the affirmation of employees who work hard to achieve results. 

Recognition empowers employees by distinguishing them. You can think of it as the logical mirror opposite of a reprimand. When employees make avoidable mistakes or fail to follow established policies, management needs to talk with them privately. When they do something positive, management needs to tell everyone about it. 

Employers who only reprimand teach their employees how not to get in trouble. Employers who award their employees empower them to do their best. 

Systematically support employee development and growth 

A growing demand from workers is the opportunity to continue their education while advancing their career. Companies that support learning are empowering their employees to get better at what they do, creating opportunities for personal and professional growth. 

Employers advocating for continued education empower their employees to keep pace with innovations, so they don’t stagnate or fall behind on the skills that make them valuable. Whether it’s funding to go back to school or access to continuing education credits through industry organizations, employees can find ways to deepen their understanding of critical topics and techniques. Employers who deliver are employers who empower. 

Provide employees opportunities to contribute meaningfully 

A simple, straightforward example of workplace empowerment is giving every employee the chance to communicate meaningfully. It may seem obvious, given that companies hire employees for their utility. But that doesn’t stop many employees from feeling alienated by a workplace that may not match their personality or abilities. 

Another illustrative example: Bob is an introvert in an office full of extroverts. Linda is analytical in a meeting surrounded by emotional thinkers. Tina is a 19-year-old new hire in an office of 50-something career professionals. Despite their differences, these people should feel welcome, heard, and appreciated for what they bring to the workplace, beyond their ability to complete tasks. Empowering workplaces celebrate these differences and capitalize on diversity to create solutions beyond what’s possible in an echo-chamber. Not only do these employees feel appreciated and empowered, but they also lend their differences to a greater culture of inclusion. 

Empower everybody 

Although it’s critical that those closer to the lower levels of the org chart feel empowered, companies need to make sure everyone has a sense of ownership over their work. Managers at every level need to feel like their voices matter up at in the C suite.  

The benefits are twofold. Empowered managers now have the same increased drive as those that report to them. Plus, when approached by a direct report, they never start with ‘That’s out of my hand,” or “That’s not something I can control.” 

Empowerment is synonymous with concepts like trust, support, appreciation, and inclusion. Companies seeking to attract and retain top talent need to first take a hard, honest look at the ways they currently might be standing in the way of empowerment. From there, they can start to nurture a company culture of employee and workplace empowerment. 

Avatar photo


Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.