In an effort to improve productivity, Dallas-based Examination Services Inc. (EMSI) gave its 12 HR employees new control over their jobs. HR staffers were free to create their own project plans, assist each other with projects and learn other HR jobs.
The result: In just a year, HR turnover dropped to zero and the department’s productivity doubled. Plus, the department’s reputation soared.
“We got that seat at the table. We are now trusted, respected and involved beforehand on big decisions,” says EMSI HR manager Lori Bishop. HR is spearheading plans to roll out the initiative among EMSI’s 2,500 employees.
Most organizations stick to traditional management approaches, largely because they don’t trust employees with control and believe it’s inefficient. But studies consistently show that employees who set their own goals work harder to accomplish them and are happier with their jobs.
Giving employees more control works with both professional and blue-collar workers, and across all industries. Here are some practical tips for empowering employees:
Trust employees to make basic everyday decisions. Grady Memorial Hospital in Chickasha, Okla., allows sales reps to decide whom they call and how to pitch customers. The approach increased sales and cut turnover.
At Southeastern Mills in Rome, Ga., employees set their own work schedules, within certain parameters. Employees form committees to hire their peers. Any worker can stop a production line to correct or prevent mistakes. Turnover is low.
Allow employees to learn other jobs. At EMSI, each HR employee learned the position one step above his or her own. Some employees trained with other HR staffers, some attended classes and others learned through a combination of both.
Form work teams. Work teams empower employees as a group and as individuals. Grady Memorial Hospital created a patient-satisfaction measurement team that developed surveys and implemented the results. Patient satisfaction increased.
“Project the message that each team member is responsible for the department’s reputation,” says EMSI’s Bishop.
Give employees the information they need to make decisions. EMSI asks HR staffers to attend weekly, biweekly or monthly meetings of company business and operations units. HR employees learn information that helps them implement programs.
Be patient. Employee empowerment requires an investment of time. It takes much longer for employees to learn how to use their newfound control than it does for them to follow orders from superiors, according to William Byham, author of Zapp! The Lightening of Empowerment.