moleculesWorkSimple, a social work performance platform, predicts that in 2012 we will see “the growth of empowerment and engagement” as a core strategic focus. If you are one of the managers or leaders currently looking for ways to better empower your employees, here are three recommended actions:

1. Remove barriers to success

At the start of any new Employee or Customer Engagement project, we will typically conduct interviews or focus groups with employees to uncover these barriers. Leaders don’t often see them. Policies that are put in place to lower costs, improve productivity, or achieve other good intentions can unwittingly become daily frustrations that prevent employees from doing great work.

Harvard professors Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer coined the term “the Progress Principle,” to describe how the ability to make meaningful progress at work impacts the employee experience. When employees are prevented from making consistent progress in their work, they disengage. Leaders who remove the daily barriers that prevent employees from making “small wins” everyday can expect to see an increase in motivation and innovation.

2. Create a supportive culture

While leaders within a company hold considerable influence in the internal culture of a company, it is unfair for managers to assume it is their sole responsibility to create a positive environment. Often there are great things already happening in a company – strong teams, gatherings after hours, inspiring customer feedback. Uncovering these activities and sources of inspiration saves leaders from the exhausting efforts of building a strong work culture while simultaneously encouraging employees to take shared responsibility in building a better workplace.

3. Allow for trial and error

Thomas Edison famously stated, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

In spite of this famous inventor’s words, however, most of us – employees, managers, and executives alike – are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of finding 10,000 ways that will not work.

HBR blogger, Amy C. Edmondson wrote an article last April titled, “Strategies for Learning from Failure,” in which she makes the point that the desire to avoid mistakes often leads to assigning blame and simplistic answers to why the failure happened. Leaders quickly move on and miss an opportunity to learn more about the mistake. Unfortunately, in doing this they create a culture increasingly unlikely to take a chance on a new idea. If you want to empower your employees to do something new, exciting, or innovating, it may be time to change how your organization talks about and responds to failure.

Of course, this list is only the beginning. What actions has your company taken to improve employee engagement and empowerment?

Photo courtesy of: jscreationzs

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