Empowerment is the process of fostering someone’s growth so that they may feel more in charge of their circumstances. Empowered employees have been shown to be more creative and proactive in addition to having better job performance and higher job satisfaction.
The basic principles of empowerment center on demonstrating trust and value in people and giving them the responsibility and autonomy to make their own decisions. As such, education is a excellent means of empowerment.
By investing in an employee’s educational interests, an employer establishes that they value that employee’s career development, and ultimately, the educational opportunity will provide the employee with knowledge and experience that will improve their ability to engage with their work. The following are several examples of ways that business can implement educational programs to empower their employees:
Mentorship programs are commonly set up to increase employee engagement. While mentorships are primarily recognized for fostering strong relationships between employees, they also serve as an informal education for both the mentee and mentor. The mentee gets personalized guidance on how to handle different situations they may encounter.
In addition, the mentor gains experience in advising and leadership, and the mentee may also push the mentor to understand more recent trends in the field. Both the mentor and mentee gain confidence in their abilities— the mentee through the new skills they acquire through the mentorship, and the mentor the trust and value placed in them to pass along their expertise.
Learning and Development
Learning and development (L&D) opportunities allow employees to gain new skills and grow professionally. These programs may occur at various points in an employees career and in various forms.
Goldman Sachs, through its Goldman Sachs University, provides new hires with the resources they need to integrate themselves into their new work environment, while Deloitte’s Emerging Leaders Development Program targets senior managers.
Smaller workshops are a less intense way for employees to receive training. Self-directed learning, where employees are given the flexibility to independently pursue their goals, is also becoming increasingly popular.
Dropbox’s Hack Week is a unique event where employees get to develop projects of their own choosing. Regardless of structure and timing, learning and development ultimately instills employees with the confidence to take more control of their work.
Many companies are starting to fund their employees’ graduate education. These sponsorships guarantee that the company will gain an employee who is not only highly educated, but will be easily able apply their new knowledge since they are already familiar with the work environment.
The sponsorship also sends the message to the employee that they are a particularly trusted member of the company. The most well known examples of this practice include management consulting firms and investment banks paying for their analysts’ MBAs— no cheap fee, with the tuition for top two-year programs currently costing around $100,000. However, even smaller companies can get in on this trend by providing stipends that partially pay for employees’ formal education.
Employee empowerment is essential to a productive workplace. By providing formal or informal, long term or short term, independent or interpersonal educational opportunities, companies can help their employees gain the confidence to take more responsibility and gain more autonomy in their roles.