When your employees are truly empowered, they put their heart and soul into taking care of your customers while making sure they do no harm to your business. Wouldn’t having a team like that make it easier for you to fall asleep at night?

What makes an empowered employee?

There are three primary conditions that have to be met for your employees to feel truly empowered:

First, they have control over what they do

  1. They can on decide the severity of the customer’s problem, his importance to the business, and the impact of potential fixes and can then implement the selected actions without asking for permission.
  2. They have input into how the job is designed.

Second. they understand the business context in which they work

  1. They understand how their job fits into a total process.
  2. They can ask anyone in the business for advice or to take the selected action without fear of retribution.

Third. they are accountability for work

  1. They recognize how satisfying a customer will affect both the customer and the business.
  2. They see a clear link between the outcomes of their decisions and their performance evaluations, variable compensation, and promotion opportunities.

Special training that contributes to empowerment

Since the empowered employees will be unilaterally making business decisions, there are a few prerequisites that must be in-place:

  1. They must know the limits.  All customer-facing employees at the Ritz-Carlton hotel group are authorized to spend up to $2,000 to satisfy a guest.  They can offer a free meal if appropriate, or they can send a gift from the gift shop, or even give a really disappointed guest an extra night stay (in the future if it is not feasible to extend a stay).
  2. They must understand the financials in enough detail to decide how much compensation is worth giving.  For example, lets say you lead a hospital that specializes in cardiac care and a patient introduction process went off the tracks quickly.  Not only will stress impact the patient’s outcome but your intake nurse knows that the patients surgeon is very influential when recommending hospitals for patients.  Under these conditions, upgrading the patient to a private room is probably a very good decision.
  3. The organization must review, provide feedback, and communicate these “empowered” decisions to the front line team consistently and quickly. Ritz Carlton collects these decisions daily from all of it’s properties, shares the daily summary with property General Managers, and has the GM start each shift with large team meetings discussing these decisions with a focus on local decisions made the day before.

Lets summarize the four posts in this series.

In the first post, we talked about aligning individual goals and objectives throughout the organization.  This makes sure that everyone sees how their job contributes to the business’ overall objectives.

The next post described the advantages of making sure that high value employees are routinely assigned to cross-functional teams.  Not only will real problems be solved but people also learn about the issues, challenges, and resources of other departments and how they can all work together to benefit the business.

The third post was about engaged (high performance) employees who look forward to coming to work and contributing at a high level.  This creates an atmosphere where challenge is considered fun and employees feel like they are part of the solution.

This last post in the series takes the engaged employees and empowers them to make business decisions that will create happy, satisfied, and loyal customers. This is the most you have a right to expect from your employees so enjoy the benefits.
The final steps on the customer-centricity journey are all about how the management of the business includes customers, either in person or through personas, in the major business decisions that are always on the table.  This is the subject for another day.