First, you can’t really empower other people; they must empower themselves. However, with that being said, you can create an environment in which it is possible for people to empower themselves. Empowerment is basically giving others the ability and resources to make decisions on their own. It also means they are accountable for their decisions. Responsibility should not come without accountability. One way to foster this environment and support empowerment is through performance reviews.
"Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility . . . . In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility."
— Michael Korda Editor-in-Cheif, Simon & Schuster
Performance reviews can be used as a means to ensure employees are clear on the expectations, roles, and responsibilities. They can be used to help demonstrate how an employee contributes to the overall success of the organization. With this knowledge, employees can then make informed decisions: empowerment requires that the employee is well informed in order to make expert decisions. This enables the employee to make more day-to-day decisions without consulting their manager and thereby feel a greater sense of empowerment.
In addition to providing the needed knowledge and an environment in which authority is granted to set goals and make decisions, the performance review process also aids in holding employees accountable for their decisions. However, it is important to note the manager’s role here. The manager cannot simply tell the employee they have the authority to execute as they see fit on the assigned tasks. They cannot just walk away from the whole process. Rather, the manager must be sure that the employee is capable of handling the power they have been given: that the employee knows what to do with it.
Furthermore, it is critical that the manager continues to promote ongoing communication through the course of the performance review process. Thereby, the manager continues to provide guidance and coaching where needed. The performance review is an effective means of giving real-time feedback on what the employee is doing well, consequently encouraging them to continue such behaviors. It is also an effective means of providing up-to-date information to safeguard against the employee working with outdated knowledge. Having current information and real-time feedback on positive behaviors and decisions further helps the employee feel empowered to continue to make decisions on their own. Nonetheless, the manager must also be willing and able to “run interference” on behalf of the employee. The ongoing communication is how any obstacles or needs are discovered and to immediately address them. Use the performance review process to manage this rather than waiting until the end of the performance review cycle.
Simply put, performance reviews can empower employees:
- By providing an environment to make decisions/set goals.
- By providing a means of delivering key information and expectations.
- By providing a tool for ongoing communication.
- By providing real-time feedback and information.
- By ensuring the employee is held accountable for their decisions.
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