Empowering Employees Will Lower Turnover

What is Employee Empowerment?

Empowered employees drive innovation and have higher satisfaction and commitment. Many of the things we have already discussed will add to employee empowerment. 

Here is a concise how-to with tips on letting your employees take the reigns in order to grow your bottom line.  All the while, raising retention rates and elevating the company’s culture.

What Is Employee Empowerment?

Employee empowerment is when companies give their employees more power and authority to make decisions. Instead of bosses making all the choices, empowered employees get to have input and control over their own work.

Some examples of how companies empower workers are:

  • Letting employees choose their own schedules or to work remotely
  • Giving employees control over how they do their tasks, instead of dictating every step
  • Authorizing employees to set their own goals and track their own progress
  • Inviting employees to share ideas and the license to make suggestions for improving things
  • Training employees on new skills so they can take on more responsibilities
  • Making sure employees have the resources and information they need to make good choices
  • Recognizing employees' talents and enabling them to use those talents at work

The idea is to entrust employees like valued partners who have a say in things instead of just telling them what to do. Research shows that when employees feel empowered, they are more engaged, productive, and innovative. It leads to better results for both workers and the company.

What is the Alternative?

Command-and-control has long been the go-to management style for most managers and companies. It involves top-down decision making, close supervision, and a hierarchical structure where leadership holds tight control and employees follow orders. This model emerged during the industrial revolution and was well-suited for factory environments where workers needed to perform repetitive tasks in a standardized way.  Unfortunately, it has become the default for most pyramid style organizational charts.

While familiar, command-and-control is actually a poor management approach today for several reasons. First, it stifles innovation and motivation by not allowing for employee input or creative thinking. Second, it creates a lack of accountability where employees feel no ownership over their work. Third, close supervision is demotivating and signals a lack of trust in employees. Fourth, this model misaligns with how knowledge workers operate best. And fifth, command-and-control fails to develop talent since managers provide little coaching or development opportunities.

In contrast, empowering management styles give employees autonomy, enables contribution to decision-making, provides support to maximize talents, and moves from controlling employees to inspiring them.

This fosters higher commitment, innovation and productivity from employees. Research shows that organizations fare better when adopting an empowering rather than command-and-control approach to management.

What Does Employee Empowerment Look Like?

Here is a table contrasting command-and-control management with empowering management styles:



Command-and-Control Management


Empowering Management


Managers make all key decisions


Employees are involved in decision-making


Managers dictate goals


Goals are collaboratively set with employees

Task direction

Managers direct step-by-step how to do tasks


Employees have autonomy over how they do their work


Top-down communication


Open communication in all directions

Employee development

Little investment in developing skills


Actively invest in developing employees' skills

Leadership style

Authoritative, hierarchical


Collaborative, coaching-focused

Risk appetite

Avoid risks and mistakes


Accept risks and mistakes as learning opportunities


Discouraged; focus on following set procedures


Encouraged through employee empowerment


Driven by incentives and consequences


Driven by intrinsic motivation and engagement


Impersonal, lack of trust


Personalized, high-trust

Performance evaluation

Focus on negatives to punish


Focus on positives to enable improvement

The key contrast is that command-and-control aims to dictate all aspects while empowering management aims to provide employees with autonomy, voice, development opportunities, and support. Entrust employees with confidence.

Rather than controlling, great leaders enable employees to drive results.

Strategies to empower include minimizing bureaucratic hurdles that stifle progress. Allow frontline discretion over customer issues within reason. Solicit team input when developing new policies or processes - they know realities on the ground.

Do Not Micromanage

Empowered employees feel trusted versus micromanaged and restricted. Provide access to information and the context needed to make sound decisions independently. Don't second-guess once you delegate authority.  This can be hard.  Don’t let compliance or quality slip but do your best to avoid inserting yourself and your style. Entrust your employees with a mandate and then watch them facilitate action.

I once had a director who was a good writer and communicator.  I think I’m pretty good too, though; and admittedly so did she.  Whenever I submitted projects for her to review however, she insisted on forcing me to change the style to hers.  It was deflating and tedious.  Unless grammar and message suffer, let your subordinates be themselves in their work.

Allow flexibility in how and where people work. Empower them to take risks and push boundaries, even if some attempts fail. Reward self-starting behaviors that demonstrate initiative and ownership.  Give them license to innovate and create then promote that freedom consistently.

Empowerment Doesn’t Mean Unaccountable

Of course empowerment requires expecting accountability in return. Clear expectations around results and decision criteria guide employees without handholding. Honest feedback identifies blind spots.  Authorization is the runway and accountability is the guardrail.

When done effectively, empowerment unleashes employees' full potential. They become invested in the organization's future versus passively putting in time. Discretionary effort follows trust and autonomy. People support what they help build.

Empowering leadership takes courage but builds loyalty. Employees who feel empowered, not powerless, drive innovation and stick around for the long haul.

Empowerment shows trust in employees’ abilities. But it requires giving up control and accepting risks. Failures should provide learning rather than blame. Creative benefits also boost autonomy, like allowing set hours for innovation projects.

What the Research Shows

A 2019 study published in the Academy of Management Journal found that employee empowerment was linked to higher levels of innovation in organizations. The researchers defined empowerment as involving sharing power and authority with lower-level employees by enabling participative decision-making. The study analysis showed a clear positive correlation between empowerment practices and innovation outcomes (Lee et al., 2019).

Research by Gallup found that only 20% of employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. However, employees who did feel their manager focused on their strengths were substantially more engaged and productive (Gallup, 2015). This suggests empowering management is better than a controlling style.

A 2016 literature review in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology concluded that autonomy-supportive management, where managers support self-determined motivation, led to much higher employee satisfaction, commitment, and performance compared to controlling styles (Slemp et al., 2018).

A 2014 study in Personnel Review found that empowering leadership predicted employee job satisfaction and extra-role behaviors much more than directive leadership did. Empowering leadership involves encouraging autonomous decision-making (Amundsen & Martinsen, 2014).

Overall, multiple studies converge on the conclusion that empowering employees through participative decision-making, developing strengths, and granting autonomy is a more effective management approach than command-and-control tactics.

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