Employee empowerment is an extremely impactful (yet often underutilized) motivation tactic. When employed appropriately, your empowerment strategy ought to grow business profitability, revive company culture and improve satisfaction – both internally and externally. Throughout this essay I plan on identifying my reasoning as to why I believe that the idea of employing fun at the workplace successfully empowers employees.To begin, I would like to to look at the various companies that have adopted a ‘fun-at-work’ approach and studies that have shown the benefits of the tactics employed.For example, the Saylor Foundation conducted a study which found that organizations leveraging employee empowerment garner more than 50% higher degrees of customer retention and loyalty. The retention of these customers and returning purchases obviously benefit the company financially.
Although, while so many organisations place their focus on empowering their customer, they neglect the empowerment of their employees, usually to their detriment. Granted, delegation of authority may not be ‘fun’ from the outset, but it does set up the future for a fun workplace very well.Empowerment requires an open communication and contextual understanding from the upper management and must trickle down, in turn enabling employees to make crucial decisions on the spot, thus teaching and improving the employees skill set. By empowering employees, businesses give their team: resources they need to get the job done – from tools to fundamental knowledge. Procedures that employees know represent best practices for serving customersAuthority to go the extra mile for their companyEmpowering employees can seem risky, but in a world that puts experience above all else, bridging the gap between employee knowledge and customer satisfaction is paramount for success.Many news outlets can dismiss the concept of fun in the workplace as yet another way organisations are catering to the millennial generation. This is understandable in part, after all, a business’ main goals is to make a profit when you look at the bottom line.
A business surely can’t be making any real profit if the entire workforce is playing pool on the company’s time how can that happen? Well, many millennials are drawn to positive work atmospheres; in fact, a study by Pudelko & Harzing found that 60 percent of 2015 graduates reported that they rather would work for a company with a “positive social atmosphere” This goes to show that millennials are being drawn to work for businesses that encourage fun at the workplace, even at the cost of a higher income. The modern employee values their welfare enough to part with a slightly higher income if they enjoy coming to work in the morning.However, when a business needs to identify a return on investment, can it be possible that more fun equals more money? In a modern workplace, it can.A recent experiment conducted by the Social Market Foundation at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy addressed this very question. The experiment comprised of randomly selected 700 individuals.
With these 700 individuals, the organisers either showed them a series of comedy clips ranging up to 10 minutes and provided them with refreshments. Once it was established that the clips and refreshments did indeed make the individuals feel happiness, the organisers began tracking the individual’s productivity levels while they completed various tasks that they were assigned. For those individuals who received the “happiness shocks” in the form of the clips and refreshments, their productivity was recorded to have increased by an average of 12 percent and, in some cases, rose as high as 20 percent.
Employee fun and empowerment doesn’t have to be flippant. If incorporated strategically, fun actually can have a positive impact on the bottom line. The Happiness Advantage author Shawn Achor, an expert on happiness psychology, agrees: “Focusing on the good isn’t just about overcoming our inner grump to see the glass half full.
It’s about opening our minds to the ideas and opportunities that will help us be more productive, effective and successful at work and in life.”Admittedly, there can be some issues related to fun at the workplace, most notably the muddling of relationships within the business. It can be difficult to establish real social connections at the workplace since doing so requires us to mix different relationship types. In 1979, Margaret Clark and Judson Mills identified two different types of human relationships that exist: communal and exchange. The foundation for the first type, communal relationships, is providing to others on the basis of their own personal needs; we typically form these relationships with friends and family. Conversely, in exchange relationships, an individual gives in anticipation of receiving something in return. Not surprisingly, the type of relationship we develop with colleagues is exchange.
To continue understanding the arguments against fun in the workplace, we must look at the mixing communal behaviors with exchange relationships — often the implicit function of work-driven social gatherings — can make employees feel uneasy. When one person in an exchange relationship adopts communal behaviors, by disclosing any vulnerabilities they may have, asking for emotional support, or, worse, making romantic overtures, the other employee might want to abandon the relationship or worse the workplace in general. There’s a time and a place for mixing business with pleasure, but for the most part, crossing the line often results in shared awkwardness, not closer connections.
While I acknowledge these points may lead a business to believe that fun at the workplace ought to be avoided, I believe that these examples of personality clashes are as a result of poor employment of employee empowerment or ineffective “fun” practices in the workplace. If correctly applied, fun at the workplace can be a great benefit to a company.For a hallmark on how best to implement a fun atmosphere in the workplace without compromising the quality of work, one need not look any further than Google; employees of the search engine giant have rated the company a 4.4/5 stars on Glassdoor. This is a fair indication as to how employees fare while working for the company.
On Glassdoor’s most recent installation of “Best Places to Work” Google was ranked fourth on the list. Paid skiing trips, summer picnics, free gym memberships, three meals a day, bring pets to work, massages, music lessons, these are just a few initiatives employed by Google to ensure that their workforce are at their happiest. With these type of perks on offer, it’s easy to see why employees flock towards Google.Why Does A Business Need Employee Empowerment?A study undertaken by Pepperdine University compiled 40 of the most empowered companies. Pepperdine then compared the different companies’ financial performances over more than ten categories to the averages in their industry. This research established that the companies financial success could be distinctly correlated with empowerment levels.
At this stage we find ourselves trying to understand what exactly empowerment is. Fundamentally, empowerment in the workplace can be defined as a philosophy and strategy that companies use to entrust their employees with the authority required to execute orders and behave in accordance with the business’ objectives. Empowerment can give employees a sense of pride and ownership over their work, allowing the business to make significant in a more engaging and happy company culture. Not only does providing employees with the freedom to make final decisions for a project, brand or product help motivate employees, but it also frees up valuable time for higher management who can put their time to better use having delegated authority to employees.From this we must ask ourselves, how does empowerment of employees take form and how can this empowerment lead to fun in the workplace?1. Foster a Social Workforce in the WorkplaceEmployee empowerment begins with staff being given access to the resources they need to become more productive and efficient.
In today’s world, we’re constantly browsing social media pages at work and checking emails at home, creating an undeniable connection between our work and personal lives. However, these blurred lines don’t have to be a negative thing for business. In fact the connection of these worlds can help, not hinder, a positive atmosphere in the workplace. Though some organizations fear giving their employees social media access during work hours, the truth is that embracing the social world is often very beneficial to companies.
Not only can social accounts give employees a new way of interfacing with potential customers, but it also ensures that they’re ready to advocate on the behalf of your brand in a positive light. It’s easier than ever for employees to share branded content with their social networks, and it’s important for employers to take advantage of that.2. Consult EmployeesEmpowering employees also means endowing them with a sense of authority and trust that can promote greater pride in their workplace.
Workers who feel pride in their brand are often more satisfied and engaged at work. In other words, something as simple as empowerment can lead to less turnover, greater productivity and enhanced efficiency. The first place to start when trying to empower employees is open and frequent conversation.
Employees ought to be consulted on the projects they’re involved with and seek out their opinions to see how best they can be progressed. The staff Help your staff feel as though they have a real impact on the projects they manage – the benefits will far outweigh your efforts.3. Establish GuidelinesBy employing empowerment in the workplace, this doesn’t mean that the company is at the mercy of employees free will. The company ought to ensure prior to empowering the workforce that a clear set of boundaries are enforced and obvious to everyone. Once this is completed a task list and plan must be drawn up to show employees where best to focus their energy. While granting employees freedom can lead to a more fun workplace, it is in the companies best interest to give employees a gentle push in the right direction.
Having said this it is very important to keep a watchful eye over the employee’s behaviour to ensure that they are advocating for the best interest of the company and consumer.4. Provide a Level of FreedomFinally, one of the simplest ways to gain loyalty from staff and ensure employee empowerment is for a business to show a team that they are trusted. Clarify the results that are to be achieved, and allow workers to approach projects from their own angle.
According to a survey conducted by Harvard, the power of choice in the workplace improves employee satisfaction, drives motivation and allows for better performance. Empowering employees means giving them the opportunity to show their skills and add their own personal flair to project management.Benefits of Embracing Fun in the Workplace1. Gather Valuable InputThe most effective changes in implementing for a business can make in the workplace are the ones that allow employees to be more efficient. Granted, these type of changes won’t be the most fun for the employees, but they are the most ‘effective’ from a strategic point of view. Sometimes, the business owner is unaware of what fixes will benefit employees most. Maybe providing flexible working schedules is on their wish list. Perhaps enabling shift-based employees to clock in via smartphones is more important to them.
The bottom line is, an organisation may never know if they don’t ask and let employees participate in the process.2. More Productive EmployeesWhen employees feel empowerment in the workplace, they tend to be more productive. Being involved in decisions takes away the resentment and bad feelings that are often present when employees are always told what to do. Many employees in this situation will waste time as a form of protest. Others will just naturally become less concerned with how they do their jobs.3.
More Engaged WorkforceEngagement can take on many forms. In the workplace, it means that employees care about their customers and co-workers. It also means they’ll actively strive to make the business a better place. One of the best ways to improve engagement is to give employees an active say in how the business is run.
Google, for example, hold open forums on fridays called TGIF, this is an opportunity for employees to ask any questions related to the business and put forward any suggestions they deem appropriate. When they become part of the solution, they become more accountable and will continue to be more involved.4. Help Your Company Embrace ChangeMany businesses can become stagnant if they don’t listen to employee needs. Helpful tech like employee self-service software and enabling shift based employees to clock in via smartphones (Google, for example) are often ideas that come from empowered employees.
When a business listens, an entire team can embrace change and stay relevant. Regularly asking for ideas on new technology, such as employee self-service software, and systems that could improve the business is a great way to keep your business on the cutting edge while satisfying employees. Enabling employees to manage their own time also gives them a renewed sense of responsibility.5. Appeal to the Right EmployeesWhen an empowered workforce is created, a business will naturally attract new employees who thrive in this type of environment. Employees who need to be told what to do will go elsewhere. Employees who are self-starters and take initiative will begin to take notice of your company. Over time, the entire workplace culture will improve.
6. Employees Will Feel More AppreciatedTo engage employees, management have to get to know them on a personal level if they plan on adopting a fun based approach to the workplace. This by itself will improve your relations with them.
While there are difficulties with the two approaches previously discussed (communal and exchange) if appropriately managed, employees and management can work together and enjoy their time in the workplace. When management stay on top of employee details like schedule preferences and how they prefer to communicate, they will feel appreciated and have more job satisfaction.When employees are empowered, everyone wins. You can gather important information on improvements they would like to see, and enable change. Initiative ideas like using employee self-service software and providing work from home options can often come directly from your team. An open minded and receptive management team encourages employees to share feedback and makes them feel valued. Consider giving your team more say in how your business is run and your entire company will improve. It is critical that employers ensure that the correct procedures are put in place to avoid any social fallouts from the adoption of an empowered and fun-filled workforce:Workplace BullyingWhile bullying and fun in the workplace are two entirely different concepts, there is a possibility for the two to overlap if the correct procedures are not put in place.
If a fun atmosphere is encouraged without the proper tactics in place, employees can become disillusioned with the level of comfort they can enjoy at work. The comfort they enjoy may impede on a colleagues experience. For example, Employee A understands that a given behaviour is acceptable within their new “fun” workplace, however their behaviour may lead to Employee B feeling uncomfortable. A constant occurrence of this may lead to bullying. Swedish researchers, led by Anna Nyberg at the Stress Institute in Stockholm, have published a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine on the issue of leaders’ behavior and employee health. They studied more than 3,100 men over a 10-year period in typical work settings. They found that employees who had managers who were incompetent, inconsiderate, secretive and uncommunicative, the employees were 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition. By contrast, employees who worked with “good” leaders were 40% less likely to suffer heart problems.
Nyberg said, “for all those who work under managers who they perceive behave strangely, or in any way they don’t understand, and they feel stressed, the study confirms this develops into a health risk.”A study of 6,000 British office workers found employees who felt that their supervisors treated them fairly had a 30% lower risk of heart disease. A 2008 meta-analysis of the connection between health and leadership by Jana Kuoppala and associates concluded that good leadership was associated with a 27% reduction in sick leave and a 46% reduction in disability pensions. The same study concluded that employees with good leaders were 40% more likely to report the highest levels of psychological well being including lower levels of anxiety and depression.To conclude, new forms of workplace that encourage fun at work and individualism are, in my opinion, an exciting new way of empowering employees.
If employed correctly, employees, managers and customers alike can reap the benefits of fun at the workplace.