The ancient history would indicate that in the earliest businesses there were no employees. The business itself was small and well defined. Early man needed to till his land, milk his cows, kill the feed-stock, cut the trees and build his house. Everyone, who did this, was an employer and he had animals to service his needs. So businesses began with a master-slave relationship which continued for a long time. Things began to change later in human history when the idea of human support was conceived. Men were added as a resource to get the job done by using their senses, intellect and physical labor. But the master-slave relationship did not change, because in this transition phase, the employer saw the human help merely as an addition to his horses and bulls.
When the first industries came, more men were required with different skill sets. Allocation of jobs was done depending on the capability of the employees to perform specific job functions. With the discovery of energy sources, the scenario changed, as industrial output was increased substantially. Employers thought of carrying out research to enhance quality of products and advancement in processing. The increased production encouraged trade and transport from one place to another. This period of quantitative and qualitative enhancement in trade streamlined the whole process of running industries. However, until this time, most business models were still based on the master-slave concept. Nothing changed in business perception when Iron Age underwent civilized transitions in later years.
However at the advent of the Electronic Age, the need for changing these age-old values of perceiving employees as slaves was strongly felt. The first changes occurred when employers resorted to altered working hours and providing better facilities such as education to the employees and their children. This was the first foray in personnel management. Apparently, this could have also been the time when seeds of seeking the spirit of cooperation between employees and employers were sown. A new era of Business Management was thus ushered.
When organizations increased in size and range of operation, an increasing number of people were required for the industry. The human resource which now became intrinsic to a successful enterprise, had to be viewed in a different light as technology and management research altered the ancient concept of seeing humans merely as another resource. This revolution in the thought process gave birth to the practice of employee empowerment. Pretty soon, terms like team building, team work, employee motivation and collective efforts took hold in management parlance. Decisions delegated to middle management played an important role and a manager’s territory was termed as profit centre or company within the company and senior board members were involved in drafting policies.
The fact that the practice of delegation in modern management spread like a democratic movement, indicated that employee empowerment had become universally acceptable. Empowerment has been seen as motivating employees with opportunities to gain rewards from their work. For employees, empowerment is a great source of inspiration as it lends them a great sense of accomplishment and a unique feeling of importance. As motivation factors, hidden rewards of professional satisfaction and sense of involvement in decision-making are far more powerful reasons than the conventional rewards of higher wages and promotion. Employee empowerment has been described and defined in many ways but is generally accepted as the process of enabling an employee to think, behave, act, react and control his/her work in more autonomous ways, so as to be in control of one’s own destiny.
Effective employee empowerment has positive implications for employee satisfaction with larger organizational benefits like member service and member retention. In its infancy, empowerment at workplace was not easily understood. Even now many organizations, despite acknowledging the benefits, are wary of putting employee empowerment into practice. Such reluctance stems from the unnecessary fear that empowerment is akin to relinquishing leadership responsibility and loss of control. This definitely is not the case. Empowerment has to be seen as a process in which the true capacity of an individual or a group is realized for the collective benefit of the entire organization. In fostering employee empowerment, the management must trust and communicate with its employees. This communication is one of the strongest signs of employee empowerment in an organization. Open and honest communication with employees on all aspect of business is vital. It includes information sharing on company’s strategic plan, financial performance and routine decision making.
Empowerment is manifest in the organizational encouragement of entrepreneurial traits and prompts employees to take decisions, and foster their belief that they can take control of their own destinies. This belief leads to self-motivation and a sense of independence that is translated into greater loyalty and extra effort for the organization. Empowered employees come to believe that they control their own success through their efforts and hard work, which in turn benefits the success of the entire institution.