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Employee empowerment on service quality improvement for dynamic banking industry


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By Sisira Kumara

Employee empowerment 

‘Employee empowerment’ is a buzz word in management circles. What is employee empowerment? It is “to give someone official authority or the freedom to do something, or encourage and support the ability to do something”. In the Business Dictionary empowerment is described as “A management practice of sharing information, rewards, and power with employees so that they can take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance”. The World Bank views empowerment as “the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices, and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. 

However, scholars have given many different explanations to the concept ‘empowerment’ Most descriptions agree that empowerment is concerned with giving more authority and preference in task and context related issues. Although some explanations are more concentrated on task-related activities, empowerment broadly takes in more than task oriented, related authority and latitudes. Simply, ‘employee empowerment’ means “turning the frontline loose”, encouraging and rewarding employees to exercise initiative and imagination.

In many ways it is the reverse of doing things by the book”. In a more clear description, a few views empowerment as “freeing someone from rigorous control by instructions, policies and orders, and giving that person freedom to take responsibility for his/her ideas, decisions, and actions”. In other words, it is to release hidden resources that would otherwise remain inaccessible to the individual and organisation.

Further, empowerment has been described as a means to enable employees to make decisions and a personal phenomenon where individuals take responsibility for their own actions.

Moreover, empowerment is described as a “state of mind” to the extent that an employee with an empowered.”State of mind” experiences the following qualities:

I.Feeling of control over how the job is performed

II.Awareness of the context in which work is done

III.Accountability for personal work output

IV.Shared responsibility for unit and organisational performance    

V.Equity in the rewards based on individual and collective performance 

Why is empowerment important for 

dynamic banking?

Empowerment is based on the idea of giving employees more skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, as well as holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions. Further, empowerment will contribute to the competence and satisfaction of employees.

With all due respect to the above strong views on ‘employee empowerment’ and its importance to the organisation in enhancing its quality and services etc., we need to actually practice same in the organisations.

There is some misunderstanding about the concept of “empowerment”. Although employees are empowered, they need to follow the rules, procedures and policies of the organisation in their day-to-day business. It is very important to educate and enhance the skills of empowered workforce, understanding this basic idea.

Using experience people

Organisations need to identify the best human capital who can deliver the best service to the customers with great acceptance. Their presence is very important to increase the profitability and growth of the organisation.

Recognising proper planning, empowering and appraising employees definitely reduce errors, increase speed, performance and productivity which enhance the quality of services of the organisation. Moreover, the employees’ commitment will increase all the time.

Most service organisations and employers consider customer service as a key factor in their business success formula, and focus on importance of empowered employees in attaining their goals. Exceptional, quality customer service and employee empowerment employees move together. The coordination between employees and employers is very important in this regard.

Empowerment and job satisfaction

At present in the commercial business world job satisfaction is a very powerful concept. Job satisfaction has been one of the most important factors which mainly correlated with employee empowerment. Few define job satisfaction as an employee’s effective response to various aspects of his work environment. Organisations should encourage employee job satisfaction by using ideas and participating in activities continuously in their normal activities. This may also be the best way of organising innovation and development activities within organisations which contribute to services. For this purpose employee involvement is a very important phenomenon. The involvement of employees in the development functions has recently been studied using the concept of empowerment. It has been recognised that the need to harness employees’ loyalty and creativity, is essential for the organisations to increase job satisfaction through employee empowerment.

As a reason, the employee empowerment has become an important management tool for organisations. Generally ‘empowerment has been emerging as a new employee involvement commitment and it increases the quality of services.

Customer benefit from empowerment

The benefit to the customer of empowerment approach is that in an empowered organisation, individuals recognise the important part they play in delivering service to the customer. They have the authority and flexibility to ensure that they deliver the best service in high standard with due care, business ethics and best market practices. An empowered organisation, therefore, is easy for the customer to do business with: its entire manner of doing business is geared towards the needs of the customer.

An empowered employees share responsibility for problems and proactively engage in responding to the customer. The customer recognises empowerment through the way they are being treated in the course of doing business with the organisation. Individual employee’s attitude towards the customer is positive and proactive. The customer will see this through:

I.The ability and speed of employees to provide information and make decisions;

II.The speed of problem solving;

III.Increase in creative new ideas and improvements;

IV.Standards are set and maintained by self-discipline not centralised enforcement;

V.Being dealt with staff who listen attentively and show willingness to help

VI.Understanding their point of view;

VII.Being greeted with enthusiasm and a positive attitude by members of staff

VIII.Seeing evidence of teamwork and the willingness of staff members to support each other to serve the customer.

Empowerment, therefore, will be visible to the customer through employee’s behaviours, their attitudes and values that underlie them. It is a bit like the contrast between a beached whale and a shoal of fish. The whale is the monolithic centralised bureaucracy, big and immobile; the shoal of fish is the empowered organisation, flexible and ever-changing. In an empowered organisation it is not internal policies or rules which are important, it is the customer satisfaction.

Different views

Within an organisational context, empowerment may mean different things to different people. Here are some explanations of empowerment from a cross-section of employees in one organisation:

I.Giving responsibility to front-line staff.

II.Being accountable for decisions.

III.Empowerment is a state of mind – it allows you to be an individual.

IV.It’s about flattening the organisation.

V.Empowerment is another term for delegation.

VI.Knowing what your customer needs and going all out to achieve this.

VII.Taking decisions away from managers and letting teams direct their own work flow.

VIII.It is an excuse to reduce staff. 

The ability of organisations to empower their employees is an approach to management partnership with employees which places the customer at its heart. Customer focused organisations which adopt an empowered approach have common characteristics

Since service failures are inevitable, service recovery becomes another area where empowerment plays a vital role. Therefore clearly, speedy service recovery is essential when service failures occur. For instance, if service failures are not rectified quickly and satisfactorily then customers may lose faith in the overall reliability of the service. The empowerment of front-line employees is one of the key components in breaking the “cycle of failure” in services. It is also a vital component in a service firm’s strategy of maintaining customer satisfaction. 

Empowerment is 

not without cost.

One of the outcomes of empowerment is that it increases the scope of employee jobs. This requires that employees are properly trained to cope with the wider range of tasks required of them. It also impacts on recruitment as it is necessary to ensure that employees recruited have the requisite attitudinal characteristics and skills to cope with empowerment. Some explained that empowerment has both positive and negative outcomes for employees. They found that although empowered individuals gained confidence in their abilities, self-efficacy they also experienced increased frustration, role conflict as empowerment leads to employees taking on extra responsibilities   From an organisational perspective, increased responsibilities and improved skills are required from empowered employees. Furthermore, employees must be better compensated, thus increasing labour costs. Empowerment can impact the service delivery process as the empowered employee need to individualise the service for customers where directly relate with the overall productivity of the service where additional costs are incurred. Though a cost is involved organisation need to empower the employees for sustainability and enhanced the service quality.

Therefore, in this dynamic banking era we need to understand the importance of employee empowerment and find new strategies to ensure the quality service which directly impact the sustainability of the industry.

(The writer is the Senior Dealer (Money Market)/ SeniorManager at Treasury Unit of a Licensed Commercial Bank. He holds an MBA in Banking and Finance from the Postgraduate Institute of Management) 

 


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