Empower your staff and boost your business

Many business owners believe that empowering staff sounds appealing but don’t know where to start. A common fear is that giving more decision-making latitude to staff means processes won’t be followed, causing costly errors and disgruntled clients. This article explains why empowering your staff can boost your business and some simple steps you can take to boost staff productivity and client satisfaction.

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What is empowerment?

In the wealth management industry, empowerment means giving your staff permission to make certain business decisions quickly, without having to seek permission from someone else. Empowerment is based on the idea that giving employees the authority, skills, resources, information and motivation - as well as holding them accountable for the results of their actions - will enhance their abilities and sense of job satisfaction. Empowered staff are trusted to make swift and good decisions that help clients and the business. Giving staff greater responsibility and explicit permission to fail if they are trying to help clients means staff learn how to make good decisions. Clients appreciate it when businesses trust their staff to make decisions because their issues are generally resolved more quickly and the business demonstrates confidence in their staff. If employers trust their staff then so can clients.

The biggest risk is not empowering your staff

While empowering staff may initially feel risky, consider the opposite scenario where all authority is removed and staff follow rigid processes for every interaction. Clients may feel they are treated simply as a number because staff in such an environment are compelled to act like robots. Instead, staff should feel confident to step-up and sometimes make a decision that is contrary to process because it will lead to positive outcomes for the business and clients.

Paying lip-service to empowering your staff by simply announcing ‘you are empowered’ is not enough to give them the confidence to own their decisions. Clarify when staff are able to step outside processes if they are doing so to help clients – however, staff still require proper training and relevant qualifications. As an example, being non-compliant is never okay but paying for a courier to send a document to a client who is in desperate need is okay and may lead to increased client loyalty – and even referrals.  The extra cost to the business of paying for a courier is likely to be recouped because they will retain a loyal client.

Do not empower all your staff equally because experienced staff will feel that their experience is being devalued. Empowerment works best when your staff already know what parts of the process could be improved, where the pain-points are and where the critical boundaries lie. Less experienced staff will need time to understand what is – and what isn’t – okay.

Simple steps you can take now

Allowing your staff to be empathetic to clients is probably one of the simplest and most effective empowerment steps you can take. Staff who are permitted to treat clients as people and not simply as numbers or a task to be processed will go above and beyond to help.

Below are some tips for boosting staff empowerment:

  • Encourage your staff to question and modify business processes
  • Praise, incentivise and reward staff who ‘go above and beyond’ to help clients
  • Allow staff to experiment with different approaches to improve the client experience
  • Adopt a culture of continuous learning and process improvement
  • Encourage your staff to focus on long-term business goals, such as, reputation and referrals instead of short-term efficiency goals, such as, ‘how many Financial Disclosure Statements were sent in one day’.

Empowerment is not all-or-nothing

Empowerment gives your staff permission to be empathetic to the needs of your clients rather than being hamstrung by process. Undoubtedly, empowerment is not risk-free, and while your staff may make mistakes, these should be worthwhile learning experiences that will encourage staff and ultimately lead to satisfied clients.

The businessman Richard Branson is a firm believer in staff empowerment – as these two quotes of his explain, “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers” and “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers”.