David Gordon: Empowering Employees

Mar 18, 2020 | People and Culture

Empowering employees is such an important part of the overall success of an organization. If you believe in your people, which I very firmly do, you should trust them to lead and deliver on the tasks associated with their responsibilities. While that approach is motivating and great for personal development, it’s also good for business – it’s efficient.

To empower people within an organization, you need to do the following:

  1. Find the right employees;
  2. Promote a culture that allows the employees to utilize their skills to further an organization’s strategic and business objectives;
  3. Give them the resources to deliver; and
  4. Get out of their way.

To create an empowerment culture, senior management needs to resist the urge to make all the decisions, even when asked. If a decision can be pushed further into the organization, by someone with more hands-on knowledge of the issue, then that’s where the decision should be made. Employees in an organization must feel comfortable to share ideas and make decisions that are appropriate for their job – and they should be supported in doing that.

Of course, empowerment also requires accountability. We should avoid a blame culture, or one where the first response to a bad outcome is to point the finger elsewhere, but decision makers need to be accountable for their decisions. A way to manage that conundrum is for the decision maker to be transparent about the risks associated with a decision. Bad outcomes, consistent with a stated risk are okay. Bad outcomes because the decision maker didn’t do his or her homework are not okay.

Empowerment culture at Aclaris

To foster and establish an empowerment culture, I believe we need three important components:

1. Trust. Employees must be willing and able to “own” their projects.

2. Voice. The organization has to create an environment that is conducive to fostering ideas among employees. Everyone should feel confident to express ideas and challenge. If an idea is not accepted, people should feel like they were heard and should understand the reasons why it wasn’t adopted.

3. Accountability. This should work both ways. Aclaris needs to provide its employees with the necessary resources to do their job. In return, Aclaris’ employees must “own” their projects and commit themselves to taking the credit when the project is completed and the responsibility if the project does not achieve the organization’s strategic and business objectives.

By fostering and establishing an empowerment culture at Aclaris, I think we create a great place to work where good decisions are made efficiently. The output is that we will be a better functioning group who develops therapies for patients impacted by immuno-inflammatory conditions with unmet medical needs.