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The Value of Empowerment

By: Dr. Jim Goldstein

The Value of EmpowermentEmpowerment has become an overused buzz word these days. Every one wants to be empowered and wants to empower those around them but what does that actually mean?

I came upon a good example that demonstrates the value of an empowered work staff. A while ago, I rented a car from Enterprise at the Ft. Lauderdale airport. When I returned to the airport, I was anticipating the usual long line of cars and a long wait for the inspector to record my mileage and give me my final receipt. I’ve noticed over the years that the guys who check you in when you return the car never seem to be in a hurry.

This time it was different, however. There were several people there to inspect the cars so there was no waiting. As I was wheeling my suitcase toward the terminal a nice young man (he looked 19) walked beside me and asked sincerely, “How was your experience with Enterprise this time?”

I thought for a moment and said, “Well, the car was fine but I didn’t like how I was treated at the counter. I felt pressured to take the daily insurance option even though I know my insurance policy covers me. There were a lot of people waiting behind me and I didn’t want to argue with him so I took the insurance. It added about $85 to my final bill. That part didn’t feel so great.”

Without missing a beat, the agent took back my receipt and said, “Why don’t I just remove those charges for you right now?” I stood in amazement as he recalculated the bill on the spot and printed me a new receipt with a tiny printer hanging from his belt. Grinning, he said “How do like us now?” At that point I became a raving fan. I asked, “How are you able to do this? Don’t you have to check with a manager or someone?” He said, “Oh, no. We’re all empowered here to make sure the customer is satisfied.” I assured him he had succeeded.

This is also an example of how handling a glitch or breakdown well can create a more loyal customer than if the breakdown never occurred. I now have a special bond with Enterprise and use them more often than any other agency. I have told this story many times. As you can imagine, Enterprise has more than benefited from their policy of empowering their employees.

Empowerment is more than a slogan or buzzword. It can be trained as a value of the company. What I have consistently found is that when you trust your people to think critically to solve problems, employee engagement and productivity increases. Empowered employees enjoy their work more than others because they get to make decisions. In doing so, they never stop learning. Everybody wins.

Please let me know when and where you have felt empowered or been affected by an empowered employee.


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