Description of Employees
The three employees interviewed were from the sectors of health, automobile, and finance. Florence is the first employee interviewed and she works in a nearby healthcare facility as a registered nurse. We met three years ago during a joint conference and we have been good friends sharing ideas about nursing and family-related issues. Having worked as a registered nurse for over 10 years, I thought she could be a good candidate to describe the concepts of employee empowerment and workplace safety. The second interviewee was Justine who works as a sales manager in the automobile industry. Justine is my first cousin and has been working for the past five years. The other interviewee was Collins, a family friend who works in the department of finance in one of the local banks. Collins has worked in the same institution for 15 years. All the three interviews were conducted in person separately and their responses regarding employee empowerment and psychological safety were documented.
Employee Empowerment and Engagement
Employee empowerment and engagement are key factors to positively influence workers and produce better results. I believe employee empowerment involves the act of allowing workers to make individual decisions without consulting their superiors or managers. From another perspective, employee empowerment may suggest the ability of workers to have the power to contribute to the organization’s processes and procedures (Bekirogullari, 2019). An empowered employee feels no shame in suggesting ways to implement changes in an organization or correct their managers when they believe they are wrong. When employees are empowered, they can influence the quality of services and products in an organization.
Employee engagement is another aspect of human resource management that is crucial to driving business success today. Employee engagement and empowerment are two related concepts that promote the achievement of positive outcomes. To my understanding, employee engagement represents the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their work and workplace (Knight et al., 2017). Also, I believe employee engagement is the willingness of the worker to contribute to the success of a company given the right tools and working conditions. Researchers establish that disengaged employees feel no connection with their jobs and tend to provide services to the bare minimum (Knight et al., 2017). Unlike employee empowerment which can be difficult to observe or define in an institution, engagement is evident in day-to-day activities. Disengaged employees are unwilling to participate in events, have problems with maintaining routines, and often resent their jobs.
Florence is a registered nurse working in a nearby healthcare facility. In her definition, she explained that empowerment means being able to take part in making important decisions. She expressed her concerns about the lack of sufficient empowerment in her workplace. For example, she raised concerns about lacking autonomy at work where the superiors seemed to capitalize on mistakes rather than positive outcomes. She preferred to be left alone during care delivery because of her experience and she always felt undermined when the managers were around. Regarding the aspect of engagement, Florence felt that there were a few gaps to be addressed. For instance, employees were barely asked their views on major nursing issues like staffing and overtime. The application of the top-down approach in the organization prevented the engagement of employees in important healthcare decisions.
Justine has been working in the automobile industry as a manager for the past five years. He expressed a deeper understanding of employee empowerment and engagement and acknowledged that he had a few complaints about how his organization achieved these two. He explained that his supervisors allow him to set targets and work independently with other employees to achieve set goals. Additionally, the organization offers additional resources for well-performing managers and he assumes full control of what he does. Regarding the aspect of engagement, Justine stated that every decision in the firm involves all employees. Monthly sales meetings conducted involve all top managers and their input is valued making accordingly.
Collins has been working in the finance department for the last 15 years and he believes employee empowerment has been the key to his long stay in the firm. Even though he works closely with his superiors, he has autonomy over what he does and he only reports to the supervisor when he experiences challenges. The organization has adopted debriefing sessions that ensure employees address concerns before the day’s work. On several occasions, Collins has suggested decisions that ended up being implemented in the organization.
From the interviews, one can argue that employee engagement in healthcare differs from other industries. Although the definition remains the same, there are gaps in employee engagement in healthcare that should be addressed to improve performance. In healthcare, close monitoring of employees is required to avoid making mistakes that can be costly. Perhaps, that is why Florence feels her managers do not give her time to perform tasks independently. Despite this approach to human resource management, employees in other sectors feel more in control of their work compared to those from the health sector.
Psychological safety refers to the state of mind of employees that determines whether they can safely take risks at work. It represents the employee’s perceived freedom to do tasks and understanding of consequences that may result. According to research, a culture of fear exists in healthcare and there is a need to implement interventions to improve this aspect (O’Donovan & McAuliffe, 2020). Going by Florence’s response to the interview, she does not feel psychologically safe performing tasks because her superiors like to capitalize on mistakes. She explains that she often withholds some crucial information because of fear and this affects how well she contributes to quality. Unlike Florence, Justine and Collins demonstrate a high degree of psychological safety because of the degree of freedom in their industries. For example, Justine explains that he is extremely autonomous and performs tasks without fearing the repercussions.
The healthcare industry demonstrates a limited degree of psychological safety compared to other industries. In healthcare, a lack of autonomy prevents employees from speaking up, asking questions, and pointing out mistakes. Additionally, a lack of psychological safety makes it difficult for employees to seek help or feedback (O’Donovan & McAuliffe, 2020). Psychological safety is observed to promote voice and learning behavior among employees. An increase in quality care and positive patient outcomes is closely linked with psychological safety, employee engagement, and empowerment. Psychological safety enables employees to talk freely and solve conflicts without fear. Employee empowerment is observed to increase accountability and trust among workers. Employee engagement leads to positive outcomes like dedication, high energy, and resilience. These three aspects can positively improve healthcare quality when embraced or affect patient outcomes and healthcare worker satisfaction when not properly addressed.
The first strategy that I would recommend to address challenges with psychological safety, employee empowerment, and engagement within healthcare organizations is transformational leadership. Research establishes that this leadership approach creates greater involvement in the work of subordinates resulting in higher efficiency and satisfaction (Singh, 2019). The second strategy that I would recommend is a shift from the traditional top-down management structure to bottom-up approaches. A bottom-up approach is a powerful tool that decentralizes decision-making while enabling resilience among workers. This approach allows employees to be close to the action of making decisions without consulting higher management levels (van den Berg et al., 2021). These two strategies can be used to promote independence among employees, increase satisfaction, and ensure safety in healthcare.
Bekirogullari, Z. (2019). Employees’ empowerment and engagement in attaining personal and organisational goals. The European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, 26 (3), 3032- 3047. . https://doi.org/10.15405/ejsbs.264
Knight, C., Patterson, M., & Dawson, J. (2017). Building work engagement: A systematic review and meta-analysis investigating the effectiveness of work engagement interventions. Journal of organizational behavior, 38(6), 792–812. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.2167
O’Donovan, R., & McAuliffe, E. (2020). Exploring psychological safety in healthcare teams to inform the development of interventions: Combining observational, survey and interview data. BMC Health Services Research, 20(1), 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-020-05646-z
Singh, A. (2019). Role of transformational leadership in enhancing employee engagement: Evolving issues and direction for future research through literature review. In Proceedings of 10th International Conference on Digital Strategies for Organizational Success. Social Science Research Network, 12 (7), 878-893. https://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3316331
van den Berg, J., Alblas, A., Blanc, P. L., & Romme, A. G. L. (2021). How structural empowerment boosts organizational resilience: A case study in the Dutch home care industry. Organization Studies, 01708406211030659.
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