“Control leads to Compliance, Autonomy leads to Engagement”.
The companies that are well-known for being the best places to work for — train, trust and empower their people to think and act on their own.
According to a study by Arnsten Lab, when employees lose their sense of control when tasks are micro-dictated to them from top-down, the brain’s emotional response center actually causes a decrease in cognitive functioning.
Thus, if you micromanage your employees they are more likely to disengage, underperform and quit on you. On the other hand, autonomy at work will let your employees perform their tasks in their way and give them a sense of ownership.
Understanding The Importance Of Employee Autonomy…
HR plays a vital role in shaping autonomy at work and if they fail to create one, then they will not be able to successfully recruit and retain the best talent.
A recent survey from the Society of Human Resource Management revealed that 47% of employees feel that autonomy and independence contribute greatly to job satisfaction. Simply, put a whopping half of your workforce dreams of being their own boss.
Why Should You Focus On Employee Autonomy?
For some, employee autonomy means setting their own hours of work, while others may perceive it as a freedom to perform a task in their own style. Whatever it means to the people in your organization, autonomy at work is a crucial intangible that’s too important to leave to chance.
Here are the reasons why empowering employees is better than exercising control over them:
1. Increased Feeling Of Ownership and Loyalty:
Facilitating your employees to control their own tasks by providing flexibility wherever possible can make them feel valued and accountable for their own performance. They will not feel limited in their roles and responsibilities. And, when they feel so, they are sure to feel more trusted leading to a deepened sense of loyalty to your brand.
2. Managers Can Turn Their Focus On Other Important Things:
Micromanaging wastes manager’s work time and also slows down employees at their respective tasks. It will allow the manager to focus on more lucrative and essential tasks. While on the one hand, it may seem that micromanaging employees will show them the right way, it’s often more productive to provide greater autonomy to employees and simply offer constructive feedback whenever possible.
3. Promote Job Satisfaction:
When employees get to create their own schedule or set their own goals, they are happier. Autonomy at work enables employees to control their work/life balance, reduces their stress and increases the feeling of satisfaction with the company. As a result, it helps to reduce turnover and breed a favourable organization culture.
4. Improve Workplace Innovation And Adaptability:
Employee autonomy is not just favourable for employees, it also benefits the workplace. With employees coming up with their goals and strategies for solving problems or tackling tasks, it can open up a gamut of solutions that in turn can strengthen the business. By leveraging on diversity and creativity in thinking, the workplace becomes more adaptable which can promote longevity and prosperity in business.
5. Build Valuable Customer Relationships:
Customers like the human touch to any transaction. Rather than coaching your employees on how to interact with customers, autonomy at work will breed more freedom in the way your employees greet and interact with customers. This can help to establish amicable bonds with customers that otherwise may not have existed.
6. Simplifies Succession Planning:
With greater employee autonomy, employees are encouraged to show off their range of skills and strengths, which otherwise might not have come to the forefront. This will help you to recognize potential positions for them across the company. Leaders are bound to come forward naturally and you can easily judge the best candidates for succession planning at work.
The Right Way To Create A Culture Of Autonomy At Work!
Employee autonomy is not as easy as granting more authority to someone and then taking a permanent vacation from responsibility. You should support your employees with a clarified vision and be there for them whenever necessary. Here are some crucial steps to build a culture of autonomy at work:
1. Clarify Goals and Objectives:
Think of this step as establishing the rules of the game before the players are set to take charge. The employees can then work out their own minor details with their strategic skills and creativity to achieve these goals and score more points.
In addition, explain the importance of the goals to the organization. Too often, managers tell their employees what to do without talking about why it’s important to the company. It is not good to assume that the ‘why’ is obvious to your employees since no one commits to a goal until they know its value.
2. Training Process And Procedures:
The confidence to make the right decision stems from the training an employee receives. That is why great companies are relentless in their training formalities. Provide your employees with the necessary tools and resources they need to reach the goals.
3. Create Freedom Within Boundaries:
The freedom of choice is key to autonomy at work, but too much freedom can be detrimental. Employee autonomy does not mean there are no boundaries. A system to hold people accountable for their actions and results is crucial. Within the set boundaries, the employees should be empowered to determine how they will accomplish their tasks.
4. Focus On Hiring ‘Talent With Character’:
If you are forced to choose between a candidate who has the skills and a candidate who exhibits character, confidence, and trust, choose the latter. Go to great lengths in the hiring process to determine the right fit and bring on autonomous people who can take up the responsibilities.
5. Build Trust:
Employee autonomy is impossible without trust. And, trust should be a two-way process. As an employee, they must trust their manager and at the same time feel that their manager trusts them. As opposed to a dictatorship culture, when an employee feels that they are trusted, they are more likely to be engaged to their work.
A classic example of employee autonomy is the discovery of 3M’s most lucrative product called the Post-It Notes. 3M had a program where employees were allowed to spend 15% of their work on personal projects. This led a 3M chemist the freedom to experiment and come up with the novel idea.
With employee autonomy what gets done is the matter without concern for how it’s being done. The bottom-line benefit for employees and the organizations alike is that autonomy at work paves the way for happier employees who are committed to their work, productive and less likely to leave!