Autonomy and the Engaged Employee
We all have a slightly different way of working, using our varied experience, skills, traits, and preferences as to how, when, and where we complete our duties. Understanding and capitalizing on these attributes are key for managers who want to adapt, innovate and succeed. Research on employee preferences at work suggests that “autonomy and authority” and “flexibility of working hours” are key motivators for today’s employees.
Few people respond well to micro-management, which tends to engender resentment and an atmosphere of mistrust. The problem is that managers, sometimes inexperienced or insecure, resist delegating and their employees interpret this as showing a lack of trust and confidence. Where there is a lack of autonomy there’s likely to be a shortfall of initiative and creativity.
At 10Eighty, we like to think that we hire great people and then let them get on with doing a great job, providing the resources, support, and feedback they need without second-guessing their every move and decision. Some people like detailed direction and regular feedback, while others thrive on being left alone to do their own thing, relying on their commitment to their work as a motivator and seeking guidance and feedback when they feel the need.
Focus on results
As a manager, you should focus on results while enabling employees to manage their work and decide how best to achieve the required results. We favor a strengths-based approach, as taking the trouble to understand the strengths and development needs of employees allows a manager to assign projects and tasks effectively, with work allocations that you know employees will value and which will help them build on their strengths and develop new skills as part of the process.
This doesn’t mean leaving employees to work in isolation – it’s crucial to provide support and advice to bolster employee autonomy. Research suggests that greater levels of both control over work tasks and schedules have the potential to create significant benefits for the employee, evidenced in reported levels of wellbeing.
Enhanced employee experience
Sourcing employees with the right mindset and attitude will help an employer to encourage a culture of autonomy, commitment, and accountability. Businesses should take responsibility for enhancing the employee experience as improvements in wellbeing benefit the employee and provide significant benefits in respect of productivity and retention.
The level of autonomy according to employees is important, it’s a key factor affecting the worker’s ability to cope with the pressure of work. The ability to control what work they do and to pace themselves and organize their workload is key to empowering and enabling a quality contribution. This is especially true of those we term ‘knowledge workers’, who need the scope and opportunity to explore options, to collaborate with co-workers, and to experiment in order to achieve innovative and creative solutions to the challenges we face in a competitive and volatile business environment.
“Giving your employees more control over how they do things can make a huge difference to employee performance, productivity and commitment.” Investors in People.
What constitutes ‘good work’ is a matter for debate and, sadly, many employers don’t seem to concern themselves too much with building employee-centered HR policies and procedures. This is short-sighted since sourcing and retaining talent is becoming a major challenge for the near future.
We are, however, witnessing changes to the relationship between employers and employees. Professor Cary Cooper CBE, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the University of Manchester says:
“We are currently seeing loyalty between employers and employees decreasing, which means that retaining healthy, high performing employees is even more important. Organizations of the future need to trust their employees and manage by praise and reward”.