When it comes to promoting workplace autonomy, Santa's an ace. Rudolph guides his sleigh, and the elves make the toys. Everyone manages their own work, so the team runs smoothly all season long!
“Productivity Paranoia,” the latest buzzword backed by some truly disheartening statistics from Microsoft’s latest Work Trend report, highlights the discrepancy between how employees and leaders view productivity. “Most employees (87%) report being productive at work, and productivity signals across Microsoft 365 continue to climb. At the same time, 85% of leaders say that the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive.” Trusting that team members will perform their jobs well without constant supervision is essential to efficient teamwork. When you let employees take the reins in their areas of expertise, you provide a satisfying and compelling employee experience. For Day 9 of 12 in the Employee Experience series, take a page out of Santa's book and add autonomy to your employees' experience!
Impact of Autonomous Roles
Autonomy means having the authority to set your agenda, pace, and strategy. The amount of control an employee has over their tasks defines autonomous roles. Providing autonomy to employees creates responsibility, improves creativity, and shows that you trust people’s judgment.
Employees are more productive when they feel they have a say in their operations. This involves choosing their own priorities and their approach to a task. When people are free to make decisions, they choose an approach to work that’s most productive for themselves and the organization.
Autonomy imposes more responsibility on the employee. With increased independence, work outcomes are a greater personal reflection of the employee. This dynamic makes people more internally motivated to produce quality work. The responsibility that comes with being the main decision-maker is a driving force behind productivity in autonomous roles.
When organizations don’t allow employees to work autonomously, their creativity and retention suffer. Managers squash creative thinking when they tell everyone to act and work in the same way. PWC states that “nearly half of employees would give up a 20% raise for greater control over how they work.” Since management styles are one of the largest contributors to turnover, people will leave an organization if they are constantly micromanaged.
After analyzing North American sample groups, Singapore Management University found that “perceptions of job control—often considered a form of work autonomy—were associated with higher job satisfaction, commitment, involvement, performance, motivation, lower physical symptoms, emotional distress, role stress, absenteeism, turnover intentions, and actual turnover.”
Implementing Autonomous Work Practices
Implementing autonomy is as simple as giving employees more control over their roles. This includes modifying their authority over how they complete tasks, the degree of creative freedom they have, or using a hands-off approach until the final review process. Most people prefer to come to you with their issues instead of being hovered over as they work.
HR Consultant Patty McCord describes teams as follows: "[great teams] are created by hiring talented people who are adults and want nothing more than to tackle a challenge, and then communicating to them, clearly and continuously, about what that challenge is." When management trusts the professional abilities of employees and frequently communicates with their teams, autonomous work is made possible.
Autonomous work groups follow a similar structure. Singapore Management University describes autonomous work groups as follows: “they typically have no supervisor, solve production problems, organize schedules, deliver finished goods to the client, and select and train new recruits, among other tasks.” These work groups are associated with higher job satisfaction and complexity.
Autonomy creates a culture of trust, productivity, and accountability. Everyone understands their priorities, can exercise creative freedom and feels comfortable at work. Let your team take the reins on their own work by practicing autonomy in your workplace!