Building Autonomy in the Workplace: The Boss’s Toolkit

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Did you know that around 70 percent of all employees feel disengaged in corporate spaces? This means that a majority of the U.S. workforce feels uninvested in the job they perform every single day.

It’s important to note that lack of motivation at work isn’t just bad for an individual professional’s career. Unfortunately, high levels of employee disengagement can be detrimental to the company’s success, too. As a matter of fact, researchers at the University of California concluded that employee motivation is responsible for at least 31 percent of workplace productivity.

The reason behind the lack of employee engagement is often attributed to poor management. Many professionals don’t like to be micromanaged at work. As a result, managers who reduce employee autonomy at work damage their trust in the leadership, which leads to employee disengagement.

This blog detail creating an autonomous work environment. Read on to learn more.

Understanding Autonomy in the Workplace

Before anything else, it’s imperative to establish what autonomy in the workplace is. Many think the term refers to a process that enables employees to work from wherever they want. However, that’s not true. Instead, an autonomous work environment allows employees to have the freedom to choose what helps them perform their best.

This typically means removing stifling rules that come in the way of exercising creativity in the workplace. For example, managers guilty of micromanaging their teams often end up with demotivated and resentful employees.

Companies that encourage employee autonomy believe that not all workers are the same. Instead, they have varying perspectives and approaches to getting the job done. This doesn’t go well with micromanagement and strict guidelines because that can cause unnecessary stress for the staff.

Defining the Importance of Workplace Autonomy

According to the Harvard Business Review, most employees want autonomy instead of flexibility. The article further cites research by psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci that reveals that an individual’s success largely depends on their autonomous motivation.

Additionally, increased employee autonomy ensures they feel valued as people rather than simply as a workforce.

It’s just not the professionals who benefit from autonomy. One of its biggest benefits is that it increases employee engagement. Many managers report that work motivation and engagement increase significantly when workers are in charge of making their own decisions. This can be highly beneficial for corporations when it comes to meeting their target goals.

Think about it: when an individual has higher levels of responsibility in the company, they are more likely to show increased engagement. Workplaces that ensure autonomy have employees who deliver results a cut above the rest when it comes to expectations. That’s because they typically strive to prove they deserve the position they have been granted.

According to an article published in Forbes, teams that show higher engagement increase profitability by almost 21 percent. In fact, the difference between engaged and disengaged workforces is more than 17 percent. That’s because engaged employees go the extra mile to meet company goals and targets. If you compare them to demotivated workers, they are more likely to underperform at their job and walk out as soon as a new opportunity presents itself.

Additionally, following a rigid set of rules can make employees feel as if their freedom is being constrained. When workplaces ensure workers have autonomy, it enables them to be creative in their work. This can be highly beneficial for the company as it ensures that employees are innovative problem-solvers. As a result, it helps ensure that the organization’s growth doesn’t stagnate.

It’s why successful companies are always looking to hire creative people and out-of-the-box thinkers. They usually come up with unique solutions to problems. After all, with technology and consumer expectations changing over time, we need innovative solutions.

Now that we know how critical employee autonomy is, you might be wondering how to implement it. Some methods are listed below that can help management create an autonomous work environment for their staff.

Slowly Create an Environment That Balances Trust with Responsibility

While the benefits of an autonomous work environment are crystal clear, gradually incorporating it can be more beneficial. That’s because rushing into implementing an entirely new system can lead to some complications. Moreover, building a culture that balances both trust and responsibility can take a lot of time.

Think of it this way: your staff is more likely to feel lost if management completely uproots a system they currently work with. This rings true even if the change might be a welcome one. Instead, it’s more beneficial for businesses to create and define the boundaries of the system and implement it slowly.

If you’re unsure where to begin, just remember that establishing mutual trust is key when it comes to workplace autonomy. An open line of communication between management and the workforce can help create it. Managers are often encouraged to engage their employees through one-on-one meetings to review their progress and discuss their goals. These can help workers feel that they are valued in the company and trusted to do things independently.

During these meetings, it can be advantageous to discuss corporate expectations and clearly define them. Remember that patience is key because trust won’t appear overnight.

employees standing together as a work family

Enable Employees to Make Mistakes and Take Accountability to Improve

A great way to employ an autonomous work environment is to give the staff a chance to learn from their mistakes. Unfortunately, companies usually think of reprimanding their workers instead. This can have negative effects as they are known for inhibiting growth rather than helping them improve.

On the other hand, letting workers learn from their mistakes has proven to be a sign of effective leadership. That’s because it enables them to gain the necessary skills and the motivation to perform better in the future. After all, to err is human, so we all make mistakes. Good management understands this and turns it into an opportunity for their employees to gain knowledge. In fact, individuals who don’t fail are far less likely to achieve success in their careers.

Leaders who mentor instead of disciplining strengthen their relationships with employees and ensure they are equipped to overcome challenges at work.

Ensure Employees Take Responsibility and Ownership by Curtailing Micromanagement

Employees taking initiative can be highly beneficial when it comes to achieving company goals. Not only does it enable professionals to show they want to move their careers forward, but it also optimizes work processes. After all, employees who don’t take initiative often also show less engagement and perform the bare minimum.

A great way to encourage employees to engage more is to ask them to lead teams or share their knowledge. For example, if there is a skill that the worker has that can prove to be valuable for a project, request them to take initiative. This lets them know their skills are valued, which increases their loyalty to the company.

It doesn’t need to be said that creating an autonomous work environment can be helpful for management to align employee interest with company targets. However, a great way to gradually implement it is through an address by an entertaining but impactful business motivational speaker like Steve Gilliland.

Steve Gilliland is a renowned Hall of Fame corporate motivational speaker who has helped organizations worldwide. His keynote speeches pack a punch with his engaging and interactive style that helps him relate to his audience. He combines his brilliant wit with clean humor to make complex subjects easier to absorb, helping others to make positive changes in themselves.

If you haven’t had a chance to experience this top motivational speaker’s work, check out his Motivation Bites videos or his best-selling books. These are helpful tools for anyone wanting to take advantage of Steve’s knowledge and guidance.

He has delivered his keynote addresses to more than 51 industries across the globe. Book Steve today and bring a change to your organization.

Thank you for joining us at the APWA-NC Conference as one of our keynote speakers. You were a hit among those attending. A few of the attendees had heard you speak at other venues and were very excited to hear you again. A majority had not heard of you prior to this venue, but we were blown away. I had numerous attendees come to me stating how awesome your presentation was. Others asked how we found out about you and how we were so lucky to have someone of your caliber to present at our conference.”  — Robbie Stone, President, APWA NC