The Power of employee autonomy

With the business landscape constantly changing, understanding how to inspire and empower your people has never been more important.

With the business landscape constantly changing, understanding how to inspire and empower your people has never been more important.

Giving your employees more control over how they do things can make a huge difference to employee performance and commitment. So how do you do it?

Developing your people is the key to growing your business – but that doesn’t have to mean expensive training, time away from the office or complex initiatives.

Sometimes employee development is just about giving your people the chance to excel, by providing the support, opportunity and space they need to realise their potential.

Here are five tips to help you put power in the hands of your people.

1. Create leaders at all levels

Invite individuals across your business – not just managers – to take the lead on running projects. Ask your existing managers to identify individuals in their teams who have leadership potential and support them to step up.

Get experienced leaders to mentor colleagues, offering help when they need it and encouraging creativity and innovation. Your leadership pipeline will bloom, you’ll get fresh perspectives and the added responsibility will increase employee engagement.

2. Promote fluidity in the workplace

Humans are naturally curious and crave stimulation, variation and challenge. Enable people to experience work in other areas of the organisation – a clear opportunity for staff development.

Provide opportunities for shadowing, encourage people to find out more about other departments, or even do role exchanges. By giving your staff a wider perspective and a greater context for the work they do, you’ll see marked improvement in employee performance.

3. Hand over control

Trusting your team with more control is the first step towards fostering entrepreneurial qualities.

Some ideas:

  • Ask junior members to lead team meetings.
  • Encourage people to identify their own training opportunities.
  • Give employees the chance to decide how much holiday they take.

A greater sense of freedom in turn heightens engagement and creates a greater sense of ownership and responsibility.

4. Think outside the job

Stepping away from the to-do list can not only make employees feel valued and trusted, it can also offer the headspace they need to innovate.

Google’s famous 20% allowed engineers a day a week to work on side projects, which gave birth to Gmail, Google News and AdSense. LinkedIn has Incubator, a programme that gives engineers time away from their regular work to develop their own product ideas, and way before any of them, 3M gave its employees 15% of the working week to work on projects they cared about – that’s where the Post It Note came from.

Involve your employees in designing a process that works and share and celebrate the outputs with everyone, so that they can see the value it brings.

5. Be flexible to improve work life balance

With 34% of employees saying they would prefer a flexible approach to working hours over a 3% payrise, many companies are building flexibility into their business models. From homeworking to flexible hours, tailoring the structure of work to meet your employees’ needs can improve staff satisfaction and attract new talent looking for a different approach.

If you’re thinking about increasing flexibility for your staff, be sure to consider the practicalities: how will your workers all communicate, how will responsibilities be shared out and how will handovers happen? Making sure everyone is on the same page and able to support each other will be the key to an effective flexible workplace.