Few companies would dispute that employee autonomy is important, yet most would be hard pressed to say how this concept informs their management styles.
Why is this?
Well for one, autonomy means different things to different people. To some, it’s a catchall description of management styles ranging from hands-off to sink-or swim. To others, autonomy is a theoretically desirable principle, but one that occasionally (or often) needs to take a back seat to other priorities, such as maintaining an overarching strategic direction and ensuring consistent execution across the operation.
There’s also little consensus amongst employees about what autonomy means. No one likes having to work with a boss looking over their shoulder, and yet everyone needs a little guidance. If it’s going to have any value as an organizing principle in the workplace, “employee autonomy” has to be flexible, adaptive, and grounded in specific practices.
Creating a corporate culture in which employees feel a sense of independence isn’t an idealistic “nice to have.” Organizations that don’t empower their best employees will lose their best employees (or fail to attract them in the first place). Studies show that people, now more than ever, value self-determination.
One survey, from the Society for Human Resource Management, found that, “70% of employees ranked being empowered to take action at work when a problem or opportunity arose as an important element of their engagement,” while 74% reported wanting flexible work schedules. In other words, most employees want to be in control of how, when, even where they work.
That shouldn’t be surprising. It’s hard to imagine someone who would say they didn’t want to be empowered in their job, or who didn’t to be given a flexible schedule. In other areas of workplace experience - for instance, performance reviews, project management, even business travel - autonomy has a similar, “sure, why not?” sort of appeal. But how can an organization give employees what they want?
We explore this question in a webinar on, “How to Maximize the Impact of Employee Autonomy,” co-hosted by the employee recognition experts at Bonusly.
Want to learn more? Sign up today for Rocketrip and Bonusly’s joint webinar.