How Autonomy Can Improve Innovation and Retention Rates
According to a recent Gallup poll, just 30% of workers feel actively engaged or feel connected to their workplaces. This widespread lack of engagement can cost businesses anywhere from $450 billion to $550 billion per year.
Low employee engagement can also hurt your company’s retention rates as workers leave in search of more meaningful, engaging work. While you may think that higher wages and better benefits can help boost employee engagement, the issue usually has more to do with a lack of autonomy.
Giving employees more autonomy and reducing micromanagement in the workplace can help employees feel more connected to their work and the company as a whole.
Learn more about the importance of employee autonomy and how to bring about change in your workplace.
Why Autonomy Matters
A recent study at the University of Birmingham surveyed 20,000 workers to determine the effects of autonomy on employee morale and wellbeing. The results were clear: The higher the levels of worker autonomy, the higher their sense of job satisfaction and wellbeing. But women and men valued autonomy for different reasons. Women tended to value autonomy as it related to flexible scheduling and working locations, while men valued autonomy as it related to task allocation and pace of work.
Giving your employees more autonomy in the workplace shows them that you trust them to do their work well. Inexperienced managers and supervisors may feel the need to micromanage or check in with their employees on a frequent basis, but this can lead to a lack of trust and confidence in the workplace.
In fact, nearly half of all employees quit their jobs due to bad bosses and poor management.
Reducing oversight can also help lower a company’s management costs. The better the employees, the less the company has to worry about whether or not they’re doing their jobs. More employee autonomy can also increase productivity and lead to more innovation and creativity, helping companies reduce their labor costs and stay competitive in the digital age.
What It Means to Be Autonomous
When we use the term autonomy, we mean giving employees more discretion over how they complete their work and the direction of the company overall. Everyone wants to feel heard and valued at work, so ignoring the opinions of your employees can leave them feeling neglected and underutilized.
Autonomy doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone and may vary from one organization to another, but giving your employees more autonomy usually means:
- Letting employees make their own decisions, instead of forcing them to get approval from a manager or supervisor. This helps employees feel more in control and encourages them to take responsibility for their work.
- Encouraging your employees to contribute ideas. If your employees feel their ideas are heard and valued at the company, they’ll be more likely to contribute in the future.
- Letting your employees work with limited supervision. Micromanagement can create an atmosphere of distrust and lower employee morale.
How to Encourage Employee Autonomy
If you’re looking to give your employees more autonomy in the workplace, consider implementing some of the following changes:
- Change the approval process, so your employees don’t have to ask for permission when trying out new ideas or changing their work habits.
- Focus on results when auditing your employees, so the value of their work matters more than how they chose to complete it.
- Switch to a mobile or flexible work schedule with specific deadlines, so your employees can set their own schedules and don’t have to be in the office during set times. Some 67% of small businesses offer flexible work arrangements and 73% of employees said flexible work arrangements improved their work satisfaction.
- Sponsor employee passion projects, so they feel as if the company supports their ideas. Google recently launched such a project and many other companies have followed in its footsteps.
If you’re struggling with low employee morale and poor retention rates, autonomy could very well be the answer you’ve been looking for. Consider switching to a more autonomous work environment, so your employees will feel more empowered and engaged on the job.
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