Freedom In The Workplace – Employee Engagement
It’s probably easier for a boss in a big organisation to wax lyrical about empowering their employees and allowing them discretion and autonomy than it is for bosses who actually own their businesses. The vast majority of employees work for organisations with ten or fewer employees. They’re run by owner-operators for the most part. For that kind of boss, letting go is more than just following the advice of some leadership book (or YouTube clip) they’ve seen. It’s way more personal and risky and impactful if it goes wrong. Nonetheless, there are a lot of advantages in granting greater freedom and autonomy to your frontline people to make decisions and guide their own workplace behaviours. IF (and it’s a big ‘if’) you’ve recruited the right people, if you’ve inducted them properly, if you’ve consistently and clearly clarified the non-negotiables, if you’ve got systems in place to measure and feedback, and if you’ve fenced off the areas where autonomy doesn’t apply – workplace safety and legal things for example. (I said ti was a big IF…)
The problem is that many bosses hear that autonomy is a driver of employee engagement so they just let people loose. That’s not autonomy; That’s abdication. Get the structures and disciplines in place first. Hire the right people who fit. Then try out and iteratively increase discretion. It can boost innovation, reciprocity and loyalty from your team. But there are those risks too and risks need to be managed. Here’s an article about it that I didn’t write.