The workforce is changing and employees are now expecting more autonomy than ever before. Employees want to have more power over how (and often when and where) they perform their jobs. Research by Gallup has repeatedly found that employees highly value flexibility and autonomy in a job. If you are striving to attract and retain the best employees, you’ll need to move your company in that direction. Here are five ways you can increase employee autonomy in your organization beginning today.

Hire the right people.
Increasing employee autonomy requires a great level of trust. This must begin at the very start of the relationship. Ask questions during the job interview that help you begin to build that trust early on. Some examples are:

  • Tell me about a time you managed a project with little to no oversight or direction.
  • Have you ever been in a situation where your role or responsibilities haven’t been clearly defined? What did you do?
  • Can you give me an example of a time you went above and beyond the call of duty to help either a customer or co-worker?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt you needed to immediately address a difficult situation with your boss or supervisor when others wouldn’t.

Focus on quality training.
This begins on day one with a strategic onboarding process. Provide new employees with the information they need to begin making good decisions early on in their employment. Reward and celebrate early wins in this area and redirect employees who may be off track. We also encourage employers to set up a mentorship program for new employees. This allows current employee to model good behaviors for new employees.

Help employees to “Ask for forgiveness, not permission.”
Empower employees to make decisions rather than requiring management approval for every decision. This requires a certain level of transparency with employees as they will need to understand the goals of the organization as well as relationships with stakeholders. Set clear boundaries and then allow employees to solve problems their way. Role play difficult situations and encourage employees to practice quick, thoughtful decision making. As with anything, your employees will become better the more they practice.

Openly discuss career plans.
While we are on the topic of transparency, discussing development options with employees helps improve their autonomy as well. Leaders should have weekly one on one meetings with employees that help to push the employee forward. Ask employees what they hope to get out of their role and where they see themselves going in the future. Small businesses often feel disadvantaged in this area, where there are not many roles that an employee could move into. Career planning doesn’t have to mean switching roles or getting a promotion. There are plenty of ways employers can encourage development without those things. Perhaps they could improve existing skills or learn new skills through an online course. Or maybe they would be interested in joining a professional association and attending trainings and conferences with peers in their industry. Ask your employees to find out what is important to them.

Provide employees with more choices.
Whenever possible, increase the number of choices your employees are allowed to make. Perhaps you can improve their benefits options, allowing them more options to choose from. Maybe you could add flexible working schedules where employees could choose their start and end times. Anytime you can allow an employee to choose what is best for them, you will reap the rewards for employee autonomy.

Increasing employee autonomy not only increases employee engagement, but also frees up your managers for more important strategic planning and execution. It is a win-win situation for everyone. Demonstrating you trust your employees by giving them flexibility and choice also makes them trust your company and your leaders. Looking for more ideas? Reach out to our HR experts at humanresources@helpside.com