Cultivating and maintaining effective employee autonomy within your company can be one of the most difficult tasks any manager faces. How do you encourage employees to be self-directed and motivated while retaining the company’s vision, direction, and goals? How do you utilize your employees’ wide range of skill sets and proficiencies in a way that brings out the best in everyone?
If you can find answers to these questions and implement them in your small business, you will set yourself up for greater innovation and efficiency that leads to further success down the line. If you are looking to improve employee autonomy within your company, here are a few steps to take.
Give Diverse Opportunities for Employees to Shine
Some of your employees may excel in situations like meetings or brainstorming sessions while others do not. However, you shouldn’t necessarily assume that these employees do not have valuable contributions to make to this discussion. Your employees will have a diverse skill set and the strengths of many of them will not be evident if you do not present them with opportunities to shine.
Not only will this improve the contributions from these members of your team, but it will make your company more dynamic and creative. By not cultivating the individual strengths of your employees, you very well could be leaving literal money on the table.
One of the biggest hurdles for many employees to clear in order to reach autonomy is the fear of what could happen if and when they make a mistake or fail at something they took the initiative to work on.
If you want to encourage your employees to take initiative and be truly autonomous, then it is important for them to understand that mistakes and small failures are not only acceptable, but encouraged as a natural side effect of innovative thinking.
If every project or new way of doing things is totally successful without any hiccups, then it seems like you’re not actually trying very hard to actually innovate. If this is the case, then it doesn’t seem very likely that you will actually reach your potential. In order to be reach eventual success, it’s important to fail and bounce back along the way.
Give Empowering Opportunities to Make Decisions
If your employees are never given the opportunity to make decisions, then it’s hard to expect them to take the reins and make decisions on their own. In order to get your employers more comfortable making independent decisions, present them with opportunities to make small but empowering decisions whenever possible.
For instance, there are many times when you will have a specific goal for the employee to reach, and therefore will have a limited ability to offer choice. However, this does not necessarily mean the employee could not make decisions about how to reach that goal. Are there multiple ways of going about the task before them? If so, give them the power to make the decision about which direction to go.
This way, when more self-directed opportunities present themselves to this employee, they will already have experience making decisions in a more structured environment. This level of experience will prove to be immensely valuable moving forward with greater employee autonomy.
Emphasize the Employee’s Importance
Employee autonomy really comes down to one primary factor: motivation.
This is not to say employees that struggle to operate autonomously are necessarily unmotivated. They may be your most motivated employee but are lacking in other aspects of the autonomous employee equation. However, it is highly unlikely that an unmotivated or disinterested employee will take the extra step towards autonomy.
One of the easiest ways for employees to become disengaged and unmotivated is when they feel like the work they do is unimportant in the grand scheme of the business—that they are just a small cog in the machine. If you want employees who are happy, motivated, and take pride in their work, then you need to manage them in a way that establishes their importance to the company’s mission. Then, along the way you should be careful to reaffirm this fact in order to prevent employee burnout.
Instead of feeling like their work is unimportant or pointless, and therefore having a lack of motivation, your employees will feel pride about the importance of their work to the company. No matter how small the individual task or role is to the final product, it is still important. Even the smallest cogs in a machine are essential for it to run correctly.