Managing any group of employees is an awesome opportunity to lead well and harness the great potential they have to make an impact through their work. There are many aspects of running a team well, but one significant consideration for any manager or business is the amount of freedom their employees have in various aspects of their job.
While not every business or field of work will call for the same balance, in general, it is a good idea for leaders to lean into employee autonomy and consider allowing employees to choose how they complete a task. Here are five reasons why.
1. Maximize Employee Happiness
Studies have shown that, even in jobs that are particularly difficult or uniquely challenging, employees’ ability to choose how they get the job done is a significant contributing factor in their happiness. Every person has a different set of skills, particular personality traits, and unique experiences that make them more or less effective at using certain tools in the workplace.
It’s not that basic and foundational things, such as staff meetings and sufficient presence in the office (depending upon the job), need to be compromised. It’s the nitty-gritty, day-to-day stuff that, when made flexible, can give workers a good sense of breathing room and freedom to do their job well. For example, one employee may use a physical notepad for almost all of their organization, while another may opt for a wider-reaching tool such as Fluix, a data collection app that helps teams stay organized and on-task. Squelching these opportunities for employee autonomy is a quick way to create frustration in any workplace.
2. Increase Employee Ownership and Engagement
Another great benefit of appropriate employee autonomy is that it encourages real ownership and engagement in the work and mission of an organization. When an employee is faced with a challenge of any kind, even the process of finding the right tool for the job is a chance for them to really care about what they’re doing and why it matters.
Fortunately, the modern tech market simplifies this process. There are different tools that make the life of office workers easier and more productive at the same time. For example, Slido helps manage online meetings with QA and polls; GoodNotes allows you to take quick notes and upload them as PDFs; Fluix lets you manage and sign in documents remotely with electronic signature, and Miro replaces paper stickers and lets you stay productive while being remote.
When an employee makes their own investigation and then choice, its ownership contributes to a sense of responsibility and a real conviction that each person’s job is important and makes a difference. People want to know that they have a purpose and that what they do matters, and the freedom to pursue their work their own way will help them see the purpose and meaning in their work.
3. Build Employee Trust
Allowing employees to have autonomy is also one of the significant ways that managers can build trust with their employees. Feeling micromanaged will disintegrate the sense of trust that a team member can feel toward his or her supervisors, and over time, it can lead to resentment and the growth of an “us versus them” mentality in the office.
When you consider the humility and trust it takes to maintain a good relationship between two people on different levels of an organization, you can easily see that the space and breathing room given in employee autonomy can help to bolster a sense of equality and trust, despite the differences in titles and responsibilities. In other words, management relationships can already be tricky enough to begin with, so giving as much freedom as possible is a great help in navigating those relationships well.
4. Develop and Discover Employee Skills
A great (and sometimes overlooked) aspect of good management is finding and developing the skills of each member of a team, and allowing those team members to find the tools that are right for them will help them discover and hone those skills themselves. While it may be more specific and unique skills that are developed over time, from the outset, the process of troubleshooting and figuring out the right way to complete tasks will strengthen a person’s ability to research, communicate, and problem-solve.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that a supervisor or team leader can’t or shouldn’t help with the process from time to time. Especially in the event that an employee is hitting a roadblock or struggling to keep up, leadership should step in and equip that person as best they can for the task.
Providing the right tools for employees can be an important function of management that will contribute to the development of both individuals and the overall culture of an organization.
5. Redirect Management Energy
Finally, putting energy into micromanaging or keeping up with processes and specific ways of doing things is almost always a waste of the company’s resources. While a good manager will have a respect for details and an awareness that details matter, he or she should avoid getting bogged down with them and spending valuable time and energy dotting i’s and crossing t’s.
There are enough details in any given manager’s job for him or her to be aware of without mixing in a whole host of other considerations from other people’s to-do lists. Encouraging freedom for employees to run with their own responsibilities can be very freeing for leaders and supervisors. Additionally, not only will it save actual time and energy, but it will also bolster trust from their side of the relationship. It’s important that managers have faith in their team.
These five reasons for allowing employees to choose the tools they use paint a picture of the great value that this kind of freedom can bring to any workplace. Every business is unique, and the way all of this fleshes out will look different for each organization, but the basic principles stand.
Workplace autonomy can maximize the happiness of employees. It can increase the engagement and ownership of the individuals who make up a team. It can build trust in a workplace between employees and their managers, and develop important skills that employees need to do their jobs well. Finally, it can free up management’s time and energy so they can focus better on their own responsibilities.