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How to Encourage Autonomy in the Workplace

How to Encourage Autonomy in the Workplace

Did you have to change your business’s established working practises because of the coronavirus lock-down? How did it go? For some employees, already used to working closely with their boss, it would have gone without a hitch.

For others, it seemed one long round of emails and phone calls. ‘Get that done first.’ ‘Leave that ‘til last.’ ‘You need John’s copy before you can complete that.’ Frustrating, time-consuming, and costly, it also generates an attitude of ‘Up yours.’

What is autonomous working?

Autonomy is all about drawing your employees in. It’s about allowing them the opportunity to become more involved in the day to day running of your business, through new ideas and suggestions. Autonomous working gives employees the chance to feel they are an important part of your business, rather than just another cog in the wheel.

What level of autonomy works for your business

Autonomy is the new buzz-word when it comes to improving employee wellbeing and increasing production, but it’s nothing new. The birth of the big digital technology giants and their need for free-thinking, highly intelligent, and self-motivated people, has taken autonomy to a whole new level. These people are happy for their teams to work swinging from the ceiling, providing they produce the goods.

A business practise that can work for all

Certain occupations lend themselves readily to autonomous working. Software and app programmers come to mind, but also delivery drivers, maintenance engineers, home-based staff, and others who work off-site in ones or twos. They regularly have to adjust their working practises, to suit the situation on the ground. Although it is a practise which requires greater planning, autonomy can be just as effective when applied to a manufacturing process, or a retail shop floor.

An increasing number of companies are beginning to appreciate that greater employee participation in the everyday running of businesses, can provide the benefits of a happier workforce, with reduced employee turnover, less time off sick, and improved creativeness and productivity.

Setting up your autonomous business model

An effective autonomous working model has to start at the top, from the CEO down. Meetings need to be called with office managers, to discuss the overall project, and what its aims are. Once the aims have been finalised, similar meetings need to be held with line-managers and with the workforce, to get their take on how working conditions can be improved, and what needs to be changed to achieve this.

For instance, if you still have anyone wandering around the shop floor with ‘supervisor’, or ‘foreman’, on the back of his overalls – burn them.

Things are going to change, now they are going to have ‘Team Leader’ on the back. It’s just one small step, towards making your business a truly team effort. Autonomy is not about letting the tail wag the dog. It is about conveying to your employees that they are valued members of a team, and their input matters. There are a number of cosmetic changes that could be carried out initially, to get the workforce used to the fact that changes are ahead.

  • Human resource managers should work closely with team leaders.

  • Team leaders need to be chosen, (usually by the workforce), as a first point of contact.

  • Meetings need to be called to explain what you wish to achieve.

  • Regular twenty-minute weekly or fortnightly employee meetings should be penciled in.

  • Consider installing suggestion boxes outside team leaders' offices.

  • Think about revamping your promotional system, allowing employees a better chance of advancement.

  • Offer additional training courses, so employees can increase their skill set and qualifications.

  • Sending congratulatory emails to all employees involved in the successful completion of a time-critical product run, lets employees know their efforts have been noticed, and are appreciated.

Once your employees accept you are serious about improving their welfare, your suggestion boxes will start to fill up. Start with the small gripes that can easily be changed. Be seen to mean what you say, get your team to get pro-active. After all the preparation, failure to make the early requested changes will likely leave your employee/employer relationship in a worse state than it was, to begin with.

Could your business do with a little autonomous help

No-one said improving workplace satisfaction was easy, and for most, it is a work in progress. Nonetheless, ask anyone involved in workplace autonomy and they will tell you the effort is worth it.

To help smooth your path to workplace autonomy, Human Resource Intelligence offers a range of tried and tested technological solutions scaled to suit individual businesses. Designed to make life easier, the company offers bots that can provide time-saving automated replies to all the endless questions you or your team leaders may be asked by employees regarding everything from human resources to the current pandemic situation in the workplace. If you want to free up some valuable time for other HR projects, contact us today, and discuss how we can help take the pressure off.

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