Organizations across the globe are seeking new ways to connect with employees on a deep and personal level.
Your employees want to know you care for them as individuals and that you’re invested in their success.
Research from the Human Insights Group at UKG, shows that this starts with understanding your employees’ expectations and supporting employee autonomy. All of which boosts employee morale, loyalty, and trust.
In this blog post, we’ll offer three practical steps to improve employee autonomy, creating a human-centric experience for your employees.
What is employee autonomy?
Before we share opportunities to enhance employee autonomy, it’s criticial to understand the meaning of “employee autonomy.”
According to HR professional Sharlyn Lauby, employee autonomy is about creating an environment where employees aren’t constrained. Autonomy is the ability to self-govern and includes an element of trust that employees will make the best decision given their work assignments.
Autonomy is the ability to self-govern and includes an element of trust that employees will make the best decision given their work assignments.
However, flexibility is just one aspect of autonomy. Lauby’s article explains why autonomy and flexibility are not the same.
When you trust your employees, you give them the opportunity to make the best decisions. That’s a win-win for the employer and the employee. So how do you create an autonomous environment?
Three ways to improve employee autonomy
1. Understand your people. It’s critical to understand that employees have different priorities at the various stages of their lives, both at home and on the job. Understanding the expectations of what your employees value the most can help you provide the agency and flexibility your people need to thrive both in life and at work. While this may seem like a huge undertaking, there are some common practices to help you uncover valuable information in creating a more compelling employee experience.
- Train managers in effective communication. Train managers to listen to the needs of their employees and set clear expectations. Unclear or misunderstood expectations can lead to a drop in performance, along with conflicts between the employee and manager.
- Use sentiment analysis tools. Sentiment analysis helps you better understand what your employees are thinking and feeling, their preferences, and their aspirations both in and outside of the workplace.
- Conduct a gap analysis. A gap analysis helps you evaluate employee expectations. Understanding employee expectations is important to the employee-manager relationship.
Once you understand the needs of your people, put practices in place to act on the feedback you receive.
2. Provide freedom. Today’s workforce is looking for more control over their personal and professional lives. This means giving employees the freedom to work in a way that suits them. Your company culture plays a key role in how your employees feel and behave at work. A culture of trust, open communication, and autonomy benefits the employee and the organization.
There are many ways to give your employees freedom to take control of their work and lives.
- Increase access to paid leave to help minimize turnover, absenteeism, and lost wages.
- Evaluate your organization’s time-off policies to include paid sick leave, paid family, and medical leave, paid parental leave for pregnancy and postpartum care, and paid time for vacation.
- Track and monitor paid time off to ensure employees are not approaching burnout and are taking the time they need to refresh and recharge.
- Encourage a growth mindset. Providing more time for growing a skill set and encouraging development, builds employee morale and gives employees a sense of purpose at work.
- Give employees decision-making power. When employees feel like they are in control over how they do their jobs, they are more productive, motivated, and satisfied.
For employees to work autonomously, organizations must guide people, by giving them the right information and tools so that they can make the best decisions on their own.
3. Offer scheduling options. While having the right people in the right jobs, at the right time, is critical to the success of the organization, there are opportunities to offer varying work arrangements, beyond remote work.
The first step is to evaluate how, when, and where work is being done and by whom in your organization. Next, consider lifting any barriers surrounding current work models and identify opportunities to improve the work-life experiences of all employees.
Include jobs where employees must be present every day at their jobs. Studies have shown that there are many opportunities to support the needs of the entire workforce. The Workforce Institute suggests these practical steps:
- Job sharing where a full-time job is divided between two or more workers.
- Term-time work, in which pre-determined periods of time off is provided such as during school holidays.
- Compressed hours, including a shorter week of longer days.
- Variable shift arrangements allow shifts to be worked longer or shorter than the normal eight hours.
- Zero-hour contracts in which an employer does not guarantee the worker a fixed number of hours per week.
- The worker agrees to be on-call for designated periods but does not receive pay unless they work.
- Flexibility to work from home occasionally, for example to write reports.
- Make schedules as flexible and predictable as possible to ensure employees understand the hours they are expected to work.
- Consider flexible start and end times and workdays to help employees attend to personal needs.
- Other options include shift swapping, self-scheduling, and time trades that offer flexibility for employees to better manage work and life demands.
Providing your workers with scheduling options helps them achieve greater work-life balance, leading to increased employee satisfaction, morale, and loyalty.
Employee autonomy starts with understanding employee expectations
When you proactively monitor the employee experience and understand the expectations of your employees, you’re better able to evaluate areas of the business where autonomy can be applied. If you’re interested in learning more about how your organization can evaluate the 12 employee expectation categories, take the gap analysis.