5 Ways to Encourage Employee Autonomy
5 Ways to Encourage Employee Autonomy

5 Ways to Encourage Employee Autonomy

Leadership Development, Employee Learning & Development, Company Culture, Employee Well-being   — 3 MIN


Most companies are beginning to learn the advantages of having autonomous employees, such as greater productivity, more innovative ideas, reduced labor costs, and less turnover. Unfortunately, some employees are not capable of working autonomously upon being hired. It takes self-confidence and good judgment to make decisions independently, along with the ability to be a team player and a strong sense of motivation—all of which are behaviors that can be learned.    By putting into place the following practices that support and foster those behaviors, your organization can begin teaching employees to be autonomous.   

Encourage sound decisions

While “go with your gut” can be great advice on some of life’s tough choices, it’s not the best strategy when making decisions that affect an entire company. Autonomous employees must be able to formulate solid answers by experimenting hands-on—but many are apprehensive to try different possibilities, for fear of making mistakes.  

To help employees get past the fear of making a wrong decision, allow plenty of opportunities to make the right one. This begins with discouraging leaders from micromanaging. Employees need to be given frequent chances to formulate decisions and use their best judgment. When they don’t make the best choices, leaders should walk them through the process, explain what information is missing—and let them try again. When leaders practice a growth mindset, workers understand that they are trusted to make their own decisions and that every failed decision leads to a learning opportunity.

Offering training in decision-making is also a great way of teaching employees to be autonomous. Whether it’s an interactive video or just showing them a simple process of listing the benefits and risks of different options, they’ll see what it takes to be more assertive in their decisions.

Motivate team members to become autonomous employees

Autonomous employees remain focused and driven, whether they are working remotely or maintaining flexible hours. To foster a culture where employees stay motivated to do their job well, companies should continuously remind them of their value by:

  • Giving regular feedback. Employees should hear from their leaders, not only when they’ve done a job well but also when they need improvement. Feedback needs to include how the employee is progressing toward their individual goals, how their performance is affecting the company, and what they can do to be better at both. 
  • Offering continual development and training opportunities. To show employees that their future necessitates the company’s investment, provide ways team members can continue to learn and improve. Send them to conferences and offer flexible training solutions—anything that can help them take advantage of your organization’s learning culture.
  • Recognizing and rewarding achievement. When employees do outstanding work, let them know how much they are appreciated. This could be through an announcement in the company newsletter, a raise, or even by offering more responsibility. Every accolade leads to more confidence—and confidence leads to a greater ability to work autonomously.

Provide opportunities to lead

Teaching employees to be autonomous requires some of the same lessons as leadership training. Leading a project elicits responsibility and accountability, both of which are essential in working autonomously. Being a team’s “go-to” for concerns and ideas also allows employees to exercise problem-solving skills needed for working on their own.

You can provide opportunities to lead by rotating who begins weekly meeting discussions, designating various project leads, and even asking certain employees to plan team-building events. Any chance to be in charge provides a way to prove they can be trusted. 

Offer choices, but set clear expectations

There’s no doubt that allowing workers to set their hours and work remotely can be beneficial. According to a study by Gartner, employees who decided when they worked were 2.3 times more likely to achieve great performance than those with less autonomy. Data from Atlassian also shows that flexibility in work options boosts innovation, with 71% of workers who were given choices reporting they were innovative, compared to 57% without choices. 

However, too much autonomy can leave people unsure of what they must accomplish and when it needs to happen…which can harm productivity. Clear goals and expectations must be set to teach autonomous employees how to be successful. Leaders should provide direction on the scope of work and goals for the project so there is no question regarding the time and effort needed to complete the work.

Make teaching employees to be autonomous part of your training curriculum

Autonomous employees must be resilient to hiccups that might come up in their workday. They must also know how to use critical thinking skills to make independent decisions and be able to communicate with team members on projects. Companies can offer the above-mentioned opportunities to help employees obtain the skills they need, but actual training in these particular areas can get them ready faster.  

With Blue Ocean Brain, teaching employees to be autonomous is as simple as providing microlessons they can watch whenever and wherever it’s convenient for them. They can learn how to thrive in a remote environment, how to build a resilient mindset, how to improve communication skills, and many more skills helpful for working autonomously. 

To discover which lessons can help your team members succeed, schedule a consultation today.