The Autonomy Employees Crave

business Aug 04, 2022

By Patricia Wooster

Every day, a new article about the "Great Resignation" and the post-pandemic worker appears. Companies are scrambling to get people back into the office or amend policies around remote work. While the media is focused on employees wanting remote and hybrid schedules, they are missing the bigger picture: the autonomy, freedom, and flexibility that comes with working from home.

Autonomy is one of those words that can be scary or exciting depending on the environment and who is using the word. Some employees crave the freedom to work without being micro-managed with rules they feel stifle their performance, while others prefer to know precisely what needs to be done with the guidance to match. This is why leadership needs to develop a plan to balance autonomy and structure within the workplace. 

One of the first things we do with our clients is put their team through a process where each employee creates their strategic plan for job growth, career goals, and personal development. We align these with the company's goals, so they are building and growing together. This creates an instant synergy between leadership and their people because while the company is reaching its objectives, they are also investing in the people who are the force behind that success.

For each project, the individual understands how their work contributes to the organization's overall success. Most companies never give their employees any insight into their contribution or impact and then wonder why there's no loyalty and turnover is so high. The employee feels no connection to the company and its mission. 

Once an employee feels the connection with their company through a shared set of goals, then autonomy is easier to implement. Everyone is pointing in the same direction. This is an opportunity for employees to be creative and innovate within the guardrails of the goals. Two practices we find great success with are:

  • The Buddy System: Pairing people up with employees that have complementary skill sets. For example, take someone who is good with processes and match them up with a creative to develop a customer project. This allows two different people to bring their individual genius to the table to create one amazing solution.
  • The 70% Rule: As my "buddy" and business partner Amilya Antonetti says, "If you are showing something to me that is more than 70% done, then you are too late." This is, so people don't get caught up in perfectionism and do not get married to their solution. The extra 30% allows room for iterations and feedback, which ultimately delivers the best result.

By utilizing the buddy system and the 70% rule, we can easily allow our employees to work autonomously because we know they are supported. If their project gets a bit off course, that's okay because one of the practices will catch it and get it back on the road to success.

As the media keeps talking about "where" employees want to work .... home, remote, office, hybrid -- I invite you to think about how they work. Many people valued freedom and flexibility most during their work time during the pandemic. Amazing things happen when we allow our employees to explore an idea or take ownership of a project. Autonomy can occur at all levels of the value chain. Every person will feel more connected to the organization when they feel trusted, supported, and encouraged by the company to be a valued contributor.

Join the Designing Genius Community and program to start Genius Living today. Inside, you'll find clarity, connection, collaboration, and growth to your highest and best self. 


Get actionable Genius tools delivered to your inbox.

Designing Genius does not happen by accident. We’ll guide you and your organization to fulfilling its highest and best genius with weekly bite-sized information.

You're safe with me. I'll never spam you or sell your contact info.