Lighting the Spark: What Does It Take To Create Autonomous Employees?

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They say that if you want to be a great leader, you’ve got to have the right employees. For many business owners out there, it’s about making sure that every employee has an understanding of their role within the larger machine. The problem is that so many employees tend to follow the herd. For many business owners, it’s vital that we focus on creating autonomous employees. The benefits of having autonomous employees are many. Not only is there greater productivity and a greater sense of culture, but employees will feel more accountable, more valued, and actually motivated. In other words, it creates greater job satisfaction for everybody. What does it take to create an autonomous workforce?

Arm Them With Knowledge

Knowledge is power. When we create more knowledgeable employees, they feel better equipped to deal with the rigors of the role. A lot of the problem stems from employees at the lowest level. We can’t blame employees for feeling like they’re not able to take account of their workload, and this is because we’re not giving them the relevant pieces of information. 

Everybody learns differently, and this means that we’ve got to be more valuable in terms of how our employees absorb and retain information. The fact is that the right training course will always make a big difference in how an employee feels more in control over their work. Having something like cyber security awareness training in place will always help an employee to feel like they understand how an organization can protect itself better. 

A lot of the time we tell employees to do X, Y, and Z, and expect them to get on with it. The reality is that if you want employees to feel more in control of their work and more autonomous, you’ve got to let them ask more questions. They need to feel responsible for their work, and if they don’t understand what they’re doing, it’s unlikely they are going to feel responsible or be accountable if something goes wrong. 

Rather than telling employees what to do, when we start to increase their wealth of knowledge around the business and what their position is as one piece of a much bigger puzzle, they will naturally become more responsible and, therefore, more accountable.

Give Them the Tools They Need

If you want employees to feel more responsible for their work, you need to give them tools that help them to make their job easier. When problems arise in business, a lot of people in charge will never specify what needs to be done, but how it needs to be done. But this means you have no trust in their abilities to do the job right. When you tell them what needs to be done and give your team the tools that will help to achieve these goals, you can be more at ease with how skilled they can be. 

There are so many fantastic tools out there, and when you start to find the right tools that increase productivity for your team, you can see the benefits all across the business. An employee who has the right tools to make their job easier and more streamlined is naturally going to be more productive. A lot of the time, employees have to fight through software packages that are not easy to use, and this increases their workload because of the little frustrations. When an employee has tools that make their job easier, they are going to feel more at ease in the process, rather than worrying that the software package they’re using is going to give up on them.

Communicate More (and Better)

We talk about the role of communication in business as something that needs to be done, but we seldom do it in the right way. Communication is not just about what you say or how you say it, but it’s about looking at how your employees can work better based on how you communicate with them. The problem many organizations have is that they set targets and, therefore, the bar is way too high. It means that they’re trying to dig themselves out of a sandpit with a bucket and spade when you are putting more sand in with a huge digger. They are always going to feel overwhelmed and overloaded. 

This is why you need to realize that the trick to communicating with employees better is about using the methods that will suit them. There are many times when an email would suffice over venturing over to somebody’s desk. The problem many managers have is that they love to flaunt their authority. If we want to create autonomous employees, we’ve got to understand the right method of communicating with an employee in an approach that is going to benefit them in relation to their workload. 

We also need to learn how to communicate better. This means understanding how pressed for time employees are. Choosing the right approach to communicating with them means that you are speaking to them in their language. This makes them feel more unique and treasured as an employee, therefore, they will work harder to make the business proud.

Do Not Rush

Implementing something like autonomous employees is a big task. When you are implementing an entirely new approach to working, you have to expect some form of backlash. Employee autonomy covers a number of fundamental areas. These could include: 

  • Letting them work the hours they want. 
  • Working from wherever they want. 
  • Choosing their working practices. 

When you start to give them what feels like free rein, you have to expect a sense of confusion. This is why it’s so important to set boundaries with employees. When you are setting boundaries with every employee, it is an effective approach to managing their expectations. The notion of autonomy needs to be introduced more gradually. Rather than throwing everything out of the window, which can leave employees feeling like they have no safety net, autonomous employees are people that need to be molded. Therefore, this should be introduced bit by bit and ensure that you are monitoring progress effectively. When you start to do it like this, you are far more likely to have people come on board with your way of thinking. 

It’s also vital to remember that it’s not about offloading more work onto them. People can feel naturally cautious about an autonomous approach, as many people like order. Therefore, it’s vital to do it gradually over the space of 6 months or longer with regular conversations and meetings to monitor the progress.

Bring the Right People In

Finally, if you really want to increase autonomy amongst employees, you’ve got to have the right people on board. This can be done through the right recruitment. After all, if you

improve your recruitment process, you will benefit more from getting the right people on board right away. Having those people who understand the concept of autonomy can be an inspiration to those who have been well-versed in a rigid structure for so long. 

There are people who prefer to be autonomous because of their personalities, or the fact that they have been used to working in different workplace cultures. When you start to hire the right people, these are going to bring that spark to the company that will inspire other staff. 

It is a gradual change that may prove somewhat complex, especially at the outset, but when you bring the right people in, you’re not telling your current employees they are redundant, but you are slowly moving the needle to guarantee that when a business is developing, having cultural change embedded it at its core is the key to make you a better business. 

The hardest thing to communicate to employees is that business is the ultimate goal. Employees need to feel like they matter, and of course, they do, but it’s important to bring into the mix the notion of what an efficient employee actually means in this day and age. Having the right employee is someone that is going to be a shining light that sets a great example to other people within the business. When you have “old guard” employees who don’t necessarily like the concept of change, you need to ask yourself if these people are ready or even if they are going to be happy dealing with things in a more autonomous nature. 

The fact is that some employees can benefit from rules and regulations, and you can argue that there always will be a strict structure in place, but you need to implement autonomy for the benefit of the employee. When we are communicating changes of this magnitude, it’s always to benefit them. Naturally, having autonomous employees means that there feels like a lot more free rein, and there are many people who believe that as long as the work is done, it doesn’t matter the order they do it.

An autonomous employee is the fundamental component to lighting the spark within a business.

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