Autonomy Advances the Workplace

Employee autonomy is freedom. Forget about time tracking. Forget about office hours — or even set work hours. Flexible schedules. Personalized job crafting. Family time. Working toward happiness. When employers loosen the vise of control, they actually get more from their employees. Let that sink in for a minute. Less control = more value.


Create an autonomous work environment that wins the hearts and times of employees.

What is Autonomy Advances the Workplace?

Autonomy in the workplace refers to how much freedom employees have in their jobs. For some employers, it means staff are allowed to set their own schedules, so opportunities for flexible working, alternative start and finish times, and working at home can go a long way to reaching this goal. But in other organizations, autonomy can be defined as employees deciding how their work should be completed.

No matter which concept is applied, higher levels of autonomy are proven to result in increased job satisfaction and happiness at work.

Autonomy really come down to trust — a critical component in any workplace. Trust in the workplace sets the stage for open and honest communication and allows employees to feel secure in their jobs.

How does Autonomy Advances the Workplace improve employee engagement and culture?

Autonomy empowers employees to have control over their work and their lives. It’s the umbrella for choice, independence, solitude, and empowerment making autonomy a key driver of happiness in the workplace. Employee happiness is contagious. This in turn engages and motivates employees to be their best, most positive selves and a culture of trust and humanity emerges across the entire organization.

Today’s most successful workplaces are shifting their focus to prioritizing happiness as its fundamental to employee engagement and loyalty. Happiness is the ultimate why, the most sustainable competitive advantage, and the ultimate currency in business.

Autonomous practices shatter the “work smarter, not harder” paradigm — because, as it turns out, those who have the freedom to work smarter... actually want to work harder.

What are the benefits?

  1. Hire Talented People of High Character: Trust is the foundation of autonomy. Go to great lengths to make certain you’re bringing on people who have unquestionable ethics and character.

  2. Clarify Goals and Objectives: Employees need to work toward targeted, concrete objectives—priorities and deadlines. Establish the rules before employees start the job. Autonomous employees must know what the expectations are.

  3. Train for Process and Procedure: The confidence to correctly make decisions stems from the training an employee receives. Training doesn’t just make a difference; it IS the difference.

  4. Empower Your People: The key to ‘letting go’ is to begin empowering people to make small decisions and work their way up.


Clarify Objectives and Develop Key Results (OKRs)

  1. Take your time. Set aside enough time upfront to develop an objective with the employee, you'll thank yourself in the long run. Developing challenging and specific objective consistently lead to increased performance. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more detailed and challenging the objective is, the more likely the employee will be driven to achieve them.

  2. Set objectives. Create a statement that is action-oriented, and that connects to the organization's bigger picture. Objectives answer the following questions:

    • Where do we want to go?

    • What do we want to do?

    • It explains the timeline.

    • What is expected of the employee?

    • How the employee will be accountable.

    • Uses words that convey status, milestones and endpoints, e.g., “climb the mountain,” “eat 5 pies,” “ship feature Y.”

    • Uses tangible and unambiguous terms. It should be obvious to an observer whether or not an objective has been achieved.

  3. Develop key results. Create three key results per objective. They should focus on making the objective achievable and quantifiable, and lead to unbiased grading. Key results answer the following questions:

    • Express measurable milestones which, if achieved, will directly advance the objective.

    • Measurable milestones should include evidence of completion and this evidence should be available, credible, and easily discoverable.

    • Describe outcomes, not activities.

    • If the key results include words like “consult,” “help,” “analyze,” “participate,” they’re describing activities. Instead, describe the impact of these activities, e.g., “publish customer service satisfaction levels by March 7th”

  4. Implement these four important considerations after you’ve developed the OKR with the employee:

    • Make the OKR public so that everyone in the organization can see what others are working on

    • Failure should be viewed as data to help refine the next OKRs

    • OKR is not synonymous with employee evaluations

    • OKR is not written as a shared to-do list

Reference Material

Eradicate Micromanagement: 4 Steps to Creating a Culture of Autonomy

Bring OKRs to your organization

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