Speaking about the future of work elicits a few buzzwords, but chief among them is “autonomy.” It’s highly sought after among job seekers and job holders alike, and that’s no wonder. With the onset of Covid-19, a seismic shift took place in the way people want to work. While people were uncertain about changing jobs amid the economic uncertainty at the start of the pandemic, it seems they’re more open to change now.
Nodding to this shift in the workplace climate, we need to pique the interest of, engage and offer more to new hires than ever before. We must rethink how we approach employee-employer relationships. Should we continue to lead from the front? Or should we embolden and honor our new hires by giving them the autonomy to make decisions at a high level?
Some say that offering autonomy creates a deeper sense of connection with the company, signifies an emotional investment and maybe even results in a tenure exceeding the averages we’ve seen in 2020 and 2021. But would this come at the expense of the company’s larger mission?
It’s not so cut and dried. Encouraging, empowering, fulfilling and getting buy-in from new hires is more important than ever in our current workplace climate. Company leaders now need to offer a full suite of perks, standout benefits, enriching experiences and emotional security to attract and maintain top-tier talent. In fact, employee expectations may be at an all-time high. I understand why, too, especially considering the level of uncertainty that the post-Covid era has created for the U.S. workforce.
Although offering lofty incentives like leadership autonomy to new hires is a sure way to get employees on board, there may be better options to explore for company-wide growth. Let’s consider three things I’ve seen work well at my own company.
1. Encourage growth with management development opportunities.
Growth is, in part, a reflection of the opportunities given to learn. If your team wants to hone their leadership skills and learn how to manage, it’s your responsibility to provide avenues for them to do so.
Something my company is doing right now is offering in-person management training to our budding team leaders. We’ve called upon a professor from one of the most competitive MBA programs in the country to lead this learning initiative.
Benefits we’re already hearing about include more knowledge of business theory, increased business acumen and exciting collaboration with the professor to explore solutions to problems.
2. Prioritize participation with small teams and executive-level presentations.
Think about opting for small teams of two to four people. When big teams are involved, sometimes individual members and their work can get lost in the huddle.
Give all team members the chance to feel like they’re contributing to the company at large. Everyone wants to feel like they’re working for the greater good, and we should let them. Team members need to feel like they’re bigger than just their individual role or department and it’s our responsibility to give them that opportunity. By running small teams with a designated team lead, we give our people a sense of purpose, satisfaction and team momentum.
I also believe that requiring executive team presentations for approval can add a layer of involvement, purpose and acknowledgement. I’ve noticed that when team members aren’t sharing their work in a formal setting, that work can feel like it was done in vain. We want to recognize employees’ hard work by giving them the opportunity to present it properly.
It’s important to get ideas out of your head, into a conversation with your team and then into a presentation. Having to explain as a team why those ideas are important can inspire team participation and make everyone really think about team and company priorities.
3. Empower learning through mistakes.
Trust your team to make their own decisions, whether they’re right or wrong. Not only does it build connections, but it gives them the opportunity to grow through whatever they decide. I mean, what better way is there to support your team and expand their experience?
Giving your team the full autonomy to make mistakes, as long as it happens in a controlled environment, is going to yield invaluable experience that beats anything you can read about from a safe distance. In most cases, employees are up for the challenge of exercising autonomy. It is the business owner who needs to work on loosening the reins.
Understanding how to attract and retain team members isn’t simply a tactic to deploy when faced with nationwide labor shortages and daily quit rate coverage. Although it may start there, I have learned that this management philosophy can become a defining pillar of your organization’s success.