Nowadays, companies are adopting an ever-growing variety of tactics to recruit talented employees – from offering rare benefits (such as visits from a masseuse to the office) to implementing innovative technological solutions (such as VR/AR or AI) or offering the highest (compared to other entities) salary.

For a sizable group of employees, however, one of the key aspects that attract and has a positive impact on building affiliation with the organization is autonomy at work. Below, we explain the benefits of providing so-called empowerment to an employee, and point out strategies worth pursuing in this regard.

What is the manifestation of autonomy at work?

Autonomy at work refers to the degree of freedom and independence that employees have in the area of making decisions about their work (organizing it and carrying out tasks). It includes the ability to independently plan tasks, determine how they will be performed or managed their time.

Thus, it gives employees a degree of control over assigned duties and allows them to use their skills, knowledge and experience in the way they think best. At the same time, it condones the exploration of new ideas, innovations and ways of doing things without constant “overhead supervision.” It is worth noting that the degree of autonomy at work can vary depending on the position and level of responsibility (some require greater reliance on organizational guidelines and procedures).

How to promote autonomy at work?

Introducing this type of strategy into an organization requires a conscious approach on the part of management and leaders – especially regarding the benefits such activities can bring in building affiliation, improving efficiency or increasing innovation, among others. Committed managers can use some of the most popular strategies for this purpose, which we discuss below.

Supporting employees in their development

To promote autonomy at work, it is essential to invest in the professional development of employees. This ensures that individuals have the knowledge and skills to make the right decisions that lead to the success of the team or the organization as a whole. As part of this strategy, companies implement various types of training, introduce mentorship (individual consultation with a more experienced employee), guarantee access to educational resources as well as provide support to employees when a training need is raised.

Delegation of responsibility

Delegating responsibility for making decisions and performing tasks gives employees greater freedom and independence in carrying out their assigned duties. Such a course of action provides, first of all, increased opportunities for development – taking over responsibility for specific tasks requires a certain level of competence and skills, which motivates employees to further develop their potential. However, it also translates into, among other things, an increase in commitment, a sense of belonging (through trust) or motivation to work. In turn, it provides the organization with an acceleration of the processes taking place, which is important in terms of the efficiency of the activities undertaken.

Clearly set goals to achieve

Employees need clearly defined expectations for the results of their work to act fully on their own – but there is no need for a supervisor to tell them explicitly how the results are to be achieved. Defining specific goals and allowing employees to plan and organize their work in pursuit of them allows them to make decisions, carry out activities or solve problems in a way that ensures their satisfaction. It also increases the desire to “prove oneself” and hear praise from a superior, which does not go unnoticed.

Recognizing achievements

Providing regular feedback on progress, recognizing efforts made and results achieved, giving constructive feedback (focusing on both positives and negatives) – all of these activities are essential elements of an employee motivation strategy. However, they can also build a sense of autonomy at work by encouraging employees to take the initiative. At the same time, such a strategy leads to an increased sense of belonging among employees because they feel more appreciated.

Creating a space for experimentation

Encouraging creativity, taking one’s initiative and discovering new ways of doing things is another strategy that increases the sense of autonomy at work. When you provide your employees with opportunities to experiment – that is, to introduce unfamiliar solutions, make mistakes and learn from their experiences (to make better decisions in the future) – you will notice that they are more willing to express their opinions, take on more tasks and are ready to take more initiative. At the same time, their motivation and satisfaction with their activities will increase.

autonomy at work

Autonomy at work – summary

Promoting autonomy at work and a sense of belonging can benefit both parties – both the employees (through satisfaction from increased responsibility, opportunities for development or trust bestowed upon them) and the employers (through increased efficiency or motivation to work).

Still, you should keep in mind that while autonomy means placing trust in the employee (as part of the assumption that the people hired are responsible and competent in making the right decisions), it should not translate into complete independence or lack of support from others. The implementation of this type of strategy should come with appropriate communication, cooperation as well as reporting to ensure that the actions taken are in line with the organization’s goals and lead to the expected results.

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Strategies for promoting autonomy at work and belonging among employees nicole mankin avatar 1background

Author: Nicole Mankin

HR manager with an excellent ability to build a positive atmosphere and create a valuable environment for employees. She loves to see the potential of talented people and mobilize them to develop.