Why Giving Employees Autonomy Is So Important

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Why Giving Employees Autonomy Is So Important

If you're looking for more evidence supporting employee autonomy, here is a recent study from the University of Melbourne supporting the practice.

· Agile Zone ·
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Having control over what, how, when and where we work has been proven time and time again to be incredibly motivational to the modern worker. If further evidence were required, however, then a recent study from the University of Melbourne might provide it. It reveals that giving employees autonomy over their work results in higher performance levels and greater loyalty towards the employer.

The study centered on a management style known as being "autonomously supportive." This runs counter to being controlling and micromanaging employees and instead encourages and supports them. It's largely analogous to the servant leadership that was popularized by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s.

The research found that workers around the world were more likely to be intrinsically motivated when they had autonomy over their work activities, especially if they felt mastery over their tasks were surrounded by supportive managers, mentors, and peers.

"We found better workplace wellbeing and motivation when employees were not reliant on external events like rewards or sanctions," the authors say. "Our study showed that autonomy support leads to positive outcomes like intrinsic motivation, wellness, engagement and more committed and loyal employees, no matter the national culture."

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The researchers examined dozens of previous studies with a collective sample size of over 30,000 employees from around the world, and the conclusions were the same regardless of the location. Those who are intrinsically motivated don't need external rewards because their work itself is reward enough.

"These practices have a positive influence on employee work motivation, performance and psychological functioning. Employees are less likely to suffer from burnout," the authors explain. "They might seek out new challenges and learning opportunities or take steps to develop relationships with peers. Decades of research document the positive effects of satisfying these three needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness — and autonomy support is an important contributor."

So what can you do as a leader to support greater autonomy among your team? The research suggests that such leaders will do things such as:

  • Provide ample opportunities for staff to make their own choices and input into decisions
  • Encourage self-initiated behaviors within structured guidance and boundaries
  • Show interest in their perspective and demonstrate empathic concern while avoiding controls that restrain autonomy or sanctions or rewards.

Do that and the rewards appear to be evident, both for you and your team.

agile, autonomy, employee engagement, future of work, motivation, productivity

Published at DZone with permission of Adi Gaskell , DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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