by Jason Richmond, CEO & Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
It was close to midnight, and my nephew, Luke, and I were making the 60-mile drive home from a Denver Nuggets game in a snowstorm. Then it happened…five miles from home my old Land Rover lost all power.
Keeping my foot firmly pressed on the gas pedal we chugged along at 10 miles an hour for half a mile to the next exit and pulled into a gas station which, of course, was closed. The snow was coming down. It was freezing cold. What were we going to do? I’m running all the scenarios through my head. How long would it be before we could get a ride? What’s the worst that could happen?
I said to Luke, “I wonder if this thing will restart if I turn it off?”
Before I could stop him, Luke reached over and switched off the ignition, telling me, “You’ll never know unless you try.”
After a few tense minutes, I turned the key, and much to my surprise and relief, the Land Rover started. It turned out that a faulty sensor reset itself after we shut the engine off and restarted.
I got to thinking about Luke’s bold approach, his initiative, and streak of independence. It’s exactly what’s needed if you wish to develop a healthy, thriving workplace culture. Here’s how:
Giving employees a fair degree of autonomy demonstrates that you are confident in their abilities and don’t feel the need to micro-manage. This fosters trust and respect, which are critical drivers of positive organizational engagement and productivity.
Research at Deloitte Digital found that employees who trust their bosses are 260% more motivated to work, have 41% lower rates of absenteeism, and are 50% less likely to look for another job. Unfortunately, the research also revealed an employee-management misalignment on this issue. About one in four workers don’t trust their employer while most employers overestimate their workforce’s trust level by almost 40%. It’s an issue that can be helped by granting more autonomy to workers.
Encouraging employees to have some independence spurs creativity and innovation that reap financial rewards many times over.
One of the most famous examples of how autonomy can lead to breakthroughs is at Google where engineers can spend 20% of their time pursuing their own passion projects. This strategy has reportedly been so successful that it’s responsible for more than 50% of Google’s biggest revenue-generators.
The concept didn’t even originate with Google. 3M has had a “15% Rule” since 1948 which, among other products, led to a billion-dollar-a-year product—Post-it Notes. Message: give members of your team the freedom to experiment and innovate.
Enhance Work-Life Balance
One way in which many employers are increasingly giving employees independence is the ability to manage where and when they work.
The rising popularity of hybrid work, for instance, has been shown to increase employee retention. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the introduction of a hybrid-work option could lead to a reduction of 35% in resignations since it demonstrates employers care about employees’ well-being.
Independence can also mean allowing employees to take some ownership of their own growth and development.
Company-sponsored training programs are essential, of course, as there are company-wide policies and initiatives that need to be instilled in a cohesive and standardized manner whether through in-house trainers or external expert specialists like Ideal Outcomes, Inc. Beyond this individual employees may well have their own ideas of personal talents they need to acquire or sharpen. Giving them some responsibility to choose them, and have them sponsored by the company, will further promote a happy and engaged workforce.
When individuals are responsible for the outcomes they deliver, they are more likely to take ownership of projects and strive for excellence. The end result is that they deliver superior results.
This is not to say there shouldn’t be some oversight and guidance when someone is struggling when left to their own devices or veering off track. On the whole, though, freedom promotes a culture of adaptability and agility.
There’s no doubt that granting some independence to a workforce significantly contributes to a healthy workplace culture that promotes employee engagement, employee retention, and gets results. And…you’ll never know unless you try.
Let’s celebrate independence! If you’re ready to spark some innovation on your team and reignite your workplace culture, book a free 30-minute virtual culture consult with me.