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What Drives Employees To Perform? Part 6

Posted by Insightlink on 05/05/16

Autonomy Rules!!

Ethnic survey

As our 10-part series on engaging employees continues, we discovered that organizations can achieve higher employee engagement simply by activating at least 5 of 10 key engagement indicators.

Robert Gray, President of Insightlink Communications says that, according to Insightlink’s Survey of the American Workplace, we have learned that job dissatisfaction is not an innate characteristic, like height or hair color. In fact, data suggest that work environment has a much stronger influence over job engagement than personality. In the old nature vs. nurture debate, nurture–or work environment–wins.

One key aspect of work environment is the degree to which employees feel they have autonomy over their work which is the 8th key driver for achieving employee engagement.

Unpacking Autonomy 

Only half of all employees agree that they have this level of control over their work. There’s mounting evidence that higher degrees of autonomy and control over work practices creates positive work environments. Autonomy is the ability to act according to one's knowledge and judgment when deciding how to accomplish key tasks. Control means the ability to make decisions related to organizational policies and personnel issues affecting their workplace responsibilities. Importantly, both employee autonomy and control have been associated with improved organizational outcomes, meaning that their influence extends beyond higher levels of employee engagement.

  • Clarify expectations and the meaning of autonomy within the context of the work itself. Encourage employees to make decisions based on their experience and sound judgement. Reinforce these expectations by providing examples of such decision making during orientation and other situations where colleagues might benefit from shared experiences. Provide constructive feedback when individuals fail to take autonomous action that they otherwise should have taken.
  • Create a learning environment to build competence and confidence in your employees’ decision-making capabilities and this will, in turn, foster a greater sense of autonomy. In fact, the importance of this culture of learning cannot be stressed enough.
  • Encourage participative decision making, with the understanding that employees are accountable and have a role in determining policies and procedures that directly affect them. The main risk here is creating an organizational structure where employees are permitted to provide input into key decisions but the ultimate decision-making authority remains entirely with management. Ideally, employees should be able to make work and resource decisions without going through layers of bureaucracy that stifle innovation and implementation.
  • Enhance your employees’ comfort level by coaching them through early decision making and supporting both successful and unsuccessful decisions. This will build an environment open to autonomy and control.

The best way, we believe to find out how much autonomy your employees feel they have over their work and what they are thinking, is to conduct an employee survey and ask them. If we can help please let us know by contacting us at for more information, to get pricing click here or, contact Lynn Gore at 866-802-8095 ext. 705.

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Insightlink Communications are experts in employee survey design, data collection and analysis. Since 2001 we've helped companies of all sizes measure and improve their employee satisfaction and engagement.

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