What Does it Mean to Work Autonomously?

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Autonomy is an incredible incentive for employees. It allows employees the power to shape their work environment and practices to the way they want.

To work autonomously means to have the freedom to finish a task on their own at work. Employees can complete tasks within their own time, combine procedures as they see fit, and decide how to organize their day. Autonomous employees feel an increased sense of impact. This creates a healthy and mutually beneficial environment for the employer and the employee.

An autonomous employee doesn’t have to be constantly monitored. Instead, the employer will set broad goals for the employee to achieve by creating their own plans and taking action. The manager has the confidence that the autonomous employee has the skills to think analytically and manage their time to get to the end goal.

Working autonomously can often be confused with working independently. But these terms are different because when working autonomously, employees still interact and work with one another.

When working autonomously, it is important for employees to reach certain deadlines and goals to ensure the work gets done to be passed on to other team members. People who work autonomously have increased motivation and an eagerness to perform tasks.

Autonomy in the workplace allows employees to develop stronger and more innovative ideas. Autonomy can also be a powerful driver for employee engagement. It will give them more incentive to be fully invested in the project and the organisation. It will ensure that people understand that they have a purpose within the company. It will also make them understand that they are given autonomy to help meet a collective goal. By allowing employees to work autonomously, there is more time for management to focus on higher level tasks. These tasks could be more important than focusing on lover level roles.

Hire people who can work autonomously

Employees can always be trained to work autonomously. But it is always better to hire people who can adapt to a setting that encourages autonomy. Managers should hire people who are self-driven, innovative, and dedicated to professional growth. Autonomy within the workplace should be talked about openly during the hiring process. This allows managers to understand how future employees would approach autonomy. They will also be able to see how employees would handle this responsibility. Nurturing a workplace built on mutual trust is beneficial for everyone.

Allow choices within set boundaries

The freedom to make choices is a vital element in creating a healthy autonomous workflow. The choices should ideally be set within the organization’s boundaries. They should enable the employee to choose the best option for them. This will increase their productivity.  Having choices will also enable employees to take accountability for their actions. It will make them feel like they have a say in how things work.

Grant ownership of projects

Allow employees to take ownership of the projects they are working on. Taking a task from “a company project” to “their project” will make the employees feel empowered. This will make them take the initiative to take the project over the finish line. It will make them truly feel like their contribution to the company is truly valued. Assign tasks to employees based on their specialty and skill levels. This will make them feel like managers trust them to complete their tasks well. It’s best to start by checking which parts of a project each person is interested in, before diving the work between them. Managers can increase an employee’s responsibilities when they prove their skills as a professional.

Establish a style of communication

Schedule regular meetings with employees. Check in with them to discuss any issues or simply to track progress. Encourage complete transparency in the work process. Ensure that managers are available to aid employees or resolve issues as needed. Managers should be available to offer help, advice, and support if needed. Delegating work with clear, measurable goals will set employees up for success.

Acknowledge that mistakes might be made

Allow individuals to learn from their mistakes. This can be done by fostering an environment that focuses on problem-solving. Avoid criticizing the employee’s work. This will ensure that people are transparent and open with managers about potential problems. Employees will also feel encouraged to make progress. Ensure that the prime motive is to rectify the error and learn from it. This will help prevent it from reoccurring in the future. Talk about it openly with the entire team so other people do not make the same mistake.

Employers can adopt the following methods to encourage autonomy:

  • Allowing employees to express their opinions and feelings.
  • Setting employees up with measurable tasks so they can easily report on their work
  • Encouraging different perspectives.
  • Providing the tools that employees need to finish their task.
  • Helping to create solutions to any problems they might have.
  • Providing time for self-learning and exploration.
  • Being patient during their process.
  • Avoiding micromanagement and unfair criticism.

How Can Autonomy be Measured and Assessed?

Management can assess how well they have provided autonomy to their employees. This can be done through a survey scheduled at regular intervals. Another way to measure it would be to conduct informal audits. Observe how people are working and handling their specific tasks. Information could also be taken from exit surveys or exit interviews. Use them to make note of areas in which autonomy can be provided more effectively.

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