Recent years have seen a number of companies throw out their annual leave restrictions in favour of unlimited holiday. These trailblazing policies naturally led to concerns about empty offices and excessive time off from curious onlookers. But the reality, it would seem, is quite different as the list of companies taking this approach continues to grow.
I can understand why. People who are entrusted in this way are unlikely to abuse such a privilege. And people need to feel that they have control and influence over their circumstances – which such an approach gives them.
Giving employees control and influence is vital to building engaged, satisfied, and motivated workforces. It’s about having adult to adult relationships where staff are empowered to make decisions about issues that affect them, and are able to have a say on matters that impact upon their organisation.
And giving employees that sense of control and influence isn’t just about a major policy shift, it can be in the everyday. Not least it can be in the way that managers manage. A manager who takes a coaching approach with their people, who asks them what they think, what they would do, who allows them to find their own solutions, will see better results from more motivated team members. A manager too who gives broad parameters, as opposed to micro-managing every detail, who sets clear goals and desired outcomes rather than specific project plans with constant review, will see great results. A manager saying to an employee: “This is what I want you to achieve, these are the non-negotiables, but how you get there is up to you,” will see a project success that perhaps they couldn’t have envisaged.
Leadership too can offer opportunities for employees for control and influence, and leaders should be asking themselves where can staff have their say? It may be that the introduction of a new strategy, for example, needs to have ultimate sign-off by the board. But what about the delivery of it, what scope is there to ask staff what they think, or to give people elements of it to own? Strategic decisions are often made at the most senior level, but leaders can help the activities resulting from these decisions to be implemented more easily by employees who feel that they have had some degree of say.
Employers can also look at where they can offer control and influence across their policies and procedures. Are processes truly providing adult-adult engagement, or are they disempowering, with the organisation ‘telling’ the employee what to do? This could be about giving the employee access to HR self-service, or agile working, or the opportunity to self-assess, as part of the performance management process, or to identify and develop their own training needs plan, or indeed, decide when they need to take time off, without restriction.
Companies too can look at their schemes and initiatives – where can employees be empowered? It could be through formal feedback mechanisms, or even a devolved budget which allows staff to make their own improvements to service.
And through communications – verbal and written – companies need to keep giving people that sense of control and influence. By asking questions, by inviting views, by canvassing opinion. Then – vitally – communicating to staff that they have been heard, where they have made a difference.
Employees who feel disempowered in the workplace, who feel that things are ‘out of their control’, will feel demotivated, disengaged, and dissatisfied. These feelings may very well affect their wellbeing, and ultimately their tenure with their employer. Conversely, employees who feel empowered and able to have their say, to make a difference, and who have genuine control and influence over their work and circumstances will feel motivated and inspired to deliver – more.