What does freedom mean to employees? Freedom in the workplace is both simple and difficult for employers to provide – simple, perhaps even brilliant, in concept and, at the same time, hard to implement. What your employees want often includes challenging work, freedom to make some decisions about the work, the opportunity to learn and grow, and a great company culture. Let’s look at each of these individually:
1. Freedom to make decisions
Freedom to exercise their best judgment is something employees crave. They want to know the overall objective of their tasks, they need the skills to do them, and then they need the autonomy to decide how and when it is best to do their work. Trust is a big factor when putting such freedoms into practice – do you trust your employees enough to give them latitude in how to do their job? If the answer is no, perhaps you have the wrong people in the wrong jobs. Or perhaps you need to examine your management style – no one appreciates being micro-managed. Of course, you need metrics to monitor the end product of your
workers’ efforts and to hold them accountable to job expectations. President Reagan said it best with his statement, “Trust and verify,” which, in the context of a business, means you trust your people to do a good job and you monitor the results of that work.
2. Challenging work
Can you remember how satisfied you felt the last time you solved a tough problem, such as how to make payroll this week, how to iron out a glitch in your manufacturing process, or how to organize a particular department? Your employees want to do tasks that are intellectually demanding and give them the satisfaction of a job well done. How can you delegate more complex work to your employees?
3. Opportunities to learn and grow
Education does not end with high school or college. Work should provide continued opportunities for learning and development, and this includes both formal training and challenging assignments. Do you provide ongoing training for your employees? (Hint: the answer should be yes.) Do you regularly review your workforce and identify high-potential employees? Companies perform this and similar exercises in order to provide work opportunities that give their up-and-coming stars a chance to learn new skills and stretch their capabilities.
4. A great company culture
I’m passionate about the importance of consciously creating a positive work environment for your employees. The return is in multiples of any investment you make in your culture. Culture starts with values, and the most appropriate core value for the Independence Day holiday is “fun”. When workers enjoy spending time together, a social bond is created that translates to higher productivity. Fun is often associated with food, so when I visit a company as a consultant, I make sure to stop in the kitchen to see what’s there. If I see signs of shared food or the remnants of a party, I am fairly sure that this company knows how to engage their employees on a social level in addition to work. Do you have fun in your company?
I hope you’ll think about the benefits to your bottom line of providing employees with the necessary freedom to make decisions, tackle challenging work, embrace valuable opportunities to learn, and enjoy a great company culture!
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