The Business Case for being a great Employer - the How To guide Part Two

Once upon a time, an in-house cafe, a ping-pong table and lunchtime yoga classes were enough to make a company a good place to work. To attract and retain the right people today, you are having to think wider and further. In the last Gazella blog, we talked about how sharing information about company performance and your plans is part one of being a great employer. In this blog, the second in the series of seven, we’ll talk about why promoting autonomy and decision-making at work need to be part of your strategy.

Autonomy refers to how much freedom employees have while working, and that includes the freedom to decide when, where and how their work is done. Dan Pink in his book Drive (a long-time favourite of ours) cites autonomy as one of the three main drivers of motivation and productivity (the others being personal development and purpose, which we’ll cover in future blogs).

Working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pink (check out his brilliant TED Talk here concluded that pay is not the main motivator that it was. It’s still a key part of the equation but his studies showed that higher pay and bonuses only tend to improve performance if the work has defined steps and a single answer i.e. basic, mechanical, repeatable tasks such as production lines.

If that’s your business, great but if we look not too far ahead, these jobs are likely to be automated. A recent survey suggests that 44% of UK businesses are looking at automation to reduce their reliance on having to recruit the right people in our tightening labour market. This means mechanical, repeatable tasks will eventually disappear, leaving work that calls for cognitive skills, decision-making and a level of creativity – areas where higher pay has been proven not to increase performance.

Worrying?  Maybe. But it’s happening, and we need to start thinking now about what it means to our businesses. If money doesn’t work, we need to be designing work which allows people scope to think about how the work will be done and maybe even where and when it will be done. That includes flexible working opportunities, which can mean working from home, variable start / finish times and creating a better work/life balance.

 A recent study by Automatic Data Processing (ADP) and Circle Research survey (2018) found that 83% of 17-24 year-olds consider work/life balance very important when looking for a new job. This rises to 90% in the 40-49 age group. We can’t bury our heads any longer - the employer that can offer autonomy will win in the long run.

Our next blog will look at creating a more human culture and encouraging positive relationships. See you then.