Give autonomy to your people, support independence, shake up your talent management approach.
This isn’t news. We live in a human capital era marked by the term “The Great Resignation”. In fact, as many as 4.5 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021 alone.
But this blog post is not about the reasons why professionals are increasingly ready to walk out of their jobs. Nor is it about the cures. This article is about sharing an idea of a possibly different approach to nurturing loyalty.
It is as simple as this: if you want people to stay you have to treat them as adults.
By that I mean, you have to give them enough autonomy, joy, and flexibility to choose what, when, and how they want to do and achieve. This isn’t news either. My fellow colleagues from HR know just how important it is for employees to see meaning = purpose in their work to achieve satisfaction and loyalty to organizations. But the thing is, most companies don’t get this. In my opinion, they are missing the point.
You see, giving employees purpose is not about you creating a purpose for them. It is about you creating opportunities for them to work on their own purpose. It’s about giving them the chance and the space to explore and fight for what brings meaning to them.
What does autonomy mean in today’s professional world?
Let’s assume your company is among those who have not got it wrong. You have given your people a chance to create their own meaning. Moreover, you’ve given them opportunities to work towards accomplishing that purpose.
Now, let me ask you: How good are you at encouraging them to go after their own independence? Are you a good source of support?
When it comes to helping people find their purpose in work, I believe the catch is to empower them so much that their purpose slowly grows into a burning wish to create their own business. I believe the key is to tell them: “Yes it is OK. Go, explore, build, engage, achieve. Own your purpose. Our doors will always stay open, and we will keep supporting you.”
Does this sound crazy and extreme? Maybe.
I truly believe that the best way to invest in your workers is to play on a card of being “a good parent”, “a good grandpa”, “a good, mentor, teacher, or coach”. To be the one who supports them even when they want to take risks. Why? Because they will never forget it. And, eventually, even if they leave they will come back.
What’s in it for you?
If you’ve been honest with your intentions the people you let go of won’t leave your radar forever. Quite the contrary. They will most certainly generate business for you too. Regardless of the format that work comes in. They may become your subcontractor. Or you might become theirs. They may just share their new, expanded network with you, or spread a good word about you. They may even come back to work for you, bringing you a new added value.
Investing in the relationships with your employees – even once they’re gone – shows that the connection you have with them is meaningful. They’re not just there as an asset. And your trust in them wasn’t just transactional. It is an investment in their professional future, enabling them to make their own mark on their field. Eventually, they will respect it, never forget it, and, finally, stay loyal.
New generations are the generations of speed, creation, and autonomy.
They are no longer satisfied with just a great leader to tap their back. They want back-wind. Some people want to become their own boss. And some find it important to rule their own lives in all aspects. Maybe the old generations want that too. However, our experiences show that young people seem to be much more courageous. They’re more open to risks.
So why not give employee autonomy a proper go? What do you have to lose?
Use the Great Resignation to learn how to let go.
Some of your best people will certainly leave. So why, then, not open your door as wide as possible?
They will appreciate it. They will leave, explore, gain new experiences, upskill, grow, and come back to you in this or that way and you will be richer together.
Finally, with you being supportive at that level they might, in the end, decide not to become independent after all. They might decide to stay and pursue their purpose within your house.
If that happens: lucky you. It means that instead of creating fear and taboo around your employee’s urge to be autonomous and independent, you’ve managed to build relationships that are strong, supportive, and future-proof.
Of course, learning how to let go doesn’t happen overnight. Because, in addition to learning how to let go, you also have to learn how to deal with the consequences of losing key players from your organization. Who will do their job once they’re gone? How will the rest of your workforce be impacted? And will your business’s future suffer once they’re gone? All of these are important questions with complex answers. But, that doesn’t mean that there’s no solution.
Therefore, if you wish to help your company’s leader achieve that level of people management awareness, you might be interested in offering them a coach to support their mindset change. If so, don’t be hesitant to contact me.