The words “freedom” and “productivity” may be mutually exclusive in the minds of many managers. After all, managers do just that—manage, right? Wrong. To encourage productivity in your workforce, managing could be the last thing you need to do. So how do you cultivate productivity in your employees without managing them? Many managers fear giving their employees too much freedom because they think this may lead employees to take advantage of the freedom and be less productive. The truth, though, may be the opposite. Once the focus shifts to desired outcomes and not just specific—sometimes irrelevant—procedures, productivity and innovation are likely to increase. Google, for example, gives its employees one day per week to work on anything they’d like. Google claims that many of their products have their beginnings in this “free day.” When employees have more freedom, they are also more likely to feel loyal toward their organization, which can lead to greater employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention—not to mention a higher ROI for your organization.
Part of the freedom today’s employees need in order to be successful in a rapidly changing world is the freedom to fail. Fear of failure can greatly reduce innovation, but in today’s world, innovation is key to quality productivity. A recent TED Talk by business educator Eddie Obeng talks about the importance of failure. Obeng says, “All the rules are gone….All the possibilities are available.” Obeng points out that if employees are punished for failure, they are less likely to take a chance on something that could be great. As a manager, if you can capitalize on the possibilities in the face of rapid change, your workforce is guaranteed to be more productive. Clutch to strict rules and procedures, though, and your organization may get bowled over by this change and miss out on opportunities. Empowering employees to manage their time effectively and trusting them with this power will help open the door to productivity and innovation.
Do you feel like your organization gives you sufficient freedom to be innovative?