Research found that only 1 in 10 people in the UK are engaged in their work, making a shocking 9 in 10 disengaged, so the question is how can we make people more engaged? Hybrid workers are often found to have higher engagement; is this due to the freedom they have that their office-based co-workers may be lacking? If you had to choose a leadership framework between 1) command and control and 2) collaboration and listening, what would you choose?
There is a need as leaders to create safe spaces for employees, which makes the fear of failure disappear and creates freedom to explore and try new ways of doing things. If employees are afraid of the repercussions if something they try fails, would it explain why they may rather play it safe in their decision making? In terms of creating a framework that supports freedom of expression could subtle changes make all the difference.
A great current sporting example is the England Cricket team playing Australia in The Ashes. England have been playing freely, devoid of fear, running Australia closely. Some may say they are naïve at times, whilst others would argue the freeing up of the players is allowing them to give the Australians a good run for their money. Should they be playing safe, or should they be bold? There is much than can be learned from sport than can be positively adopted in business, so should we reinforce the freedom of expression approach in business? Letting people be natural almost always brings out the best in people.
Stephanie Wackernagel, a psychologist, and industrial designer states, “freedom makes us happy and productive” – so why has this approach not been widely implemented as of yet? To take the approach of letting employees be natural and not fearing failure, investing in skills acquisition is a must. You can give all the freedom in the world, but if they do not have the skills that promote efficiency and effectiveness in the performance of a specific job, it will not bring the success. This begs the question as to whether we invest in skill acquisition as we should?
Findings have also found that having a liberated company breeds extremely high levels of engagement and intrinsic motivation among employees. Since freedom and productivity are closely related, adopting a freedom culture in your business can help retain employees all whilst having a positive, productive company culture. Research by Gallup has found that in freedom-based companies, there are very few disengaged employees and those who are actively disengaged (the difficult and productivity-sapping sort) leave on their own accord. Undoubtedly, the engagement problem in the UK can be tackled head on by creating a freedom-based organisation that offers a safe space for employees to work in.
This is a decision for you to make. Do you choose the path of freedom and invest in skill acquisition, or choose to command and control?
Written by Izzy McHattie, EP Business in Hospitality