Freedom and workplace. To most people, these two words are as antithetical as night and day. For many, the office is still seen as a hub of inflexible top-bottom hierarchy, mandatory deadlines, a hyper-competitive workforce functioning mechanically under the guidance of authoritarian management. So freedom is the last word many would associate with the institution of the office.
However, the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic really did a number on the traditional, brick and mortar office where unconditional obedience and top-down hierarchy reigned supreme. In a world where remote and hybrid workplaces have become the new norm, some level of professional freedom and flexibility is not just an option but a mandatory thing to have. With many offices becoming partially or wholly dependent on digitalization it has become imperative for organizations to listen to their workforce, reimagine their organizational culture to be more flexible, and make room for more open and inclusive communication that suits the needs of an agile workforce. Many organizations are in fact taking the assistance of some of the best HR consulting companies in India to come up with a more agile organizational culture that focuses on helping employees reach their potential.
The demand for creative freedom is not really a new thing though. A 2018 Gallup study known as ‘’Fostering Creativity at Work’’ interviewed about 16,500 employees at various American companies and most of the participants confessed that they craved ‘’permission, time and freedom’’.
Unsurprisingly, only 29% of the employees said that they were expected to be creative or come up with new solutions at work.
The desire for more freedom – freedom to innovate, freedom to come up with unique solutions, freedom to work at own pace since time immemorial. However, it has not always been possible to maintain the precarious balance between employee empowerment and organizational discipline. Many leaders face the eternal catch 22 dilemma – how to balance between too much control and too little? How do you arrive at a happy medium?
An ultra-traditional and uncompromising management system will curb the productivity of the workforce and make them itch to leave the organization at the first opportunity. However, being too lax about control might end up in having a workforce with less accountability. So what is the solution?
A promising starting point would be to have a ‘’freedom within a basic framework’’ mentality. The framework would be created keeping in mind the goals priorities and principles of the organization. The employees would have considerable freedom to come up with unconventional solutions or work with a reasonable amount of flexibility.
But for this to succeed it is important that the workforce be properly aligned to the organizational culture. Many organizations seek help from the best HR consulting companies in India in order to achieve this goal.
However for such ‘’constructive freedom’’ to work effectively, it needs to be followed not just as a guideline that is set in stone but cultivated as a mentality. Just as organizational rules are not the Alcatraz for the employees, freedom need not be synonymous with ‘’chaos’.
From a corporate perspective ‘freedom’ basically means trusting the employees to think and act independently on behalf of the organization. In a way, it involves helping employees transform from mechanical subordinates to shareholders of the organization who play an active role in helping their company achieve new milestones.
But as Peter Parker has said once – ‘’With great power, comes great responsibility’’. If the organization is willing to adopt a more hands-off culture when it comes to its workforce, it needs to ensure that the employees are driven, performance-oriented, and can be relied upon to make decisions in interests of the company. That is what some organizations like Netflix did. The US-based media company is pretty well known for its ‘hands-off approach to people management. There is no dearth of employee-led initiatives in the development of new film and TV content.
However, this ‘freedom’ does come with its own set of responsibilities. The workforce at Netflix is completely aligned with the goals and culture of the enterprise. They are allowed to take independent decisions – but also have the responsibility to be highly productive and result-oriented.
In essence, ‘more freedom’ translates into making your workforce an integral part of your business. Nurturing an innovative mindset in your organization.
But just as Rome was not built in a day, the workforce cannot be made to be more innovative, think out of the box so easily. If you are planning for a complete overhaul of organizational culture then it will take a whole lot of time and planning to prepare your workforce to adjust to the cultural change. Some of the best HR consulting companies in India can help the management align their employees to cultural changes by providing necessary training. How to build a culture that encourages innovation though?
Give the freedom to fail
The first step towards fostering an innovating spirit in your workforce is allowing them the freedom to fail, to falter at times. Many employees are terrified to try out new ideas because they fear failure and the consequences they might have to face from the management. So it is the responsibility of the management to de-stigmatize the concept of failing and asking for help or assistance. Organizations should strive to build a culture that encourages continuous learning – both learning from mistakes in the past and learning to upgrade their skills.
Provide an Incentive for Learning
There should be an apt reward system or opportunity for fast-tracking provided to those who are willing to learn and participate in training courses. The organization can hire services offered by some of the best HR consulting companies in India, to help the workforce develop new skills.
Divide assignments as per interests and capabilities
The employees will be at their innovative and productive best if they are given tasks in which they have a genuine interest and which fits their existing skill-set.
Encourage, open and honest feedback
Freedom without a compass leads to aimlessness. So while the workforce should be given creative liberties, so that they can experiment, brainstorm, new strategies, experiment, there should also be scope for feedback on any initiatives the employees undertake so that they can learn from mistakes and have a basic framework which they can follow.