Autonomy and Ownership Enable Engaged Employees

by Feb 15, 2021

Business Innovation Brief Best Article

Employees who are disengaged cause losses to companies in the long run. The cumulative revenue impact across companies can add up to $500 billion every single year.

As a result of loss of efficiency, companies around the world are actively searching ways to create cultures that are less toxic, more productive and more efficient.

However, most company cultures often create a paradigm that encourages micromanagement activities with employees, which causes further disgruntled employees. 

In the long run, instead of having a positive impact on the work culture, it leads to negative and often degrading impact on people.

Company cultures focused on creating an environment of autonomy, greatly help employees become more engaged with the work they are doing and take it upon themselves to be accountable for it.

The more autonomy employees have, the more devoted towards work they become. With autonomy you also experience reduced relational barriers between people.

Studies show that more autonomous company structures translate into the best financial performance.

“When people have more choices to shape their working environment, they are happier, more committed, engaged in their jobs, more productive and most loyal to the organization.”


Creating a culture of autonomy in the workplace gives employees the freedom to determine their own ways to make sure they reach company goals. This is done, however, with established boundaries. 

To implement this in your workplace, you will need a clear vision employees can get behind and mass alignment on core values. These components, if taken care of well, will help your people gain a sense of belonging and a sense of pride, which in turn helps them become more efficient and productive.

Employees want autonomy more than anything to be productive and efficient in the work that they do. However, secretly, they also want to be responsible and accountable for their actions. 

This might not make much sense now. However, when you start to realize that accountability gives you a reason to measure success, all the pieces fall into place automatically.

“Accountability from the top down is design for controls, while bottom-up ownership fosters self-accountability.”

While autonomy gives employees complete freedom to own their work and be completely proud of it, ownership holds them responsible for the results that the work has brought to the company and the goals that they are all trying to achieve.

There are two kinds of accountability: clear accountability and meaningful accountability. For coherence, there has to be an equal share of both kinds of accountability with employees.

While clear accountability entails the communication of expectations, this means that the employees know exactly what is expected of them.

Meaningful accountability has a specific plan in place to make sure success is achieved, but it’s mostly driven by a sense of ownership that can only be accomplished with autonomy.

Balancing Autonomy and Accountability

The goal is to make sure that everyone has the liberty to stay on track to achieve the intended success agreed upon.

The key to creating autonomy at work is to give lots of choices with clear expectations and mutually agreed goals and timelines.

Without mutual agreements among the people involved, you can end up with lack of coordination, irregularities and in severe cases, anarchy.

“A strong system to hold each other accountable, is essential for autonomy to flourish.”

This kind of accountability and autonomy balance in the workplace makes employees more efficient and productive at the same time. Not only do they have the freedom to work on their own terms and in their own ways, but they also make sure that the work is done with relation to the vision of the company and in support of the long-term goals that it is trying to pursue.

Balance is the key to producing a work culture that is not only efficient, but also creates results that are appreciated and work towards the company’s vision. 

Although putting such a thing into place might seem difficult at first, there are a lot of advantages that come when it is finally done right.

Allocating autonomy to employees creates a sense of implied responsibility. This sense of responsibility brings out the most creative side of people.

“More autonomy results in increased productivity due to the sense of ownership it creates.”

Companies who make an effort to create an autonomous work environment, are most likely to end up with more devoted and loyal employees who will be most concerned about the success of the business.

For more information on how to expand on the principles of more autonomy and ownership at work, check out the Radical Purpose movement by clicking here.

Business Innovation Brief

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