Why You Need To Give Your Workers Slightly More Freedom Than You’re Comfortable With
According to best-selling author Laszlo Bock, if you want to increase workplace productivity, go back to your office and give your team slightly more freedom than you’re comfortable with.
“Assume people are good. Let workers self-organize. Have team-oriented environments. Give people opportunities to learn and grow. It you think people are good…you let them figure it out,” said Bock.
Speaking at the recent SuccessConnect Berlin 2018 event, Bock, who is also co-founder and CEO of humu.com, described his company’s mission as a combination of feelings plus science.
“We want to make work better through science, machine learning and a little bit of love,” said Bock. “We got a resume a minute for the first week because we talked about bringing love to the workplace.”
Here are some of Bock’s “rules” for making people productive and companies profitable.
Meaning boosts performance
Noting that a study showed only one-third of people find their work meaningful, Bock said “it’s too easy to remember the duty, and forget the joy.” These findings cut across all professions, with no difference between for-profit and non-profit organizations. However, the unifying thread across every company was that connecting daily work to a higher purpose improves productivity.
“Your mission shouldn’t be about customers or shareholder value,” said Bock. “It should be something aspirational, that you can never quite accomplish, something universal that many people will identify with. Find people within your organization who are lit up with joy…find out why they do their work, and tell those stories again, again and again.”
Trust your people
Bock urged the audience of HR professionals to give employees more freedom. His argument was simple: freedom makes people accountable for outcomes, a sure-fire way to spark productivity. One example he shared was an experiment at a factory in Mexico. Workers with no formal management training were placed in charge of shift schedules, including staffing, hours and responsibilities. Productivity doubled, costs dropped and wages increased because the women were paid by each shirt produced.
Nudge to drive large-scale change
Citing research from experts at the University of Chicago and Harvard University, Bock said that small interventions can have a disproportionate effect on behavior. One example was a company that reset peer socialization expectations for new-hires. The organization had found acclimated employees achieved full productivity faster. So managers received “nudge” email reminders to make sure new-hires made social connections in their first days and weeks on the job. The company reduced time to full productivity from nine months to six. It represented a two percent jump in productivity, the equivalent of getting a free employee for every 50 new-hires.
“A small intervention delivered at exactly the right time cannot force people to make the right choice, but it can make it easier to make a better choice,” said Bock. “Look for small opportunities to intervene…Nudging means you can impact many with how to be more productive faster.”
Connect to higher purpose
HR is one of those professions that everyone claims expertise in. Yes, recruiting, interviewing, managing, and developing leaders are all about people. But Bock made a great case that to do it well, you need science and data, plus feelings.
“We can actually not just tell people what we think in our judgment is the best thing to do, we can prove it, either by looking at the academic work if it’s valid or by running our own experiments, or comparing notes with others,” he said. “Secondly, there’s more conversation…about meaning and purpose, and whether we’re doing the right thing.”
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