Imagine a company where each employee can build their own position--everything from what they want to accomplish to how they will put their plans into action and measure its success. Does it sound too good to be true? Self-management is sweeping through a growing number of companies and leading to increased employee morale and better revenue. And the best news is that the ideas can be applied to most every organization.
What is self-management? In a nutshell, employees are typically brought in to the organization with a mission in mind, and then they create the plan to put it into action. It's all about giving employees control to turn their job into whatever they want it to be and to contribute to the organization's overall goals however they see best. It comes down to the natural fundamentals of what motivates employees; people naturally perform and communicate best when they have control over what happens to them. For many organizations that follow self-management, such as food processing company Morning Star, the practice is rooted in the idea of giving something back to employees that choose to work for your company. This is increasingly important in an evolving workplace where employees have the option to work for themselves through freelancing, Uber, or Etsy, among others; according to Paul Green, co-founder of the Self-Management Institute at Morning Star, if companies are going to continue to exist, they need to offer something to employees to make it worth working there.
Many employees naturally become disengaged with their organizations over time. They may have started as enthusiastic new employees, but the bureaucracy and policies of a company can quickly start to weigh on employees and even lead towards resentment for the company. Because our work and personal lives are so intertwined, especially for Millennials, how employees feel about work can have a huge effect on the rest of their lives. What people do at work matters to them, so they should have control over how they approach their work.
There are a number of reasons why some companies steer away from self-management. For one, sticking with the traditional hierarchy may seem easier because that is what has always been done. Some organizations might not think it is the right fit for their industry or may wonder how effective it really is. Morning Star produces tomato products, which isn't a type of company most people would think embraces self-management, but it has been wildly successful. The full-time employee turnover rate is a staggeringly low 1%, and the seasonal employee return rate is 95%-100%, much higher than other companies in the industry. According to Paul, a lot of it is because employees realize how unique and special their self-management situation is, and they value it and protect it. Because of the supportive environment that is so positive, employees don't just skate by and self-manage themselves with minimal effort--they pour their hearts into their work because they get to make the decisions and can do something they feel good about.
Managers considering implementing self-management shouldn't be overwhelmed by the potential change. In fact, self-management often works best if it is introduced organically one piece at a time instead of through a company-wide overall. To see if it is right for you, do some personal reflection and write down what you think naturally drives employees and what you are looking for in people who
come to your organization. Then go through your company policies and procedures in detail--most managers are surprised how different the practical application is from the principles they really believe. With that wake-up call, you can start to look for ways to implement self-management and slowly transform your company.
Self-management may sound like a dream come true, but that doesn't mean it is out of reach. Consider the needs of your employees and find ways to add more self-control and power to all aspects of your organization.