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Employee Engagement Social Intranets

Are We Close To Achieving Autonomy At Work?

digital-freedom-autonomy-at-workThere’s no doubt that today’s information technologies have given us more personal freedoms, but the same thing can’t be said of freedoms at work.

Here at the Noodle blog, we’ve previously talked about the importance of giving employees more freedom to express themselves. The company intranet has a big role in providing this freedom.

However, Hamel etal talk about five different types of freedom at work and why they are necessary for companies to survive in a “creative economy.” It turns out digital technologies, including a social intranet, can facilitate more than just freedom of self-expression.

Freedom to Connect

This is the freedom to communicate and collaborate with others. Traditionally, our roles and positions, including geographical location, determined who we can communicate and collaborate with.

But with a social intranet, staff can communicate with anybody within the organization. First, a social intranet allows employees to discover each other. Then it lets them communicate directly with each other.

Freedom to Contribute

According to Hamel etal, employees are usually expected to contribute only within the parameters of their formal title or level. They either don’t have the opportunity to contribute from their other talents or passions, or may even be penalized for doing so.

With a social intranet, individuals can contribute to all areas of the organization. They can brainstorm ideas, comment on content outside their immediate spheres, and publish their own ideas on any topic.

Freedom to Create

Most organizations are too risk-averse to encourage creativity, resulting in “inertia, fear, and a narrow, prescribed field of vision.” These are definitely not what you want if you’re aiming for innovation.

In this area, social intranets are valuable, too. I’ve written in a previous post about how the intranet can help make staff more creative.

Freedom to Choose

This refers to the freedom to choose “where they work, when they work, how they work, with whom they work, and what they work on.”

This could be considered the ultimate freedom at work. If — and this is a big IF — an organization allows this kind of freedom, once again, a social intranet can help facilitate it. A social intranet frees staff from being tied to their desks and a specific work period. Instead, they can take work with them and complete their tasks on their own terms.

Freedom to Challenge

Essentially, this is freedom of dissent or the freedom to disagree (with management) and deviate from the norm.

This may be the most difficult freedom of all to achieve at work, but not entirely unachievable. Once again, if an organization is open to dissent and deviance, a social intranet can be the platform for expressing, processing, and archiving them.

A social intranet is merely a tool to carry out these freedoms. First, the organization’s management policies and practices must allow for these freedoms. Then the organization culture should support them.

When these are in place, then a social intranet is the tool to give employees autonomy at work.

What’s it like in your workplace? Does your management appreciate the importance of giving staff these freedoms? If so, how are they facilitating autonomy at work?