How to encourage employee decision-making

It’s not easy getting everyone on the same page at work but, when you do, that’s when the real magic happens. The Robert Half experts look at how a flatter organisational structure, with more employee involvement in decision-making, could boost job satisfaction, retention and engagement at work

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Robert Half 

What is a flat organisational structure?

When you remove, or reduce, the number of hierarchical levels within an organisation, you flatten out its structure, making all roles more equal. The most typical way of achieving this is to remove middle management and allow teams to manage themselves. Using a flat organisational structure, organisations can easily increase employee decision-making and accountability. Although it isn’t the traditional way of running a business, plenty of big names have found success by removing the hierarchical structure.

Why employee involvement matters

  • Motivation for the many: a recent Robert Half report showed that employees were happiest when they felt their work was interesting and meaningful. When employees have a greater sense of purpose, employee motivation inevitably goes up. Allowing employees to have a hand in decision-making also removes any feelings of unfairness which might be souring the general approach to work. When they’re allowed to steer decisions, employees feel trusted and valued.
  • Positive company culture: is there anything more unifying than working towards a shared goal? When all members of the team share the same values, and work towards the same purpose, organisations can expect a healthier, more positive and supportive culture in the office. 
  • Fresh business ideas: although it can be argued that senior business leaders have the knowledge and experience to make sound decisions, there’s also a danger of stagnation. Involving employees in the decision-making process can infuse business strategy with innovative new ideas that could provide a competitive edge.  

How to start including employees in decision-making

  • Employee surveys: the fastest way to give employees a voice is to ask them what they think. Instigate employee involvement by inviting them to weigh in on issues by regularly sending out employee surveys which can be completed and submitted online. Be sure to act on feedback, and convey why the results are important, or employees will quickly lose faith in the process and avoid participating. 
  • Allow them to set their own performance targets and goals: instead of telling employees how you feel they should develop, try to balance business and team objectives with the development path that employees want for themselves. Employee decision-making allows them the freedom to choose their goals and targets; there’s more incentive to meet them and a greater sense of pride and ownership.
  • Strategy days: why not give your team the chance to brainstorm ways of reaching pre-determined objectives? Try breaking employees up into smaller groups and asking them to brainstorm initiatives to help the business reach its goals and increase employee motivation. By allowing them to think creatively, and find their own routes to success, they are likely to feel happier and more invested in carrying out the work and achieving the results. 
  • Implement flexible working: there’s a reason why flexible working has become one of the most highly requested employee benefits. When an employee is free to choose their own working hours, they can achieve a healthier work-life balance and maximise output by working during the hours when they’re most productive. It shows trust and instils responsibility within the organisational structure of the team.
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