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Australian businesses challenged to change as employees demand workplace shift

Australian organisations are being challenged to introduce greater autonomy for their employees – with a clear disconnect between people’s current and ideal working environments – as they navigate the new world of work post COVID-19, according to new research commissioned by The Access Group.*

The Access Group’s Autonomy to the People research examines the current state of Australian organisations, their ways of working and the operational styles of their leaders and managers, and shows local businesses are twice as likely to operate within a ‘command-and-control’ model than one promoting autonomy. 

According to the findings, while respondents were more likely to choose autonomy as their ideal working model, overall, the vast majority (79%) don’t feel their businesses currently support this (35% citing empowerment and 44% citing command-and-control). Additionally, 47% of companies are seen to limit their workers’ self-determination, prioritising established policies. 

There is also a disconnect at the senior level, with over half (51%) of managers within command-and-control style organisations believing their personal oversight style enables autonomy, while only 16% believe their own organisation has the same approach. Over two-thirds (68%) believe they allow employees’ input into their goals, while only 29% feel their organisations work this way.

Kerry Agiasotis, President, The Access Group Asia Pacific, said: “Over the last 18 months, survival and adaptation has been the focus for all Australian businesses, navigating the accelerated digital transformation required to support the changing nature of work in the face of the pandemic.

“Now, as optimism and pathways out of lockdown life form, it’s time to look beyond recovery and double down on future proofing, with a focus on our most valuable assets - our people. It is truly vital that organisations take stock and recognise there are new opportunities to address the growing disconnect between employee expectations and current levels of autonomy they have to conduct their work.”

While business leaders may not see the immediate benefits of autonomy, in reality, it’s not just their employees who reap the rewards. According to the Autonomy to the People whitepaper, organisations using an autonomy model are more likely to achieve better business outcomes, driven by improvements  in four key areas, including Innovation & Product/Service Development, Employee Experience, Organisational Agility, and Customer Experience. 

As a result of the pandemic, attitudes towards command and control, empowerment and autonomy have shifted, and employee demands for autonomy are even more significant. Over half of respondents (54%) say it is now more important that employees are given choices for when and where they work. A similar number (51%) say that they should have influence over the resources needed to do their job.

Kerry Agiasotis said: “We know processes and technology play a crucial role in enabling teams and individuals to establish their ‘workspace’ and work autonomously. In fact, over half of our research respondents believe technology is critical for supporting autonomy. 

“At The Access Group, our mission is to support businesses achieve their goals by focusing more on what’s important to them, giving them the freedom to work when, where and how they need to using our broad range of business management solutions integrated through our Access Workspace platform.  At a time when employee engagement has never been more important as a driver of business success, we are committed to helping businesses provide their colleagues with the levels of autonomy that they desire in conducting their work. The findings in this research are strongly aligned with our views - in order to retain, foster and recruit great talent that is fundamental to future success, businesses need to provide an environment supporting greater autonomy for how employees work.”

To download the Autonomy to the People whitepaper, please visit The Access Group.

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