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Why not encourage worker autonomy?

Today's post is from Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

In a press release on July 12th regarding no-poach provisions,  Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said “Companies must compete for workers just like they compete for customers".  The poaching in question is between franchisees of national fast food chains.  The no-poaching agreements have the impact of preventing employees from accepting positions at higher wages from another franchisee.   According to the press release, as a result of the Washington AG's efforts, "seven fast-food chains agreed to stop this practice not only at their over 500 Washington locations, but nationally. Tens of thousands of low-wage employees will be affected across the United States at more than 25,000 locations."

This got me thinking about how other organizational practices that limit employee autonomy and  hurt not only the workers, but also their employers.  Rules that make it difficult for employees to take care of their obligations outside of work may make it easier for their bosses to manage their time, but won't earn those bosses loyalty and productivity.  Practices that limit employees' ability to work in multiple locations of the same business inhibit flexibility that can help both parties.  Especially now, with unemployment as low as it's been in decades, people will vote with their feet when they can find an employer whose culture and practices express respect for workers and their lives outside of work.

One of the most important practices that leaders of hourly employees need to get right to earn employee loyalty is scheduling.  People need predictable work schedules in order to manage their lives, but many don't have them.  Research we published earlier this year indicated that nine out of 10 employees globally think their organization could improve how they manage employee schedules.  A third of employees surveyed globally want solutions that make it easier to swap shifts, seek coverage from colleagues, or opt into open shifts for more hours, especially through mobile phones and tablets.  More than a quarter (28 percent) wish their organization would embrace self-scheduling, allowing employees to build their own schedules or select preferred shifts that make it easier to manage personal responsibilities outside of work.  Employees are also frustrated with how long it takes managers to approve time-off and scheduling change requests (28 percent).

One organization that is taking these employee preferences to heart is Sprint Mart, a convenience store and gas station operator in the southern region of the US.   Chris McKinney, director, human resources, says "Our success hinges on our people as everyday our team members meet the various needs of thousands of customers. It is our team members' dedication to  delivering a superior customer experience that puts Sprint Mart among the best in convenience stores.”  Sprint Mart invested in Kronos solutions for time and attendance, HR, payroll, and employee scheduling applications across 90 locations in order to create a positive work environment where employees have greater control over their work lives.

Sprint Mart employees are able to swap shifts with each other without manager intervention and work across different locations. Managers also gain access to the entire pool of Sprint Mart employees to select from when creating schedules for different locations. These benefits help generate schedules that take into consideration employee preferences and skill sets as well as store demand, optimizing the scheduling process.

Since making these changes,  turnover has decreased at Sprint Mart. The solution not only allows employees to have a say in their schedules, leave, and other work-related aspects, but also offers data to support performance decisions. With more actionable insights supporting an employee's performance, the effects of manager perception or bias are significantly reduced when it comes to measuring performance-oriented outcomes.

Few industries are spared from recruitment and retention challenges in the current labor market.  Sprint Mart has cracked the code on how to improve results while giving employees more autonomy.  Per the quote from Washington AG Ferguson at the top of this article, organizations need to compete for talent if they are going to succeed in a tight job market.  What are you doing - or seeing others do - to boost results while loosening the reins that inhibit employees?




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