Alert: There are humans at your place of work

The Humancentric Culture

Workplace culture starts from the inside. Human beings desire to be connected, to fulfill their purpose and to add value. Enabling the humans in your workplace to fulfill these desires is essential for a leader in building up culture. The key to unlocking this process is in supporting a human’s desire for autonomy – the ability to determine one’s own means and methods to accomplish work goals. In every role and in every environment there is opportunity to support autonomy.

Authors Margaret Wheatley in her article “Goodbye, Command and Control ” and Daniel Pink’s “Drive” reinforce this idea that autonomy is a need for people at work. People are more likely to be engaged with work tasks when they experience their own reward by determining their own way to carry out tasks. Encouraging autonomy in the workplace can seem to leaders like opening a Pandora’s box: How will progress be tracked and measured? How will I know if people are doing their work?  

Enabling a culture of autonomy may seem counter-intuitive to ensuring accountability and deliverables. However, intrinsic motivation works by enabling people to experience the rewards they naturally feel when they choose to engage in a particular behaviour. For example, I like to determine for myself when to engage in group process or when I work solo on an aspect of a project. I know when I should be in the office environment to engage with others and when working from home is best. When I am able to make this determination for myself and carry out my decision I feel engaged and energized about my work.

The hard part for leaders is to give up the control-and-command approach in favour of an environment that promotes self-determination. To enable this shift in culture, leaders can start with developing a better understanding of their own sense of what  autonomy means to them in their work, their leadership style and what giving up the control-and-command approach would mean for them in practice.

Reinforcing the human side of workplace culture enables people to meet these three primary desires: to be connected, to have purpose and to add value. Creating a culture with these values underpinning the work means that leaders can trust that the people in their organization will be vested in carrying out tasks necessary to meet the desired business outcomes.