According to Google, “how to start a business” was a more popular search term this year than “how to get a job.” With everyone from CEOs to receptionists feeling fatigued by the 21-month long pandemic, it’s no surprise that people want to take more control of their lives by working for themselves. In October 2021, nearly 6% of workers were self-employed; an eleven-year high.
This trend, coupled with the Great Resignation where 65% of workers are seeking a new job, is responsible for the current state in which many employers find themselves—witnessing their most talented employees depart for higher pay elsewhere. In fact, the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that 4.5 million people voluntarily left their jobs in November. That number is up from 4.2 million in October.
If your business is struggling to retain talent right now, I know just how challenging and disheartening this situation is. While there are many job factors you can improve to prevent people from quitting, in this article I want to focus on the importance of autonomy. My suggestion? Give your employees the independence that comes with working for themselves. Do so, and your workers will enjoy the freedom of entrepreneurship without its inherent risks and challenges.
I left my own job over a decade ago to become an entrepreneur, and it hasn’t been easy. Looking back, I might have taken a much different path had there been more opportunities for me to feel like an entrepreneur within the mainstream corporate world. Too often, when employees show entrepreneurial initiative, it’s quashed. Initiative sometimes makes others on the team bristle. “How does he get to break the rules?” jealous co-workers may ask.
An insecure boss might even do everything possible to stamp out entrepreneurial drive. But, if you make entrepreneurial risk-taking part of the culture by rewarding it, you will encourage breakthrough ideas within your company. And more importantly, your most talented employees will actually want to stick around.
To keep your workers from jumping ship, here are 8 ways to make them feel more like entrepreneurs:
1. Trust workers to set their own schedules.
Many entrepreneurs first strike out on their own as a way to avoid having a boss. These workers don’t appreciate being micromanaged; that is, having to account for the time spent on various projects and processes. So remember, unless a task absolutely requires a group to work on it together in real-time, there’s no reason to set a step-by-step schedule for task completion. Give your workers the deadline. And then, give them the freedom to determine their own schedules.
2. Be task oriented, not process oriented.
Meetings, meetings, and more meetings deplete workers’ enthusiasm and take away time they could be spending on more important and creative tasks. And Zoom meetings pose new challenges—it’s exhausting to keep an eye on colleagues and oneself at the same time. So consider focusing on task completion rather than requiring employees to go through the motions of constant meeting attendance.
3. Consider creating “core hours” for meetings.
According to one study, 78% of workers feel that their meeting schedule is “always or sometimes out of control.” As a leader, you have the power to change that. Some companies are creating “core hours” for meetings—typically 4-hour blocks in the middle of the day—so employees have more time to focus. It’s also a tactic employers are using to help their people disconnect.
4. Encourage mental health breaks during the day.
One benefit of being an entrepreneur is that you can take a mental break whenever you feel like it. Studies show that office workers who take micro breaks throughout the day are more productive and more engaged. So, let workers know you approve of breaks. Another idea: invite a mindfulness coach to lead a group meditation session once a week. Workers will have a chance to close their eyes, catch their breaths, and regain their equilibrium on company time.
5. Create an atmosphere that encourages structured experimentation.
Entrepreneurs enjoy inventing new products and services—that’s the fun, creative part. But it’s rare for an idea to arrive perfectly formed at inception, so work with your people to tweak and shape entrepreneurial ideas that could help your business to grow. For example, show them how to back up their ideas with deep market research, using techniques like focus groups and surveys.
6. Give your people the resources to act.
Entrepreneurs tend to have a “leap first, look later” approach—they’re willing to act even before they have the resources they need. But if you can provide your people with resources to pursue their ideas, you’ll encourage their entrepreneurial spirit and you’re bound to enjoy a more successful track record. Consider creating an innovation contest where workers can submit new ideas to grow the business, and the winners receive funding to pursue them further.
7. Treat each worker like a consultant.
Encourage your employees to hone an area or two of expertise and become a “consultant” in those areas—someone who can provide expert opinions, analysis, and recommendations. Then let them have the final word in that specialty area. Respect too, that when consultants work overtime, they get paid for it. While you don’t need to put everyone on an hourly wage, you do need to recognize when one of your workers is putting in extra time or supreme effort. As the adage says, “Money talks.”
8. Consider a pay structure that rewards big-time for results.
The essence of entrepreneurship is succeeding or failing based on the results of your organization. To create an entrepreneurial organization, there should be both an upside and a downside associated with those results. First, determine what goals your employees should be aiming for, which should be aligned with the overall goal of your company. Then create a pay/bonus structure that’s heavily weighted toward achieving these goals.
Challenging times call for new approaches
With both the pandemic and the Great Resignation in full swing, workers are reconsidering whether they actually want a career working at a company. Some business forecasters predict that in the future, most people won’t work for companies at all. We’re already starting to see this long-term trend manifest with the rise of alternative forms of earning, such as influencers, creators, and participants in the gig economy.
But even right now, workers are immensely dissatisfied with their current employers. As I noted in my article on the Great Reshuffle, 55% expect to look for a new job this year. So consider treating your employees more like entrepreneurs if you want to prevent at least some of them from joining this trend. Many of the suggestions I’ve provided don’t require any cost inputs, so there’s nothing stopping you.
Thanks for reading, and remember to join the conversation on LinkedIn!