Employee Retention Tactics, Part 3: Employing Autonomy and Paving Pathways for Career Advancement

The Importance of Employee Autonomy and Career Advancement

My series on employee retention strategies continues with its third entry, this time focusing on the benefits associated with employee autonomy and career advancement.

Aside from pay, benefits and perks, and employee bonuses and rewards, there are several organizational practices that also matter a great deal to employees. According to an article by Jeff Haden on Inc.com titled “8 Things Your Employees Need Most”, pay (not surprisingly) is identified as an important deciding factor for potential employees, but its effects are known to diminish quickly. In order to establish long-term loyalty and motivation, you need to learn how to provide empoyee autonomy and career advancement.

Why Autonomy Can Be a Key Employee Retention Tactic

Keeping employees motivated is a cornerstone of an effective retention strategy. One key ingredient to having motivated employees on your team or anywhere in the organization is to provide them a high degree of autonomy.

Providing autonomy does not mean removing oversight of the work itself — setting key goals and targets is important to ensure that employees progress towards the organization’s objectives and don’t go off track. But by providing employees with the opportunity and freedom to devise their own work plans for achieving their individual and organizational goals, not only can you enhance their ability to be creative and feel empowered, you will also likely see a jump in productivity, as well. And it could just be the difference between helping you remain innovative and falling behind your competitors.

Of course, offering high levels of autonomy to employees could potentially be unnerving for some managers. They may feel unable to determine whether their employees are operating at their full potential and producing work that is aligned to the organization’s needs.

Scrum: A Great Solution that Merges Autonomy with Time & Project Management Upkeep

At OpenView, we practice Scrum, an agile development methodology, which is a framework for managing software projects and product or application development. This tool can also be used to help employees track their own hours and determine whether or not they are meeting their targets every week.

This has been a very useful application for me, personally. I can plan my week and allocating time to different projects, which helps me stay on track, set targets to achieve my goals, and account for and address any impediments along the way. An important feature of this tool is that it does not interfere with the process of how employees actually choose to do their work, but rather provides them with support to track and achieve their goals.

Clear Career Paths Are a Must for Maintaining Employee Motivation

A second important organizational practice that supports employee motivation is having career advancement pathways or opportunities in place. Although there may indeed be opportunities for advancement available in a start-up organization, there may not necessarily be a set career path in place as the role or team may still be relatively new. This could raise concern amongst potential employees as they might wonder whether there will be a place for them at the company in the future.

Although there may not be a clear career path, it is still important for you as the employer to highlight the potential options that could be available to the employee. Your company should also emphasize the distinct benefits of being in a start-up environment and having opportunities to drive an individualized career path — these are important potential advantages over operating in a more structured environment.

Managers should also provide employees with opportunities to grow and shine by taking on initiatives that demonstrate their leadership capabilities in areas outside of their job description. This could include encouraging employees to pursue their individual passion and interest areas within the workplace, while also being motivated and engaged on their core teams and projects.

To sum up, no matter the size of your organization, you should aim for the following:

  • Encourage your employees to set clear objectives
  • Provide them with the means to achieve their goals
  • Articulate potential career paths that would be available to them
  • Offer them opportunities to grow and demonstrate their leadership abilities

If you can accomplish those things you will be well on your way toward keeping your employees motivated and engaged in the workplace, resulting in a happier and healthier workforce.


Salima Ladha
Salima Ladha
Head of People Operations

Salima Ladha is the Head of People Operations at Signpost, a cloud-based marketing software that gives local businesses the power to effortlessly build and manage customer relationships. She previously recruited top talent to to OpenView and our Portfolio Companies.
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