When “One-Size-Fits-All” Management Doesn’t Work

The trend toward increased worker autonomy is a challenge to traditional management techniques. But a simple workstyle-test can help you adapt your management style to get the most from your autonomous workers.

Autonomy in the workplace has been “the next big thing” for quite a while now.

By giving employees more flexibility in how they perform their jobs, autonomy holds vast potential to boost worker satisfaction and help companies earn big productivity gains.

So who could possibly find fault with this workplace trend?

Managers, that’s who.

In well-intentioned attempts to impose a minimum of structure in the workplace, we as managers risk alienating employees who have varied workstyle preferences. Thus, when it comes to managing autonomous employees, it’s clear that a one-size-fits-all management approach doesn’t work.

Now, I know some will say; “Too bad. We need to work together at certain times and in certain manners for things to get done around here.” And I agree. But to generate maximum employee satisfaction and productivity, we need to start organizing work based on workstyles. This can help us avoid conflict over simple things such as; meetings vs. emails, morning vs. afternoon, face-to-face interactions vs. calls and more.

Understanding the Four Workstyles

Every manager knows that different employees approach work-related tasks in different ways. Some actively seek out tasks while others wait to receive them. Some are most productive in the morning while others do their best work at night. Some prefer face-to-face meetings while others would rather share information in an email.

In fact, we’ve identified four primary workstyles, which are outlined in a new whitepaper that discusses how to build a more harmonious and productive work environment:

  • Gurus (31% of workers) inspire, create new knowledge and share different perspectives and insights.
  • Geniuses (28% of workers) stay cool, stick to the facts and know where to find vital information or knowledge to get to the next level.
  • Game Changers (18% of workers) are always on the move, applying energy and devising bold solutions to challenges.
  • Guardians (23% of workers) have both outstanding project and people skills and prefer meetings for getting everybody on the same page.

 Managing Employees Based on Workstyles

By understanding which employees have which workstyle, you can provide the direction and autonomy that’s right for their work preferences, which can maximize their job satisfaction and productivity. To get started, simply have employees take the Jabra Work Potential Test, a 20-question quiz that takes less than 5 minutes to complete.

The results will provide valuable information about how your employees approach their jobs and prefer to organize their workdays. You’ll gain an understanding of each employee’s preferences – such as what times of the day they feel most productive, when they concentrate the best, which groups prefer meetings and which prefer to be focused in front of the computer and much more.

For instance, by understanding workstyles you’ll know that Game Changers concentrate far better during mornings than afternoons. So if you have an urgent task for a Game Changer employee, be sure to provide enough time during the morning for him or her to complete it. If the task absolutely must be completed during the afternoon, consider assigning it to a Guru, who is better able to concentrate during that time of day.

Similarly, if you have several Geniuses and Game Changers on your staff, you’ll know that, unlike their Guardian and Guru coworkers, they prefer to share and receive information in one-to-one settings, such as phone calls, instant messages and video conferences. With that understanding, you’ll want to structure the work environment to minimize the number of meetings Geniuses and Game Changers need to attend.

Plus (and as you’ve probably long suspected), you’ll know that none of the four workstyles feel productive when sending or replying to emails. So the message is clear: Use email only when necessary.

Managing autonomous employees may seem like a daunting management task, but it doesn’t need to be. By understanding employee workstyles, your job – and theirs – just became much easier.