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‘Outcome-focused’ approach delivers the best results for businesses

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Research has highlighted the importance of employee autonomy amid a tight labour market.

Nearly nine out of 10 Australian professionals believe that operating at least partly in an outcome-focused environment delivers the best results for businesses.

The Evolution of Leadership Report 2022 from The Access Group and HR Leader surveyed over 1,000 professionals across a range of industries including financial and insurance services.

An outcome-focused approach, in which employees assume ownership of their day-to-day tasks without the need for close supervision, was identified as the best by 59 per cent of those surveyed, ahead of output-focused (10 per cent) and time-focused (1 per cent).

A further 29 per cent of respondents said they believed that a combination of all of the aforementioned approaches delivered the best business outcomes.

“In a talent-tight market, offering employees greater autonomy over their work might be a deciding factor in attracting and retaining people,” the report suggested.

“If employees are given the flexibility to work from where they want and choose their hours — provided set outcomes or outputs are achieved — HR and business leaders can open up their potential talent pools.”

The findings come after the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) confirmed last week that Australia’s unemployment rate fell to 3.5 per cent in June, the lowest level since 1974.

“The large fall in the unemployment rate this month reflects more people than usual entering employment and also lower than usual numbers of employed people becoming unemployed,” ABS head of statistics Bjorn Jarvis said at the time.

“Together, these flows reflect an increasingly tight labour market, with high demand for engaging and retaining workers, as well as ongoing labour shortages.”

Currently, 84 per cent of the professionals surveyed by The Access Group and HR Leader work at least partly within an outcome-focused model of work.

Directors, executives and individuals in senior management were found to be more likely to be working primarily in an outcome-focused environment (59 per cent) compared to line managers (50 per cent) and employees (43 per cent).

HR Leader editor, Shandel McAuliffe told InvestorDaily that providing employees with a level of control and responsibility over how they achieve their objectives can help to drive engagement.

“Working from home, by its very nature, necessitates a shift from ‘supervising’ employees, to judging performance based on visible outcomes and outputs. Ultimately, it’s a change in how people and work are managed,” she explained.

“Viewed in the right light, this shift focuses on what’s being achieved by workers, rather than a perception of what’s achieved by seeing someone sitting at a desk.”

The Access Group HR director, John Maley noted that the pandemic had accelerated changes in the workplace, including an expectation that employees can work remotely and still be effective.

“Whilst that may have been the sort of change that developed over a decade or more, it has been forced upon us,” he said.

“Additionally, how we are emerging from COVID-19, with a stifling of the labour market supply, is also causing a seismic change in the way we approach managing our colleagues and teams. The war for talent can seldom have been fiercer.”