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How to raise productivity and improve worker autonomy

How to raise productivity and improve worker autonomy

August 12, 2022

In a capitalist model like the current one, The dream of many entrepreneurs is to increase the productivity of workers so that your organizations generate more benefits. And, although there is no definitive answer to how to increase the profits of the company, the ways of doing it or the tools that exist for it, one of the methods in which the business system has been based in the last decades, has been ( and, unfortunately, it is mostly) control over workers (Jódar and Alós, 2008).

However, there is evidence that the way to improve productivity is, in fact, the opposite: enhance the autonomy of staff .

  • Related article: "Types of Leadership: The 5 most common leader classes"

Control and productivity in companies

Many authors (eg Peña, 2004) agree that as humans we always seek to eliminate insecurities , keep our self-image in good condition or simply feel less dependent on factors outside of us, which usually converge in a tendency to control the environment and ourselves. This in psychology is termed as the well-known "need for control". Of course, the sense of control or, in this labor context, of being controlled, greatly affects how a worker perceives an organization.

Today we can talk about a degree or scale about the level of control in companies. ANDAt one extreme would be those very controlling companies , in which the worker normally feels that he is obliged not to leave the rules and is only there of necessity (mainly economic) and is limited to following "up" orders, whether or not.

On the contrary, at the other extreme we find those companies that leave and distribute control in the workers, increasing their autonomy (eg companies such as Zappos, Google and Twitter).

At this point, you can establish certain basic premises relating the level of control and productivity. From the clear everyday examples that reflect the reality of our day to day, where we see that if we do something that comes from ourselves we do it in a much more efficient way than if we are ordered, even empirical studies that already showed that the transformational leadership (Mendoza et al., 2007), in the face of other more authoritarian leadership styles, is associated with a greater feeling of control on the part of the person (locus of internal control), as well as a significant improvement in work performance. (Howell and Avolio, 1993).

The way of perceiving the different organizations is key in the productive process , since the intrinsic motivation (the primordial motor for productivity) is usually reduced in the first case previously exposed in the scale-degree, that is, the more control there is.

Unfortunately the world has been built under that construct and a large percentage of companies they still have a pyramidal hierarchical model where the boss is the one who is higher, has more control and the power to make decisions. In this type of company, it is clear that workers "work for" and do not feel committed to the values ​​of the company.

The importance of motivation

With the evolution of the market and human resources systems, the need has been seen to give more value to the user and give him more power and motivation , both by right and by comfort in the workplace (besides eliminating certain psychosocial risks at work that could pose a problem for the company).

But what is also being seen is that The more autonomy or control the user has, the more productive and increases their sense of belonging, as many authors theorized. Notably Deci and Ryan, who in 1985 already explained with their theory of self-determination (TAD) that there are three psychological needs that must be met so that individuals develop both personally and professionally: autonomy, feel competent and relate.

To give the importance it deserves to the motivation of the worker linked to his productivity, we bring the latest survey State of the Global Workplace (O'Boyle and Harter, 2013) of the prestigious Gallup firm, explaining that 63% of employees worldwide, a majority, are unmotivated , and this means that they will devote less effort to achieving the objectives of the organizations. Moreover, another 24% of the total are actively demotivated, indicating that in addition to demotivated and unproductive are likely to spread negativity to their co-workers.

Enhance innovation: the GAMeeP case

However, there are already many successful cases where it is stated that the company provides self-management tools to the worker or reinforces and motivates additionally not only with economic resources, following the multiple theories related to the increase of productivity and satisfaction labor.

This is where an applied research project in the area of ​​quality of work life comes in, co-financed by the Center for Industrial Technological Development, CDTI (2015-2017) within the framework of research and development projects and by the European Fund for Regional Development (ERDF) linked to the smart growth program FEDER 2014-20. The project is called GAMeeP (Gamified Employee Engagement) and it has been developed by Compartia, a small Spanish company.

GAMeeP, following the storyline, raises a gamified equipment management system whose objective is to improve the quality of working life and increase the overall productivity of teams and organizations in addition to simplifying the management of human resources, while increasing the sense of well-being and commitment of employees.

The power of gamification

In the context of games, a study by Ryan, Rigby and Przybylski (2006) concludes that individuals are attracted to the game through computers (video games, but extensible to gamification) partly because we experience autonomy, competition and interrelation while playing ( precisely the three psychological needs mentioned above so that a person can develop optimally).

In the virtual platform already developed a system of tasks and incentives has been designed , endowing the worker with the power and autonomy to be able to choose and perform the tasks that are freely desired, always within a time frame. Not content only with the development of the platform, a research was carried out (pre-post test model) to really demonstrate how the innovative gamified system improved the behavior of the workers. The indicators that were measured were, on the one hand: Autonomy, Competence and Interrelation (Spanish version of Scale of satisfaction of basic psychological needs at work, Vargas Téllez and Soto Patiño, 2013, Deci & Ryan, 2000) and on the other, performance indicators (Implication / Commitment, Collaboration, Efficiency, Productivity).

The conclusions were very clear: thanks to the GAMeeP system, users are more committed, collaborate more and are more productive , in addition to increasing the levels of competence in certain contexts.

  • Related article: "Gamification: taking games beyond leisure"


With the data on the table and previous research, we can conclude that the world evolves and with it the companies and leadership styles. What's more, with the change in management methods of organizations changes in the behavior of people come hand in hand . Having more control over tasks, being more motivated or having more flexible hours are just some of the changes that enhance the feeling of job satisfaction that we see today.

With the change seen and expected in leadership styles and business management models of human resources, current and future market needs are glimpsed (especially in certain sectors such as entertainment, technologies, content, etc.).

Nowadays, moment in which the information age gives way to the era of people and talent , they identify, on the part of the workers, skills (of a creative nature) and, on the part of the companies, new models such as GAMeeP to enhance humanity and certain business values ​​that lead to greater job satisfaction and productivity.

Bibliographic references:

  • Deci, E.L. and Ryan, R.M., (1985). Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior. Boston, MA: Springer US.
  • Deci, E.L. and Ryan, R.M. (2000). The 'What' and 'Why' of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11 (4), 227-268.
  • Howell, J. M. and Avolio, B. J. (1993). Transformational Leadership, Transactional Leadership, Locus of Control, and Support for Innovation: Key Predictors of Consolidated-Business-Unit Performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78 (6), 891-902.
  • Mendoza, M. I. A., Ortiz, A. M. F. and Parker, R. H. C. (2007). Two decades of research and development in Transformational Leadership. Journal of the Research Center, 7 (27), 25-41.
  • Jódar, P. and Alós, R. (2008). Business strategies, employment and labor relations. Union Gazette: reflection and debate, 11, 221-241.
  • Ryan, R.M., Rigby, C.S. and Przybylski, A. (2006). The Motivational Pull of Video Games: A Self-Determination Theory Approach. Motivation and Emotion, 30 (4), 344-360.
  • O'Boyle, E. and Harter, J. (2013). State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide. Washington, DC.
  • Peña, M. D. (2004). Need for control: conceptual analysis and experimental proposal.Spanish Professional Journal of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, 2, 70-91.
  • Vargas Tellez, J. A. and Soto Patiño, J. C. (2013). Preliminary validation of the Basic Needs Satisfaction at Work Scale for its Spanish version. In: XVII INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS IN ADMINISTRATIVE SCIENCES. Guadalajara Mexico.

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