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Give employees the freedom to grow

By Martin Willoughby
Dolan Media Newswires

Jackson, Miss. — Once entrepreneurs start their business, it is easy to forget what it was like to work for someone else. Visionary business owners know that their employees are the company’s greatest asset. It makes sense, then, to consider designing companies with employees in mind. While we can’t all have free cafeterias and basketball courts like Google, we can better understand what really motivates people.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, what employees really want is progress. They want to feel like they are moving ahead daily on projects and in their career. Dan Pink, in his new book “Drive,” similarly argues that today’s workers are best motivated by creating an atmosphere of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
When former University of Mississippi professors Bill Rayburn and Dennis Tosh designed their Oxford-based technology company FNC Inc., their long-range plan was to be a national leader in the mortgage technology industry.

To do this, they knew that they would need talented people executing at their full potential. According to Rayburn, “We simply thought about what kind of company we would want to work for and designed ours that way.”

For example, employees are given autonomy to work their own schedules, and they are measured on their results and not “punching the clock.” People are trained and then given a lot of frontline responsibility early in their careers. This allows employees to quickly have substantive opportunities to contribute. Rayburn also said, “the company encourages all employees to make a difference in their local communities. ”

The company experienced tremendous growth during the real estate boom, and despite the market correction and economic downturn in 2008, FNC almost doubled in size in 2009. In addition to its headquarters in Oxford, the company now has offices in Costa Mesa, Calif., and Dallas.

FNC’s innovative approach to designing a company people want to work for has certainly paid off. The company has had extremely low employee turnover and is a sought after place to work. Creating jobs with meaning where employees can exert some autonomy and grow professionally is a sure way to have a happier and more productive work force.

Martin Willoughby is a business lawyer in Jackson.

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