Outcome-based work will make you & your employees more satisfied and perform better

It is a well-known fact that your employees are at the core of your business. The company does not exist without its employees. Their wellbeing is a significant constituent to your long-term success.

I believe that these constituents are a direct contributor to your and your employees’ success:

  • Purpose — providing a sense of value
  • Guidance — assistance with resolution of problems and challenges
  • Flexibility — willingness to change or compromise

Additionally, I am confident that outcome-based work is a crucial component for “glueing” the above factors to create a cohesive unity. It is the foundation for autonomy, challenge and growth.

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Glassdoor Economic Research (2019)[1] found that three main factors contribute the most to employee satisfaction:

  • The culture and values of the organisation;
  • The quality of senior leadership; and
  • Access to career opportunities within the organisation.

Whereas another study around employee engagement by Abraham (2012)[2] found that the following are the main contributors:

  • The role
  • Training programme
  • Leadership and planning
  • Culture and ethics

The above findings are in line with Diamantidis and Chatzoglou (2019), who directly focused on predicting employee performance and identifying the main contributing factors. Researchers found that “job environment and adaptability have the strongest direct impact on EP” [3]; however “management support and intrinsic motivation have a weaker but still significant direct impact on EP”.

Further research by Deci and Ryan (2014)[4] found that “autonomy, competence, and connection with others” help us steer and maintain control over our lives and thus increase motivation and gain a sense of purpose.

When we distil and correlate the above research, we can see that the vision, culture and autonomy are vital not only to employee satisfaction but also to employee performance.

Taking the above statement into consideration, let us dive into each of the categories.

Vision sets out a high-level plan; it provides some level of certainty to your employees. Just like a general rallied his armies with a motivational speech on a battlefield, you rally your employees to follow you. With a transparent and honest approach, you give employees a sense of purpose and direction. You do not dictate what they should do but show them the goal you are all working toward.

With the right goal in mind, your armies behind you, you are ready to begin the battle. Just as on the battlefield, you have challenges: being outnumbered or outgunned. Your employees directly face these challenges when pursuing your vision. Vision helps to refocus, but without the proper support, i.e. training, preparation or good planning, you are bound to fail. As Sun Tzu in his infamous Art of War said, “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.”

The final ingredient is flexibility. You need to trust your employees that they will do the right thing. You need to be flexible and open to adaptation if required when facing the ever-changing landscape. You need to trust your officers, and they need to trust the footsoldiers. Trust enables flexibility; it should be the default assumption and an approach that all employees highly respect and regard.

Outcome-based engagements focus on achieving well-defined outcomes in a way that works best for your employees.

In a nutshell: you and your business define what needs to be done. You do not impose much of the details on how an employee will achieve the outcome.

You further reduce uncertainty around the goal and define the value it brings to the overall success. An employee is motivated to take ownership of their work. The feeling of pride in the quality of the output is rooted in ownership. Further enhanced by understanding how it contributes to the bigger picture.

As a result employee will feel challenged as not all the details are defined but will also have much more autonomy. When stepping too far out of the comfort zone, a good support and guidance from peers and experts will aid continuous-growth.

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Understanding these factors is critical, but what does it mean pragmatically?

Let us explore an example. You have an employee supporting multiple IT projects, and his job is working on issues (tickets) from other teams. Day in and day out, they follow the same process, and the only thing that changes is the context of the work item.

The employee arrives daily and faces the same one-hour journey to work through the traffic, followed by frantically looking for a parking space. By the time they arrive at their desk, they are tired, stressed and want to relax. It is all well and good; their job gives that opportunity. However, it is a loss to you as an employer as they are not growing as professionals.

As Heraclitus rightly said: “Panta rei” (everything flows), and it is essential to you as a business owner to push the boundaries of your firm as it is to your employees to support that journey.

If we come back to the example and augment it slightly where the employee has the freedom to complete work on their terms, there is a higher chance that it will be more challenging. If you provide them with a task without constraining them to the location of work or the process of completing it, they will come up with their way of doing things — they will begin taking ownership and pride in what they do. It is essential to add that you must put the context of their work and its relation to the bigger picture.

Also, when you measure the performance based on outcomes and their quality, it is much easier to track your own and your employee’s progress. However, ensuring that the correct metrics are defined is necessary to enable the outcome-based work style to build continuous feedback loops, further enabling continuous improvement.

With all that in mind, outcome-based work provides employees with purpose, guidance and flexibility, critical to employee satisfaction and performance.


[1] A. Stansell (2019, online): Which Workplace Factors Drive Employee Satisfaction Around the World, Glassdoor Economic Research
[2] S. Abraham (2012): Development of Employee Engagement Programme on the basis of Employee Satisfaction, Journal of Economic Development, Management, IT, Finance and Marketing
[3] A. D. Diamantidis, P. Chatzoglou (2019): Factors affecting employee performance: an empirical approach, International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management
[4] Deci E.L., Ryan R.M. (2014) Autonomy and Need Satisfaction in Close Relationships: Relationships Motivation Theory. In: Weinstein N. (eds) Human Motivation and Interpersonal Relationships. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-8542-6_3

Aspiring Technology Leader, DevOps engineer by trade, Developer at heart, driven by continuous improvement.

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