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How autonomy combines the four main drivers that motivate people in organisations

By João Luis
João Luis
World traveller and long-distance runner (always with a pair of Nikes!) with a passion for engineering beautiful and simple experiences that will make the web a better place.
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How autonomy combines the four main drivers that motivate people in organisations

With the exponential growth we've experienced at Farfetch for the past few years, providing strong leadership has come to be a greater challenge than ever before. We became more aware of the impact that leadership, good or bad, could have on each Farfetcher's happiness and motivation, so we push ourselves everyday to search for new ways to rise up to the growing challenges ahead of us.

At Farfetch, we're firm believers that autonomy in the workplace combines the four pillars that influence people's behaviour in the daily life of any organization. Using the Four-Drive Theory on Human Behavior from Harvard Business Professors Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria, I will explore the way autonomy connects to all four drives (the drive to acquire, the drive to bond, the drive to learn and the drive to defend) and how we've been applying it to Farfetch.

The Desire to Connect

The ability for us to bond is one of the main drives for loyalty and increased productivity in anything we set our minds to. We can bond with organizations, with work colleagues, with that one project we believe in or with a particular object that holds meaning to us. There are many ways of bonding and we all have an innate desire to connect and build relationships.

What if you are given the autonomy to decide how to establish those same relationships? It's extremely important for any organization to nurture and create an environment where these relationships can flourish. At Farfetch, each employee benefits from a complete onboarding experience that covers the multiple departments and business units that form the company. 

The week after, each team takes care of providing a unique experience, either by assigning a dedicated mentor or through tailored on the job training sessions, encouraging each new Farfetcher to explore, to bond and essentially to decide how to develop the relationships that will support their growth in the company.

With a geographically distributed company, face to face time is increasingly important to connect with others in a meaningful way, that's why each department gets a dedicated travel budget to promote this bonding and to give everyone the autonomy to be where they are most needed and to build relationships that last. 

The Insatiable Need for Ownership 

Ownership can manifest itself in many forms, like owning the car we drive to the office every day, the house we live in or the clothes we wear. Our need to acquire ownership is part of human nature, as well as our care for relative status in comparison with others.

"Management is good but self direction works better.”

by Dan Pink in The puzzle of motivation

At Farfetch, we translate this drive into the ambition of boldly aiming to achieve our company and individual results. We also have the autonomy to define what those results are by using the Objective & Key Results (OKR) framework. Through OKRs, we are able to measure the results of our team goals and objectives with a data-driven approach. 

The success of every individual is measured by the success of their peers, in a joint effort to find compromises and reach the summit together.

The Pursuit of Knowledge

Image by Mindshake

Striving to create a culture of constant learning is at the heart of what we do at Farfetch. The ability for an organization to generate opportunities for each person to develop and to raise the collective knowledge is one of its most powerful tools!

I believe autonomy can play a vital role in creating that exact environment. Each person is encouraged to propose and raise awareness for conferences, training sessions, certifications and online learning tools that they are most interested in. This is a culture of identifying not only the needs but also the people with the motivation to bring that same knowledge back into the company through internal training sessions. 

On the job learning is also one of the most effective ways to acquire a different set of skills. Therefore it is important for all of us to search and volunteer for projects that are out of our comfort zone and to reach out to people who are experts in their fields and ask for job pairing. 

We also promote a "share your chair” program in Portugal where each employee can choose to spend the day with another department, receive introductory training and get a very rewarding experience in a completely different company department. 

The Desire to Defend our Culture and Values

Our drive to defend is always reactive and often stimulated when something or someone that we deeply care about is threatened or armed, turning this drive into a strong combination of all of the above.

"The drive to defend is one of the most powerful human drives.”

With the ownership of products or processes there comes an emotional attachment that justifies our need to protect and care for them, by ensuring certain meetings take place, approval processes are respected, or that the right person is always consulted on a specific topic.

We also establish bonds of trust with others, which creates the desire to protect those relationships and form strong groups of people. That same trust is the foundation to transform those groups into teams and build up a strong culture around us.  

Finally, with the desire for learning comes our instinct of self-preservation against all situations and behaviours that will put us on a path of stagnation. In a technology-driven world with a constant search for innovation, complex reward systems based on goals and bonuses are not enough anymore. It's paramount that we nurture this drive and keep it at the centre of our decision-making process.

Let's shape the fashion industry together and use autonomy to keep pushing boundaries and solve complex problems that were never solved before!

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