CFOs See Benefits of Granting Staff More Autonomy

According to the oft-spoken adage, “’Tis better to give than receive.” But recent research suggests when the gift is employee autonomy, executives can have the best of both worlds.

In the Robert Half Management Resources survey, 32 percent of CFOs said their productivity would increase if they gave their team greater autonomy. Just 13 percent of respondents feared a decrease.

There are many staff management benefits of granting employees more control over their jobs, from improved morale and productivity to helping direct reports expand their skill sets. There are also tangible benefits for executives who empower their teams.

“Giving employees greater autonomy has the added benefit of making managers more productive,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. “When staff have the freedom to decide how their work gets accomplished, they develop management skills much earlier in their careers. Leaders gain the gift of time, which they can devote to strategic planning and other critical initiatives.”

It’s understandable why granting employees more freedom in how they do their jobs can be difficult for managers. When the final decision and accountability rest with you, it can be tempting to want full control over the situation, even if it means micromanaging. This has serious drawbacks, however, including less time to focus on issues requiring your specific expertise.

If you find yourself struggling to give employees more autonomy, consider these steps:

  1. Start small. Identify and delegate one or two projects staff members can manage effectively and with limited direction.
  2. Ask for input. Talk to your team about what could help them perform at a higher level. For example, would working remotely a couple days a week decrease their time on the road and increase the time they can focus on work?
  3. Act on feedback. Look for ways to accommodate employees’ requests. If someone is looking for greater work-life balance, a flexible schedule could do the trick without harming productivity.
  4. Check in without butting in. As personnel adapt to the new responsibilities or work arrangements, let them know they can come to you with questions. Be supportive, but don't micromanage.
  5. Assess and adapt. After enough time has passed, review the results. Identify what went well and what could be improved – either by you or your employees – in the future.

What steps do you take to empower employees? How has this affected your productivity?