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Corporate Finance

3 Priorities for Managing and Retaining Your Staff

The work that corporate finance teams do is changing, which means the management of those teams should also change

The world’s companies, and the employees that work for them, have had to cope with a lot of change in the past decade. They must all use more information, collaborate with more people, and make faster decisions than they have in the past.

For finance teams this has meant – among other things – far greater demand for data and analysis (or “analytics” as the management argot has it) which in turn has meant less standard, rules-based work and far more ad hoc, judgment-based work.

Three Priorities

These changes have meant that CFOs and their senior teams need to change their approach to hiring new staff and to understanding what skills are most important for finance professionals. And, when it comes to managing and keeping hold of the best finance staff, it means managers should focus on three priorities.

  1. Use coaching to develop staff: Coaching is significantly better at helping finance and accounting professionals develop the right analytic competencies than other common training and development approaches. It is especially effective in developing and engaging millennials (those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) who prefer more frequent, less formal feedback.

    Many companies struggle to get finance managers to coach properly, as they often treat it as a compliance activity rather than as a way to make their teams perform better (and so their own job more manageable).

    Coaching tips:

    • Develop analytic coaching teams. Create project teams consisting of analytic staff from various functions and geographies to identify and solve an company-wide problem every quarter. Require teams to coach and collaborate to transfer analytic skills and knowledge.

    • Establish manager accountability. Hold managers accountable for good coaching by assessing the process through employee feedback surveys.

  2. Help staff scope out work and push back where needed: Good business partnership is not about fulfilling all analytic requests; it’s about scoping and supporting the right requests to deliver the most value.

    If staff are not trained to properly scope and clarify business requests prior to starting analysis, they frequently waste time doing revisions and working late. The best analytical staff engage with business partners before and during a project to fully understand the context of the request.

    Business partner engagement tips:

    • Coach staff on identifying low-value requests and pushing back on business partners.

    • Provide staff with a business partner interview template to guide analysts through the important questions regarding the request.

  3. Hold on to your millennials: Millennials, which make up one-third of finance professionals, are three times more likely to leave their current employer within the year. Many companies try to retain high performers through faster promotions.

    But CEB data show that a faster promotion track has almost no impact on retention. In fact, millennials who remain in a role longer place the greatest value on having a diverse set of career opportunities.

    Retention tips:

    • Provide flexible work arrangements. One $30 billion manufacturing company in CEB’s finance membership created a program across Finance to offer flexible work schedules and virtual arrangements that prioritize employee preferences.

    • Expand traditional development plans. Most individual development plans are too focused on the short term (i.e., achieving the next promotion). Engage at-risk staff by having managers work with direct reports to build a “five-year future resume” to identify staff interests and future aspirations.

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