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Attracting, recruiting and retaining talent

Recruiting and retaining good staff is vital to the long term success of a business.

Finance professionals need develop people skills so they can build a successful and harmonious team. David Parmenter examines some of the practices that will make a difference.

Make the finance team a great place to work

1. Having fun in the workplace

Finance teams and organisations need to be seen as teams that work hard and have fun doing this. Why would you wish to stay in a miserable team? Some suggestions to improve the work environment are:

  • off-site meetings – I came across a team that held a half-day, offsite meeting after they have completed each month-end. More common are teams that have an off-site training session every three months. At the very least hold one session a year;
  • café meetings – Hold a staff meeting in a coffee shop once a month, and treat the team to coffee and muffins. If you cannot find a budget for this bona fide expenditure, nobody can;
  • birthdays – Setup a routine where birthdays are acknowledged and celebrated where the staff person is actively encouraged to take that day off (out of their holiday allowance) and then celebrate the birthday the next day in the office;
  • recognition – Giving recognition freely makes us a person whom people like to work with. Simple cost effective recognitions are either handing out film tickets, or vouchers for two at a restaurant, to reward staff who have gone the extra mile;
  • celebrate every success – ‘Work is too much a part of life not to recognize moments of achievement’, says Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric; and
  • 20% free time – Like Google, give staff 20% of discretionary time, to pursue their ideas on initiatives that would benefit the organisation. This is how the idea for Google Earth happened.

2. Offer leading edge training opportunities

Far too much training is done on by employees their own. Aim to have at least one in-house training day for the whole team. You will gain much from the team building that occurs during the day. In addition you can offer, after a certain number of years of service, support for further tertiary education.

3. Effective recruiting – Getting the right people

In every workshop I ask one question ‘Who has made a recruiting decision they have lived to regret?’ Every finance manager puts their hand up. The carnage caused is relived in their facial expressions. Why does this happen so often? Recruitment should be seen as the most important activity a manager does. It should be the most invested and well prepared exercise we ever do, for the following reasons:

  • recruiting properly is like putting a fence on the top of a cliff – it is better to spend 40 hours recruiting a candidate carefully rather than spending four hundred hours cleaning up after a recruiting mistake;
  • you can recruit for technical skills and through training improve skill levels, but you cannot change a person’s values. If an individual’s values are different from those of the organisation, you will always have conflict; and
  • better recruits will lead to more internal promotion, both saving costs and maintaining institutional knowledge.

4. The recruiting marathon

To have an excellent team, it is beneficial to start with the best resources available. There are still too many staff selections made by an antiquated interview process, accompanied by some cursory reference checking. A greater effort needs to be put into the selection process through the adoption of recruiting techniques that include:

  • use of simulation exercises and psychometric testing on the short-listed candidates. Have staff members on the team somehow involved in the final selection from the short-listed candidates. This need not be too complex;
  • a meeting over an afternoon cup of coffee can give the staff a chance to subtly quiz the candidate on his or her expert knowledge;
  • use report-writing and presentation exercises for more senior roles, such as a management accountant position; and
  • one high-performance team asks its members if they know someone who would fit in the team before they advertise a position. Often this has proved successful, saving hours of sifting through the great unknown.

5. Setting them up to succeed - the induction process

When all the essential stuff is done, the best way to induct your new recruit is to show them a warm and inclusive welcome to your company. Make sure they know as much about the benefits of working with you as they do about the expectations placed on them, and set them up for a happy productive life in your finance business.

A longer version of this article appeared in the April 2016 edition of ‘Finance & Management’, the magazine for the ICAEW Finance and Management Faculty

David Parmenter will be speaking at the CFO Conference on 13 October 2016. Find out more here.