Making sure your finance function is working at the top of its ability is a key requirement for any organisation in order to ensure good governance and decision-making, value for money and future proofing for tomorrow – whatever that brings.
When it comes to considering what you can do to help your finance function be the best it can be, here are 6 top tips.
- Make investment in personal development normal practice
We’re not talking necessary about spending money on courses here, but working practices which expect and reward time spent on personal development will set the tone of what is required of every member of staff and their line manager.
Ways in which this can be expressed could include;
- Visibility of leaders making time for personal development
- Ensuring personal development plans and delivery are part of routine reviews between managers and staff
- Encouraging everyone to share their learning at team meetings and ensuring they are positively received
- Get the balance right in terms of how learning and development is achieved
Too often many people think personal development is all about going on a course (whether online or face to face). But real learning and development can come from many different activities and approaches and ultimately the best way to learn is to practice! Many organisations describe their approach to supporting learning and development as 70:20:10. This means
- 70% of learning should come from a practical base – trying out new ways of working or techniques and examining their effects, perfecting that process that has been causing so many problems or taking a short burst secondment to try working in a new area,
- 20% through development relationships – a mentor to help guide development, or shadowing leaders and asking them about their work and role and what that might mean for career path and development
- 10% training courses – where new knowledge or skills can’t be attained through the above approaches
- Know where your talent (and weaknesses) are
How many times have we asked staff what would be useful to help them develop and grow, only to receive the response of a shrug, or that reliable old failsafe – excel training!
Helping staff create a self-assessment against the key skills and competencies required of both the role they are doing now and the one they aspire to achieve will provide you with rich information.
It will help the individual to identify areas of personal focus; and if combined at a team or departmental level, this information will enable you to identify where any areas of weaknesses or strengths may lie. This is really useful for succession planning. Sometime we unfortunately realise only after a person has left that they were the sole knowledge base of a particular skill or issue. Creating resilience in the team through knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses and designing a purposeful team development plan will make you stronger, more resilient and provide improved satisfaction amongst your staff that they are being developed not only for now but for the future.
- Create a safe place to fail
Improvement in a function sometimes means needing to take a few risks to try out new approaches - knowing that they may go wrong. There is great learning from failure, which is why many organisations have dedicated research and development functions where failure is part of the process.
A function which penalises individuals or teams when improvements they attempt go wrong, will only create an entity unwilling to move forward. This doesn’t mean safeguards shouldn’t be in place to protect the organisation from failure that could cause damage, but creating a safe environment to test and try out new approaches will encourage staff to have a go with their ideas. You never know who in your team will discover the next best process or approach that could transform the way you work.
- Learning from others
You can learn a lot from finding out how other organisations develop their staff or how they approach those challenges within your finance function that you haven’t yet managed to find the answer to. For example, how to set up finance business partnering really effectively or streamlining your record to report process.
Developing a network of trusted organisations who are like-minded in wanting to move forward can be a real asset in thinking about how to develop your function or staff. Don’t limit your network to similar entities; there are a surprising amount of commonality between finance teams across different sectors. Better to approach diverse organisations who also want to develop and grow their functions than approaching those in the same sector who do not share the same ambition. Approaches to this could include:
- Making a search or call out on LinkedIn to find out who are in the space of proactively developing their finance functions
- Inviting organisations to do an exchange of ideas
- Allowing your team members to go on an “organisational raid” – to explore and bring back learning
- Create a “round table” of organisations to share their ideas and approaches
Key to this is that you have to be prepared to give as much as you ask.
- Reflection and Celebration
Taking the time to reflect on achievements and acknowledging where progress has been made can be seen as a luxury when the pressure is on, but it’s those moments of recognition that will linger longer in your team’s mindset than yesterday’s frantic battle to get the month end reports out. We’re not talking about lavish awards ceremonies, but simple acknowledgement of a job well done and improvements achieved by individual and team members can go a long way to secure the desire to try harder for more improvements. A simple personal note, a high five badge, team member of the month – whatever works for your own arrangements, make time for it, it will be time well spent.
This article was written by Rebecca Richards, Finance Academy Director, NHS Wales Finance Academy and published 22nd September 2020.