Employees are Free Agents

Employees are Free Agents

When is your Controller like Lebron James?

Hopefully not when they’re talking about US-China relations, that’s for sure. But seriously, when is your Controller like Lebron? It’s not on the company rec basketball team, it’s when they’re free agents, and your employees are all free agents.

Lebron is noted as a savvy business person in addition to being a phenomenal basketball player and one of the most powerful things he did was to pioneer the concept of what people call a “1 and 1” contract. In 2014 when he came back to Cleveland from Miami he signed a 2 year contract that paid him the maximum salary allowed where the second year was a “player option” which means that he could opt-in, or out, of that second year at the end of the season. These deals are essentially 1-year contracts with a security blanket in that second season, just in case. 

Normally, athletes lock themselves into long term max deals (Mike Trout, MLB: 12 years, $430 million; James Harden, NBA: 6 years, $228 million; Connor McDavid, NHL: 8 years, $100 million; etc.) because there is uncertainty in life…What if you blow out your knee? Lock in that money, guarantee yourself a comfortable life. Lebron’s approach was counterintuitive in that regard but it did afford him something else: leverage. Every year his team would have to woo him to come back, so he was able to exert a great deal of influence on which players the team brought in, coaching choices, front office picks, etc. Lebron afforded himself the ability to say ‘goodbye’ to his team on very short notice and this is effectively the position employers are in with every employee all the time.

1. Your Employees are All Free Agents

Because all employees are able to “take their talents to South Beach” at any point in time, it is imperative that you exercise all avenues available to you to keep your team locked in.

2. Financially

Is your compensation package competitive? Are you leading the market? Lagging? You need to know and understand that money is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Compensation is not just base salary, it is cash bonuses, stock allowances, robust benefits packages, etc.

3. Lock in your star performers

You never regret paying a premium for star players, you only regret overpaying underperformers. Develop metrics around performance so you can clearly see who you’re comfortable paying and who you might be ok letting walk.

4. Socially

Human beings are social animals and unless you have office dogs or rescue animals or work in an old-timey circus, your employees are all humans. Cultivate a social fabric on your team that people won’t want to leave. Create collaborative opportunities as it creates for great ideation and exchanges of information, but it also creates bonds between coworkers. Create opportunities for employees to socialize outside of the office. Friendships are formed outside of 9-5, the more friendships that exist at work, the greater your employee retention will be.

5. Provide opportunities for progression

You will lose people if you do not afford them the opportunity to grow. Succession planning for superstars is key, involve them in it early. Give high performers growth opportunities even if they exist outside of your team/function. Having them in the company is better than not having them at all so be prepared to say ‘see you later’ instead of ‘goodbye’ when they join your Ops team instead of your competitor’s finance function.

6. Be OK letting friends go

Business is business and that means sometimes you’ll have to let people go; not everyone can be CFO. Provide open, honest feedback to everyone on the team, frequently. In doing so you will help set them up for success, even if that’s not with you.

Lebron did eventually say “goodbye” to Cleveland and he signed a 4 year deal with the LA Lakers which goes to show you that you can stave off free agency with top-level people by addressing financial, social, and growth paradigms; just don’t be surprised if he’s not still playing for the Lakers in 4 years; we haven’t talked about “pre-agency” yet. 

Remember that career progression and job satisfaction often overshadow job stability for most employees, especially your top performers. Employees are all free agents. Treat them as such.

What do you think? Leave us a comment below or contact Shane directly. For more career advice, job alerts and insights, sign up to our mailing list.


5 Steps to Close the Workaround Gap - Part 2/2

This is part 2/2 of the Workaround Gap series. Click here for the first part.

5 Steps to Close the Workaround Gap - Part 2/2

You know what a workaround is, right?

You have a problem, but you’re in a rush and don’t have time to figure out what’s causing it or how to fix it properly, so you find a quick fix until you can get to it later. Except you don’t usually come back to it later. Right? We’ve all been there.

The Workaround Gap

The Workaround Gap happens in your business when you keep using quick fixes for problems without solving for the real business need. You keep leaving the hard work for another day. If you do this a few times it’s ok. If you keep stacking workarounds on top of workarounds, you end up with a process that is the sum of your workarounds – which is usually a total mess!

Workaround Gap Chart

Common symptoms include:

  • Frustration, stress and ultimately employee turnover
  • Manual reports, rework and delays
  • Errors that lead to bad decisions
  • otherwise known as - Excel Hell!

So how do you get out of Workaround Hell?

Workaround Gap Steps summarized

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5 Steps to Help you Close the Workaround Gap

Step 1: Acknowledge you have a problem

 

An Excel 1999 icon sitting on a therapists chair

 

There may not be a Workaround support group (yet...) but always choosing the workaround solution without getting at the root cause is a symptom of a culture. And it usually starts at the TOP!

If you have a culture of quick fixes, then as the leader you need to consider your role in building that culture.

  • Do you ask questions about the process when faced with a problem?
  • Do you work to find the root cause?
  • Or do you react quickly, ask whose fault it is, and yell:

“Fix it - quick!”

If you want to change, let your team know this is not the culture you want, and you need their help to change it. Thank people who point out the problems with a "Quick Fix" approach. People need to trust that they aren’t going to get in trouble by pointing out problems.

 If you want to break a pattern, empower your people to call you out on it

 

Step 2:  Ask lots of Why Questions

CEO asking Why

 

When faced with a problem, most of us want to jump to finding solutions. Or find out who messed up!

But if you really want to understand the root cause of a problem - start asking questions. Find out what happened earlier that led to the error.

Focus your questions on why the process didn't work, instead of who made the mistake.

Let people know that they aren't in trouble - you want to understand where the process went wrong. Even if someone made an error, focus on the process that allowed the error to happen and not be caught.

 

Step 3: Map out the current process

Treasure map. X marks the spot.

Most process maps are done by a junior person interviewing people one at a time and trying to connect the steps in a complicated chart in Visio. They aren't very helpful!

What you really want to do is understand what the business is trying to do vs. what actually happens as transactions flow through the system.

Focus on the pain points and look for the root causes.

How do you do that? Bring the people who understand what you are doing & why into a room, and talk it out! Rough drawings on a whiteboard are just fine. Map out a function from end to end. It's not Sales vs. Accounting. It's order to cash and everything that happens in between.

The key here is that EVERY team involved in the process must have a rep in the room. Someone who can speak for that team and knows what’s going on.

You’ll be amazed at what happens when you do this. Everyone in the room quickly sees how ridiculous the current process is. Because most processes haven’t been consciously designed. Processes grow incrementally. They are the sum of good intentions + many workarounds stacked on top of each other. Usually with a team of junior people who are afraid to say anything filling in the gaps as best they can.

BAD PROCESS = good intentions + (workarounds x workaround) + staff + excel!

 

 Step 4: Categorize Your Pain Points

Pain points. Netflix Expiring. Bad Hair Day. Climate Change. Everything Hurts.

 

Next, focus on the Pain Points, identifying symptoms as well as root causes.

Look for quick wins to fix - these are not workarounds!

Small improvements can have an immediate impact and are great for building momentum.

Put the remaining improvements that need more work to implement into 3 buckets:

  1.  Systems issues - common ones include data integrity, system reports that don’t work, gaps in functionality, or systems that don’t talk to each other
  2.  Process issues - when invoices aren't processed on time, the sales forecast is missing the latest deals, the volume rebate cheques are wrong and never make it to the customer on time
  3.  People issues - staff don’t know why they are doing their piece of the process, people aren’t empowered to solve problems that start in other departments, teams are short-staffed, no training…..you get the picture!

 

 Step 5: Start Fixing!

Plumber holding a wrench near a leaky faucet

 

Now it’s time to prioritize the issues & opportunities.

You should already have an established process to execute on projects.

Use that - don’t reinvent the wheel. Start small, and then move onto the bigger the pain points.

  Start small - fix it, learn, and repeat

Often the biggest win is teaching teams how to COLLABORATE. Once the team upstream sees that their actions are causing problems for the team downstream, they will collaborate with their teammates to find a WIN-WIN approach that will work for both.

Empower your teams to solve their problems

Every problem does not need an expensive IT fix. So next time something goes wrong and there is a fire to put out - think about whether this is the WORKAROUND GAP at work - and use these 5 steps to start to fix it.

If you want to start fixing your Workaround Gaps and don't know where to start - connect with me and let's chat!

 

Workaround Gap Summary slide


Is your business stuck in Workaround Hell? Part 1/2

What is the Workaround Gap Part 1 of 2

The Workaround Gap happens in your business when you accounting team quick fixes for problems without solving for the real business need. You keep leaving the hard work for another day. If you do this a few times it’s ok. If you keep stacking workarounds on top of workarounds, you end up with an accounting process that is the sum of your workarounds – which is usually a total mess!

Here's a funny story my friend Joe told me when I first explained the Workaround Gap. I’m sure many of you have a similar story!

**************************************************************************

“I bought my “Honda Testarossa”- a 1985 Honda Accord from a smiling curbside dealer. I was in my early twenties and I needed a car to commute to school and work. Not a month later it started stalling every time I stopped at a light. 

Car broken down - caption "will this work"

My solution was to either switch into neutral and rev the engine or hold the brake and gas at the same time while stopped. (what could go wrong?!

This workaround only lasted so long before I had to pay a Honda dealer $800 (a small fortune for a student!) to rebuild part of the engine. 

 The car made it halfway down the road before stalling again!

 Furious, I managed to start the car, put it in reverse, reach up to adjust my rear-view at which time the “SNAP” of the mirror coming off in my hand made me freeze in place. I looked at my right hand holding the no-longer-connected mirror and registered the clattering sound of the engine DYING AGAIN!  

After screaming a few choice words that can’t be repeated, I had a moment of clarity:

"I began to understand that it wasn’t going to get better - just worse"

Even with my moment of clarity, it took another 6 months for me to get rid of the car!  I had to suffer even MORE PAIN before being willing to take action…the horn got stuck in the ON position before completely falling off, the glove box latch stopped working and the transmission had to be replaced.”

“if only I had known it would cost me thousands more I wouldn’t have kept the car so long”

**************************************************************************

I know what you’re thinking. Nothing he could do about it! Hindsight is 20/20.

But is it really?

If you took the time to really understand the problems, the likelihood they would happen again, and properly come up with a plan, you would avoid a lot of the trouble you get into over and over again!

*************************************************************************

 Your Workaround Gap 

So what does this look like at work? Here's a real-life story of a successful fast-growing company.

You start with one service or product and a few customers

  • The sales team gets selling, operations figures out how to deliver your product or service. Accounting sets up invoicing, and collections, pays the bills and you get a monthly P&L to see how much money you’ve made.
  • Nothing too complicated - right? You already know in your head how much your prices and costs are, so you know what you should be making roughly, and when you see your total P&L it confirms what you thought.

You want to grow, so you add some new products

  • Operations has to make changes to the equipment to accommodate the different skus you’re now making, but they make it work. After all - when new sales are on the line - it’s all hands on deck! Just duct-tape the new packaging machine that isn't working properly and figure it out later.
  • Customer service didn’t know about the new products till the first order went through, so they quickly enter the details into the accounting system last minute to get the invoices out. They copied the format of the previous products. Why does it matter that some of these products use more expensive components, or are Private Label?

Sales lands an amazing new customer - the first in the US! 

"Woo-hoo let’s celebrate!"

  • How much are taxes and duties crossing the border in the US? Don’t worry about that, figure it out later...
  • Just use the current exchange rate for now to set the price
  • A new customer wants some rebates to close the deal - a signing bonus, some volume rebates, and some promotional spending money. The rebates are on all the sales, including the private label. But you will still make a killing on the account because the margin on branded is so good, so let’s just get it done!

First 6 months of sales the results are amazing!

  • Lots of new revenue is getting booked, so when the monthly statements come in, nobody asks any questions because the $$$ is pouring in.
  • Let’s go get some more products and customers!

And repeat, repeat, repeat! What could go wrong?

To humorously show the accounting process in shambles.

6 months later….

  • Sales volumes still look good,
  • but gross margins are dropping.
  • Operations costs keep running higher than planned, and
  • profits are falling.....

The CEO runs around demanding more answers! 

"What’s going on?"

  • Every team is pulling excel sheets together digging for answers.
  • Sales is trying to find answers - the only problem is the rebates aren’t in the sales cube so their numbers are wrong.
  • The Finance team is working late trying to figure out why the margins are dropping - but the ERP system doesn’t track the products and costs in the right categories, and the volume rebates are all in complicated manual excel files.

And then your largest customer sends in a bill for all of last year’s rebates, ON TOP of your declining margins.

This is going to wipe out all the profit for the quarter.

You hear the CEO screaming again:

"WHAT IS GOING ON?!"

People are stressed, and can’t give answers, no matter how loud the CEO yells!

Boat sinking. Man holding sign asking to send help.

This is what happened: (it usually takes months to figure out)

  • New products weren’t set up in the right categories to track margin by product type and brand
  • You sold much more Private label than expected, so your product mix was worse
  • Private label margins were much lower than branded
  • Duties and taxes crossing the border weren't considered in the price
  • You based all our assumptions on the exchange rate at the time - and of course the USD weakened, so now your sales are worth less than planned
  • Sales and Finance didn’t talk to each other about the new customers, so volume rebates weren’t calculated and accrued properly from Day 1, leading to a giant catch-up adjustment a year later

These are just the process issues! What - there’s more?

On top of all this there are Systems Problems:

  • your ERP system can’t do any of the rebate calculations
  • you can’t track product margin by category
  • and your sales cube doesn’t include all the costs

Operations has a whole host of their own problems because of the sku complexity

  • they have built too much of the wrong inventory because sales forecasts are wrong,
  • your customers are screaming for products because you're late delivering,
  • so now as a last resort you are flying in products to make your customers happy
  • which is costing you even MORE money!

How did it all go so wrong?

When you look for the quick solution every time to keep going, and don’t work together across functions to solve problems with real processes.  The stacking of multiple workarounds makes this more and more frustrating as complexity increases.

Workaround Gap Chart

Common symptoms include:

  • Frustration, stress and ultimately employee turnover
  • Manual reports, rework and delays
  • Errors that lead to bad decisions
  • otherwise known as - Excel Hell!

The Finance team in growing companies is trying to support the company’s increasing demands and complexity. They have done their best with workarounds and repairs but they aren't allowed to pull over or even slow down.

Instead, leaders keep pressing the gas even harder as sales, marketing and operations increasingly demand more. My friend Joe likes to say:

"It’s like changing the transmission, screwing hubcaps on and rebuilding the carburetor while driving as fast as you can."

Obviously, you need to move with speed when necessary. But you need to know when the RISKS outweigh the benefits, and to actually make conscious choices about cutting corners.

Otherwise, you will find yourself driving down the highway in a 1985 Honda with a duct-taped steering wheel, holding your rear-wheel mirror in your hand, hoping the brakes still work!

So how do you get off the Workaround Highway-to-Hell? Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series next week:

5 Steps to Help you Close the Workaround Gap

Share Your Workaround Gap!

What’s the craziest workaround story you have? Share them in the comments below!

 

Read Part 2 of the blog post here on the five ways to solve your workaround gap problems


Financial Planning & Analysis: Not Just for CPAs

Shane GagnonShane Gagnon, Clarity’s Director of Operations in Vancouver, recently had a hunch that he decided to dig into. His hunch was that Canadian employers seem to have a tendency to hire CPAs over non-designated professionals (MBAs, CFA’s, undergraduate finance/business degree holders) within their Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) functions. This is in contrast to American companies where MBAs, and the like, seem more prevalent.

He recently pulled a random sampling of FP&A job descriptions from Indeed.com and 80% of them required CPAs. Are we missing out on great talent for our finance teams because we’re so focused on the CPA designation?

How many CPA/Accountants make up Amazon’s FP&A team? 22%

How about Telus (only 229 km’s away from each other)? A whopping 82%

But there’s more:

  • Telus has a CPA rotational program internally, they develop their people into CPAs, which helps explain why the number is so high
  • Loblaws has a CPA program too and their FP&A team composition is 83% CPA/accounting
  • Hudson’s Bay Company has no CPA program and as a landmark Canadian institution that is now an American company, they are quite interesting; their FP&A team is split between Canada and the USA. Only 10% of their American FP&A team has a CPA/Accounting background; in Canada it’s 91%
  • lululemon has shown some real willingness to hire outside the traditional background for their FP+A team (possibly due to years of non-Canadian leadership) and their team is still approximately 65% CPA

What is the role of Financial Planning and Analysis and is it crucial that we focus our recruitment efforts mainly on CPAs? Evolved FP&A requires business partnering to optimize decision making and drive results. Yes, there are cyclical, routine elements that are required of the job (budgeting, forecasting, etc) but the true power of the function is unleashing analytical people with quantitative skills (who also have an in depth understanding of finance) into the business to support the execution of operational agendas. Shane points out “there is nothing in that mandate that jumps out at me saying ‘this is why we should exclusively look at CPAs’”.

Mona Kennedy is the VP, Finance at Indigo and she has also noticed an incongruity with how we hire in FP&A, and what the actual role of the function demands. Traditionally, FP&A people have been “focused on budgeting and forecasting, variance analysis, and commentary, they’re not thinking about ‘how do I add value to the business’? What are the drivers and how do we help leaders make the right decisions?” Mona recognized that CEO/COOs without finance backgrounds are not always able to ask for evolved FP&A as they don’t necessarily know what the function can really do. It’s incumbent on finance itself to reinvent the function and demonstrate real value to the business.

“People in the business generally don’t want to hear from finance because they’re always coming around asking “Why are you over budget? Why are you under budget?” so reinventing our FP&A function was about freeing ourselves to automate and streamline the reporting aspect that was normally just expected of us and building real bridges with the business, showing them how we can truly add value to them and that, in large part, demanded us to open ourselves to hiring a different type of profile.”

Mona has found huge success hiring people who have come from MBA and M.Sc backgrounds, one of her favorite hires came from Sales. “Having a background in sales meant they had a real appreciation for the drivers of how a company actually makes money. That mindset has not only helped the business partners we serve but the rest of our team as well. When I am hiring for FP&A I look for business acumen above all else, an appreciation of EBITDA and what drives it. That is a skill set that you find everywhere, not just in CPAs.”

This embrace of moving FP&A to something more than it has historically been was echoed in a conversation Shane had with Oliver Piekaar, VP, Finance at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (NYSE: RBA, $3.66B Market Cap): “People look at the CFO and those that work under them as people that just create the financial statements that have to be submitted for compliance reasons. At a certain point though you realize that if you’re going to drive value for your organization you have to become more analytical storytellers who embrace data more than traditional CPAs that, by training, seek out certainty. You need great inputs of course, but you need to free yourself to be more curious and more aligned to the business to drive impactful results.”

To their credit though, Oliver points out that “CPAs have a desire for precision which can be  really valuable in FP&A. You are trained to trust but verify, and you have the ability to track the impact of events across all the financial statements. That is not always present in people coming from a non-CPA background which I take into consideration when hiring.”

Shane’s conclusion: “Certainly I’m not going to say MBAs are better and we should hire them instead of CPAs into FP&A teams, but I am going to say that we are doing ourselves a disservice in not giving serious consideration to building out our finance teams with non-CPA profiles. The CPA designation, across Canada, has a well deserved reputation for its quality. As a recruiter and a designated HR professional I can say that I have confidence in the quality imbued in a CPA charterholder in Canada. However, I do question our reliance on it as an indicator for quality in the FP&A space. Should we not be opening our eyes, and desk spaces, to those candidates with high level business acumen, analytical skills, and strong interpersonal abilities regardless of designation (if any)?”

The FP&A professional of the future combines the technical skill set of a business analyst (extract, manipulate, and package data) with the nuanced skills of a financial analyst (analyze the data and tell the story) and packages it with the business acumen of a more operational person in the company. Finding, or developing, those skills in people is very challenging which is why we can not afford to discount a large swath of the population when we are making our hiring decisions.

As we endeavour to build more great Canadian companies, FP&A can, and will, play a key role in ensuring their growth and success but we will hinder that growth if we can not satisfy the demand for talented people and we compound that challenge when we close ourselves off to people that don’t look exactly like what we have historically hired into the finance function.

What do you think? Leave us a comment below or contact Shane directly. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to be alerted to new job opportunities, salary guides, research and insights to keep you at the top of your game

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Finance Desk

Why Every Tech Startup Needs a Finance Team

Finance Desk

You have a great tech product or service and have been operating with minimal staff up to this point. But suddenly, things start to take off. You begin to realize that certain aspects of the business now command more of your attention and there is a noticeable lack of financial expertise on your team.

This is where hiring finance professionals is crucial. We’ve gathered some helpful information on what a top finance team can offer and what the most important steps are in building one.

What role does a  finance team have in a tech startup?

Finance teams take care of a variety of tasks to keep a startup running efficiently, including:

  • Payroll – ensuring employees get paid

  • Financing – fundraising processes/dealing with investors

  • Credit control – ensuring clients pay their bills

  • Cash management – overseeing accounts payable and receivable

  • Strategic planning – identifying the opportunities, risks, and associated costs of the business plan/model

  • Forecasting and budgeting – determining when the business could run out of funding

  • KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) – tracking and analyzing financial data

  • Equity and employee stock options – understanding what’s involved in equity and stocks

In addition to these traditional tasks, the role of finance teams is evolving. In a tech startup, they might also assist in areas such as optimizing cloud costs and conducting pricing analyses for new and existing products.

Why do tech startups need a finance team?

Aside from the  day-to-day tasks  a finance team performs, finance professionals  also bring with them specific talents that are crucial in the success of a startup.

A  CEO may understand the inner workings of the company and have a  handle on most financial aspects, but a finance team can help to tell the company’s overall story by laying out the details on paper. Data can be analyzed to create a big picture outlining the past, present, and future of the company or product. This is essential for ensuring the CEO’s decision making is well-informed.

A finance team will also be able to provide highly detailed financial reports which can aid in accurate analysis and comparisons from quarter to quarter. This can provide  answers to questions that may arise such as how much revenue can be expected in the first year or how much should be spent on marketing. This detailed data will also be important when reporting to current investors or working to bring new investors on board.

When do tech startups need to hire a finance team?

While there is no hard and fast rule on this, the short answer is as soon as possible. Many tech startups operate on a jack-of-all-trades basis with a few employees wearing many hats. This may work for a while, but as the business grows and the finance function becomes  imperative, a team of experts will be required to ensure the company’s growth and success.

To balance cash conservation while having an expert available, it’s a good idea to start small. . Hiring contract or part-time finance professionals can help get the ball rolling; they will be able to fine-tune any systems or processes that the company has already been using before a permanent team is necessary. As soon as the budget allows, tech startups should begin hiring full-time, permanent finance team members who can take the reins and steer the company in the right financial direction.

What should tech startups look for in a finance team?

The nature of startups tends to be intimate and familial with a small group of people going through various stages of growth together, making it important to find finance team members who will fit well within the already established culture.

Finance team members should also bring some specific qualities to the table, such as:

  • A professional accounting designation

  • The ability to originate and close deals (fundraising)

  • Expertise in building process and structure

  • Attributes that make them a trusted advisor (act as a partner)

  • Other skills/talents beyond finance (marketing knowledge, etc.)

  • Knowledge of the tech industry

  • The ability to see the big picture

Where can tech startups find top finance talent?

Whether a tech startup is in the beginning stages of its financial journey looking for contract or part-time finance staff or seeking a permanent finance team to lead the way, Clarity Recruitment can find top finance candidates to fit any startup culture.

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment, we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career or to partner with us to find your next perfect hire.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Soccer Team Huddle

Look to FIFA for Ways to Build a Stronger Finance and Accounting Team

Soccer Team Huddle
GGGOOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL! The FIFA World Cup is underway, and whether you’re a soccer fan or not, it’s hard to deny the excitement brought on by watching a match. The way players interact with one another, the common goal they’re trying to reach, and the energy of the fans are all major reasons why the sport is enjoyed by billions of people around the world.

Although finance and accounting work isn’t something the public is watching intently like a professional soccer match, there are several lessons from the sports world that can be learned and applied to the building of a strong, confident, and winning finance and accounting team.

It’s About the Whole Team, Not Just the Star Players

Successful soccer teams are built on the understanding that, while there may be more popular or more highly skilled team members, it’s important to focus on how the team works as a whole. Working with the strengths of each player helps determine where on the field they should be and what position will best suit them.

This can easily be applied to the finance and accounting world. Having a diverse team that offers a variety of strengths is an asset, and being able to leverage these different strengths to complete various tasks and reach certain goals will serve the company much better than simply focusing on one or two people who are considered stronger team members.

When everyone is given an equal opportunity to shine, it creates a more supportive, team-like atmosphere.
 

On the pitch, putting all of the effort into training and developing one or two star players could backfire if they all of a sudden are injured or are unable to play. Coaches are then left with a team that perhaps hasn’t been given the same attention as the star players, and the result could likely be a team that simply doesn’t know how to work together well.

This is a scenario that could very easily occur in any finance and accounting team that hasn’t been fully developed. If one or two finance and accounting team members are considered more important and have had the majority of development opportunities, should they choose to leave or have to take time off for personal reasons, the rest of the team might not have the tools necessary to pick up the slack.

Focusing on all team members equally, and taking advantage of their diverse needs and skills, ensures you have a more flexible team that can work as one, even if one or two members are missing or aren’t performing their best.

Read: Hungry for more sports examples? Check out “How to Build a Finance Dream Team” for some comparisons between an NHL hockey team and a finance and accounting team.

Practice Makes Perfect

This well-known phrase speaks to all kinds of teams, and can benefit soccer teams and finance teams alike. Individual team members need to practice their skills to ensure they’re sharp, but it’s also important for teams to practice working together. Building communication skills, expanding knowledge of programs and processes, and learning how to deal with both losses and wins are just some of the things teams must learn to do together.

Practice requires discipline. Just as soccer players must commit to a training regimen, finance and accounting team members must be willing to do what it takes to reach the team’s goals. That could mean carrying out certain tasks over and over until the results are where they need to be, or working to establish processes and procedures that will increase efficiency, for example.

Adaptability is also an important aspect of practicing. A soccer team might practice certain strategies consistently and know them perfectly off of the pitch, but once they’re really in the game, what happens when the strategies don’t work as planned? In the finance world, when a team thinks it’s solidified a process or timeline, and then something goes awry, it means everyone needs to go back to step one and identify a new plan of attack.

Read: “5 Factors That Separate Great Teams From Good Ones” to learn what else you can do to make your team shine.

Everyone Needs to be Accountable

Pointing fingers when facing a loss doesn’t help to solve anything, whether you’re a soccer team or a group of finance and accounting professionals. Instead, banding together and coming up with solutions to problems will help the team move forward and hopefully succeed the next time around.

When everyone on a team accepts that they are all equally responsible for the team’s successes and failures, it means that when one team member falters, their teammates will be there to help them back up. Members of successful teams rely on each other, and also understand that they must be willing to reciprocate the respect and support offered by their teammates.

Part of feeling accountable to a team is being committed to the overall goal or vision. Soccer teams want to win games and go on to win entire championships. Finance and accounting teams want to work effectively and efficiently, meet deadlines, and reach targets that have been set out for them.

Read: “Tips from Toronto Recruiters – Being a Team Player” for more insight on what characteristics help members contribute best to teams.

Communication Drives Success

Out on the pitch, soccer players need to know what their teammates are doing. No one can read minds, so communicating clearly is important when working towards a shared goal. Having open communication lines and learning how best to communicate with one another allows for mutual understanding and prevents any surprises that could cost a team their win.

In a finance and accounting office, communication is essential to ensuring mistakes are avoided and that everyone is doing their part to reach the team’s goals. Members of successful finance and accounting teams understand that following up with others is part of good communication practices rather than a micro-management issue, and that keeping each other informed is crucial to keeping projects on track.

Key Takeaways

  • Each team member has something to bring to the table.
  • Avoid focusing on one or two team members only, at the detriment of others.
  • Team members should be willing to fill in for one another.
  • Take advantage of each team member’s unique skills.
  • Teams need to practice constantly to be their best and learn from mistakes.
  • An adaptable team uses what they learn from losses to earn future wins.
  • Everyone on a team must be held accountable for successes and failures.
  • Commitment to a common goal helps team members feel accountable.
  • Communication is important in avoiding mistakes and knowing what to do next.
  • Successful teams strive to communicate as much as possible.
  • Team members must learn how best to communicate with one another.

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Diversity Group

How to Build a Better Finance Team Using Diversity

Diversity Group
The recent Pride Month celebrations got us thinking about diversity and its important role in any finance and accounting team. In the workplace, bringing together employees with different backgrounds like LGBTQ and/or various cultures, perspectives, experiences, and skills helps create a more dynamic, flexible, and adaptable team that will have a range of tools and qualities to solve any problem.

Pride originated as a protest, a chance for the LGBTQ community to have a voice when society was otherwise silencing them. As society became more accepting, the LGBTQ community members finally had the chance to show their talents and skills. The Pride movement began to expand into cheerful, supportive parades, events, and celebrations that are an inspiring reminder that when you encourage diversity, and truly embrace it, powerful things can happen. However, for diversity to truly work for a team, it helps to have the following ingredients.

Buy-in from the Top

Leadership support for diversity is integral to making it work. A recent study found that, many times, those in senior positions feel that they’re doing enough to successfully implement diversity; but this is often not as true as they may think. According to the results of the study, there is “a strong correlation between perceptions of inclusivity and overall leadership effectiveness”, which means leaders who are not seen as championing diversity often don’t leave the best impression with employees.

Leaders who aren’t open enough about inclusivity, who don’t challenge themselves and their teams enough when it comes to creating a diverse workplace, could ultimately be seen as failing in their roles. Continually looking for opportunities to add diversity to a team, and following through on implementing changes based on those opportunities creates a more positive workplace and a happier, stronger team.

Other research has shown that while employers say they feel inclusivity is important to a business overall, the fact is that around 53% of LGBTQ workers are not open about who they are because they aren’t confident that they’ll be treated the same as other employees when there are no actual anti-discrimination policies in place. Ultimately, this can affect a company’s bottom line.

According to a UCLA study, 92% of companies surveyed that had anti-discrimination policies say that those policies have a positive impact on annual sales, as well as lead to better recruitment and retention of top talent. Companies that don’t support LGBTQ inclusion could see a hit to their sales, considering the global LGBTQ consumer market is approximately $3.7 trillion, not to mention the market value of the community’s supporters.

The potential for happier employees, increased revenue, and a more positive work environment are important reasons why those in leadership positions should step up and take notice of opportunities for diversity and inclusion practices.

Pro Tip: “How to Retain Top Accounting and Finance Talent” for more insight on what keeps employees engaged.

Broad Application

A survey published in the Harvard Business Review found a correlation between companies that implemented diversity and company revenue.

Companies which hired more diverse talent had happier and more productive employees. This also had driven greater innovation in the teams and increased the profits, compared to the companies which were less diverse.

The survey found that “the more dimensions of diversity were represented, the stronger the relationship was (between diversity, performance, and profit)”, which indicates that while including some diversity initiatives is great, companies can benefit far more by including the broadest spectrum of diversity possible in their team.

Ways to do this include things like hiring strategies that remove bias, training programs for cultural sensitivity, communication techniques that allow open dialogue about cultural differences, and HR initiatives such as inclusive benefits for same-sex partners. Broad application of diversity initiatives should include aspects such as race, gender, age, sexual preference, education, and industry background.

“Fundamentally inclusion is about productivity. It’s about getting the most out of your workforce, it’s about letting your employees be themselves … which ultimately will improve their profitability and shareholder’s value,” said Suki Sandhu, the founder of INvolve, an organisation championing diversity inclusion in businesses in his interview with The Guardian.

Working with a trusted recruiter can help find candidates with different backgrounds, attributes, and skill sets that perfectly meet a company’s needs. Hiring diverse candidates will only benefit the team if an employer also has inclusion policies in place that will allow people with different backgrounds and experiences to feel comfortable and be able to express themselves fully.

Read: “5 Things to Think About Before You Hire a Finance Recruiter” for tips on how to find the right recruiter for your needs.

Consistency

Talking about wanting to be more diverse is just the first step in making it happen. If real action hasn’t been taken, the feeling of inclusion hasn’t been achieved. Once diversity initiatives have been identified and planned, leaders should take steps each day to follow through on the intention of those initiatives.

It’s not enough to simply implement something one year and then walk away feeling like that’s all that will ever be needed. Diversity and inclusion should not be a side project or simple discussion, it must become ingrained in the company culture in order for it to really make a difference and allow people to feel comfortable, open, and heard.

The world is ever-changing, and staying on top of movements and social shifts can give a company the competitive advantage when it comes to its diversity and how its commitment to inclusivity is perceived.

Read: “What 11 CEOs Have Learned About Championing Diversity” to learn more about what it takes to make diversity a real focus in an organization.

Employee Input

A diversity plan or strategy that is shared with everyone in the company can help get the ball rolling. Meetings can focus on what ideas are on the table so far, and can be a great opportunity to get input from all team members to ensure that everyone has a say and that they feel well represented.

When gathering team members to discuss diversity initiatives, try to channel some of the electric energy that is highlighted every year during the Pride Week celebrations to help them get excited about making strides when it comes to creating a more inclusive environment, a more open communication channel, and a more supportive team.

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure leaders champion the diversity initiatives and lead by example.
  • A leader’s effectiveness is strongly linked to fostering inclusivity.
  • Include as many dimensions of diversity in the workplace as possible.
  • Diversity can improve employee performance and increase the innovation.
  • A more inclusive environment can positively affect a company’s bottom line.
  • Work with a trusted recruiter to help find diverse talent.
  • Diversity initiatives require real action to make a difference.
  • Rather than treat diversity like a project, consider it part of company culture.
  • It’s important to stay up-to-date on the changing aspects of diversity.
  • Getting employee input on diversity lets them feel heard and respected.
  • Inclusivity means employees feel comfortable expressing who they are.

 

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


How to improve employee loyalty.

How to Build Employee Loyalty

How to improve employee loyalty.
For the most part, the days when an employee would spend 30 years with a company are long gone. Today’s millennial workforce, for example, do not hesitate to change roles if they are unhappy and an opportunity presents itself. What can an organization do to increase employee loyalty and keep their top performers on board?

Why Loyalty Matters
When people feel fulfilled in their role they’re more productive. This fulfillment is fueled, in large part, by a feeling that an organization values them and their work. This, in turn, is more likely to encourage them to stay with an organization, allowing a firm to grow its future leaders and invest in its talent. Constantly replacing top performers is a costly endeavor. Turnover impacts team morale, the departing employee takes their knowledge with them, and the financial cost to recruit and train someone new can equal a full year’s salary. Overall, it makes sense for an organization to build employee loyalty.

Autonomy
According to this article from the Harvard Business Review, “Autonomy may be the single most important element for creating engagement in a company.” Specifically, employee loyalty and engagement are increased by giving employees a sense of control. Balance this with accountability, and you have a winning combination for employee productivity

Confidence in Leadership
Employee loyalty increases when people have confidence in their leaders. Ensure that management communicates regularly with their direct reports and connects decisions to larger organizational objectives.

Individual Attention
Loyalty is greatly improved when employees receive individual attention designed to further their career goals and skill set. A strong mentoring program can be a great way, therefore, to keep your best talent. In fact, the relationship with a manager is a number one predictor of whether or not an individual will stay in the role, so make sure your managers regularly schedule one-on-one’s and that they are trained to inspire and share their expertise with their employees.

Fairness and Dispute Resolution
Managers must respond to concerns immediately with fairness. There should be a formal dispute resolution mechanism in place which is followed consistently. This fosters a sense of mutual respect, and makes employees more likely to accept the outcome of the resolution process.

Education and Equipment
One of the most common sources of employee frustration is the feeling that there is a lack of training or proper equipment to get a job done well. Make sure that employees feel supported, that adequate training measures are in place, and that they have the proper equipment or software to excel in their role. Employees who feel adequately supported by their company are much more likely to remain with an organization.

Paths to Promotion
If an employee understands the path to promotion they are more likely to stay on board. Allow employees to gain cross-functional experience. The more they understand the business, and all its moving parts, the more invested they will feel.

Tailor Benefits
A one-size-fits-all approach to benefits and compensation, isn’t always the most effective way to build employee loyalty. Individualize your benefits as best as you can to suit an employee’s personal drivers. While one person may value increased flexibility, another may be more financially driven. One option is to create choice within your benefits package. For example, employees can be offered a fitness stipend to spend as they wish.

Read: To learn more about how companies are using progressive strategies, including customizing benefits, to increase employee loyalty and retention, read “How to Retain Top Finance and Accounting Talent.

Key Takeaways
The more loyal your employees are, the more likely they are to stay and grow with your organization. Invest in your managers and ensure that they are trained to inspire and share their expertise. Make sure that employees understand the path to promotion and how their work connects to the larger picture. Balance autonomy with accountability and customize benefits to reflect an individual’s specific needs. Have a fair dispute resolution in place and provide your team with the education and equipment they need to do their job well. 

Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


How to hire Generation Z from Toronto recruiters

Tips from Toronto Recruiters: Generation Z

How to hire Generation Z from Toronto recruiters
Everybody is talking about how to attract, land and retain top millennial talent (Generation Y). There is, however, a new generation on the horizon and they differ in key ways from their predecessors.

Here’s what you need to know to get ready to hire Generation Z.

Who are generation Z?
While there are no precise dates associated with this generation, researchers typically use the mid-1990s to 2010 to define their age. Five years from now, they’ll represent 20% of the workforce. 

Some general trends regarding Generation Z:

  • Grew up during an economic downturn 
  • More risk adverse than Generation Y 
  • Value stability and routine more than Generation Y
  • Want a flexible workplace 
  • Need to see greater meaning in what they do – feel that they are making a difference
  • Even more technologically savvy than Generation Y
  • Share close relationships with their parents 
  • Value diversity 
  • Socially conscious generation

Tips for Recruiting Generation Z

A) Making a Difference
This group wants to feel like they are making a difference. Speak to any organizational policies and values that address issues in the larger community. You don’t have to be a non-profit to appeal to this generation, but it’s helpful if you’re an organization that strives to make a difference in your community.

B) Alignment
Generation Z wants alignment between their values and any role they apply for. This makes company culture particularly important when connecting with potential candidates.  Take the time to learn about your applicants and their values during the interview process.

C) Career Trajectory
Like millennials, Generation Z wants to understand the path to advancement. They value mentoring and constructive feedback. Firms that offer opportunities for personal and professional growth stand out to Generation Z.

Pro Tip: Connect the responsibilities of the role to the larger picture of the organization. This helps your candidates see the importance of what they’ll be doing on a daily basis.

D) Streamlined Hiring Process
Generation Z grew up with information at their fingertips and like millennials they are not patient with a slow hiring process. Take too long to interview them and they’ll likely move on to the next opportunity.

E) Transparency
Be honest about what the job looks like. Generation Z values transparency and honesty. Like Generation Y they are loyal to an individual, not a company, so make sure that managers build genuine relationships with their direct reports.

F) Compensation
Because many of them witnessed firsthand the impact of an economic downturn on their parents and grandparents, compensation is particularly important to Generation Z. Make sure that salary and benefits are in line with market expectations when making an offer. 

Read: “How to Make an Effective Offer of Employment” to learn how to land the candidates that could be difference makers for your organization.

G) Communication
Face-to-face communication is important to Generation Z, so schedule regular one-to-one meetings. In addition, they have a preference for working in small groups, so the quality of any team they join should be emphasized during the recruiting process.

Resource: Read this article to learn how to make your one-to-ones with employees more productive.

H) Respect
Soon there will be 4 generations in the workforce – baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z. Firms that foster a culture of respect and diversity are most likely to attract and retain top talent. Consider this quote from McKinsey and Company, “More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.”  

Read: For tips on managing a multigenerational finance team read, “How to Manage a Multigenerational Finance Team (and Not Go Totally Insane).”

Key Takeaways
Over the next 5 years more Generation Z candidates will be joining the workforce. Like their Generation Y counterparts they value mentoring, clear communication about their career path and opportunities for personal and professional growth. They crave stability and transparency in the workplace. They want to learn and are willing to work hard. Organizations that create a culture of respect will reap the benefits of a generation that brings with them innovation, creativity and a desire to collaborate.

Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Companies who don’t listen to employee feedback risk a disengaged workforce.

Why Companies Need to Listen to Employee Feedback

Companies who don’t listen to employee feedback risk a disengaged workforce.
Sometimes the truth hurts. In this case, ignoring employee feedback carries risks to employee engagement and the bottom line. In fact, if you want to attract, land and retain quality staff, a mutual exchange of constructive feedback is imperative. Here’s why companies need to listen to their employees, even if they don’t like what they’re hearing.

The Study
From January to June 2017 Leadership IQ surveyed over 27,000 executives, managers and employees. They asked several questions:

  • Did employees feel that the company openly shared the challenges it was facing?
  • Were managers open to suggestions for improvements?
  • Did leadership and the organization take constructive action based on employee feedback? 
  • Did the employee feel comfortable recommending the organization as a great place to work?

Some interesting correlations were observed that made it evident that organizations ignore employee feedback at their own peril.

Sharing Challenges
The study made it abundantly clear that transparency was critical in securing employee engagement. Fifteen percent of the employees surveyed felt that their organization openly shared challenges. Those same employees were 10 times more likely to recommend their employer than those who felt that their companies were not as open.

Leadership Matters
A leader who encourages suggestions for improvement can make a difference to employee engagement. One quarter of those surveyed felt that their leader was open to constructive feedback.  According to Leadership IQ, “they’re [also] about 12 times more likely to recommend [their company] as a great employer.”

Interesting note: Middle managers and executives were much more likely than others to feel that their leaders were responsive to feedback. The younger workforce were not as likely to feel this way. This poses a potential challenge to retaining a millennial workforce who value mentoring and the ability to voice their ideas.

Read: To learn more about what millennials need in a finance or accounting job, read, “Why Millennials Quit Their Accounting or Finance Job.”

Acting on Feedback
Three quarters of the employees surveyed said that, “good suggestions or valid complaints from employees never led to important changes,” and they were highly unlikely (only 4%) to recommend their employer to others. 

In comparison, 75% of the 25% of people who felt that their organization took action would encourage others to work there.

Interesting note: Those who worked for smaller organizations felt that suggestions from staff were more frequently incorporated into organizational change than those who worked for larger companies.

Tips for Retaining Staff
It’s a very competitive marketplace for attracting and retaining top talent. Progressive companies are listening to employee feedback and offering a company culture that acknowledges the need for work/life balance. If you want to retain staff:

  • Build flexibility into company culture
  • Adopt an individualized approach to benefits
  • Maintain a diverse workforce - According to McKinsey, “More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.”  
  • Create resource groups where like-minded individuals can meet and brainstorm ideas
  • Develop mentoring programs that help people grow their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses
  • Clearly lay out an individual’s path to career progression
  • Establish in-house training programs and offer funding for individuals to pursue professional development

Key Takeaways
There are risks for an organization that ignores employee feedback. It’s clear, for example, that employees who feel heard are much more likely to recommend their employer to others. As it’s incredibly competitive to attract and retain top talent in the current marketplace, it’s imperative that companies listen and take action on suggestions and complaints made by its workforce.

Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.