February 19, 2020 Last updated March 11th, 2020 278 Reads share

How Happiness Impacts Retention: 3 Ways to Give Back to Your Finance Team

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Everyone has bad days on the job, but there’s a difference between a few off days and complete disengagement. According to recent research from CNBC and SurveyMonkey, one-third of U.S. workers say they’ve seriously considered leaving their job in the previous three months. And that’s not just because employees think they can find a higher paying job elsewhere; in many cases, they’re unhappy with the company culture and work environment.

Employee happiness is directly connected to a strong sense of purpose within the company. Understanding what drives happiness for your team is an important first step toward creating a positive corporate culture that motivates and retains employees.

One of the most important groups to keep happy is your finance team. As finance roles directly contribute to strategic planning and innovation, the team’s satisfaction certainly impacts your business’s overall success. And because finance employees have so much access to data insights, they can be valuable players when it comes to driving strategy, determining areas where your company could pivot strategically, or reallocating resources.

Focusing on Your Finance Team

Finance and accounting work is stressful by nature and regulatory and business demands constantly keep team members on their toes. This can be good at times — especially if it encourages a collaborative and cooperative mentality. But when the team’s stress levels reach an extreme and remain constant for an extended period of time, employee satisfaction suffers, and there’s an increased risk of burnout.

Time is a limited commodity for many departments, but especially for finance. Finance departments deal with many manual processes and operations — such as account reconciliation and variance analysis — that drain time that could be spent on other high-priority tasks. With about 80% of manually generated spreadsheets containing mistakes or information gaps, your team must constantly track down discrepancies and fix errors. Cumbersome workflows (double-entry bookkeeping, for example) mean that even standard processes can differ between teams, which potentially translates to hours spent on repetitive work.

The core functions of your financial team include bookkeeping and managing accounts receivable and payable. Traditionally, this work has been manual: For example, the team creates an entry for every item of business revenue or expenditure, and it tallies the accounts together at regular intervals. Plus, the traditional processes of issuing and tracking invoices are also inefficient, not to mention prone to user error.

Although ensuring your business pays its bills properly is one of the most important finance functions, it’s also one of the most time-consuming. Accounts payable processes can involve up to half a dozen distinct steps, delays, and bottlenecks, which can frustrate your team enough to impede its happiness and sense of well-being.

The Future of Finance

That doesn’t mean there isn’t good news for finance and accounting departments.

As technology evolves, there’s more opportunity to implement automation. That’s how finance departments can decrease manual account reconciliation as well as general ledger accounts. According to a study by Robert Half, 65% of U.S. firms report they reconciled fewer than 100 general ledger accounts at least quarterly in 2019, which was a three-point increase over 2018.

Implementing automation can be expensive and time-consuming, but it’s worth it for organizations that are willing to make the investment. With automation, tasks such as invoicing and report generation — which used to take hours, or even days — can be wrapped up in minutes. These types of changes can have an extraordinary impact on finance teams’ morale, as they feel more able to allocate time to tasks that better utilize their skill sets.

Although technology has created many opportunities for streamlining financial tasks, it has also created more risk for fraud and other nefarious activities. Increasingly, companies are locking down their security and ramping up their compliance. According to the same Robert Half study, most leaders expect their firm’s compliance burden to increase in the following three years, and only 2% expect it to subside. In addition, regulatory changes seem to happen daily, which makes it difficult for finance and accounting teams to keep up.

3 Ways to Increase Your Finance Team’s Happiness

It’s impossible to manage every element contributing to employee happiness, but it is possible to create conditions at your company that can help increase positive feelings toward work. Here are a few ways to give time back to your finance team and up its job satisfaction:

1. Provide Growth Opportunities

Employees are happiest when they’re learning and growing on the job, and they want to use the latest and best tools to help them perform. That includes knowing how to properly understand data, analyze it for actionable insights, and leverage conclusions in day-to-day processes.

Invest in development opportunities for your team, whether that’s by subsidizing continued education, providing on-site training camps, or incorporating education into company meetings or events. Though this does involve a time and resource investment, it will pay dividends in decreasing workplace stress, boosting company morale, and keeping your finance department running smoothly.

2. Embrace Advancements in Technology

Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, there are myriad ways to automate your finance team’s workflows — but they do require that you take the time to research, invest in, and implement solutions. The more you can take away mindless, easily automated tasks from your finance team, the more time you free up for it to contribute strategically to your business’s success. That keeps the team happier and helps all your employees work more efficiently.

A focus on technology is also advantageous to you when hiring new talent. Candidates find it very attractive to have the opportunity to contribute strategically to the team’s success (rather than just crunch numbers and run reports all day).

3. Foster a Culture of Collaboration

As in personal relationships, good communication is the key to a happy and peaceful work environment. Employees need to feel they can share their thoughts and be heard and understood by leadership. They also need to know that they can work with their teammates — even across departments — to collaborate and solve problems. This is certainly true for finance teams, especially as their roles become more complex and collaborative. By helping them develop strong relationships throughout the organization, you’ll build a team with the ideal mix of skills and experience that can deliver optimal outcomes.

To do this, give your finance team opportunities to work with other departments. For example, maybe it just produced a report and point-of-view document on areas of improvement for your company processes based on data. Give the team a chance to present those findings to other groups, and consider having breakout sessions with small groups of employees from different departments. Everyone can help brainstorm solutions.

Conclusion

Employee satisfaction should always be a concern for leadership, but a particular focus on your finance team can pay off. Finance roles are already extremely manual and stressful. In order to retain finance employees, it’s vital that you help automate their tasks, allow them to flex their strategic muscles, and encourage communication and collaboration with the rest of the team. When your finance team is happy and productive, so is the rest of your company.

How do you secure more time in the day for your finance department? Let me know in the comment section.

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Sarah Spoja

Sarah Spoja

Sarah Spoja is the chief financial officer at Tipalti, a payments automation software that helps businesses manage their entire supplier payments operations by streamlining all phases of the AP and payment management workflow in one holistic cloud platform. Sarah joined Tipalti from KKR Capstone, where she worked with portfolio companies in the finance and retail sectors; prior to KKR, she worked at Bain & Company in Boston and Sydney. She earned a Master of Business Administration from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a Master of Arts in mathematics and economics from William College.

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