Talent Management: How to Supercharge Your Finance Team

There are two general schools of thought in supercharging a high performance team. One is to develop people organically. The other is to hire high performers and ‘retire’ the low performers.

 
According to some sources, hiring can cost from 40% to 150% of an employee’s annual salary. By far the cheaper of the two options is, therefore, to retain your current talent and work to enhance their leadership skills.
 
Below are some high impact and low cost ways to develop the next generation of finance leaders.
 
Knowledge
The motivational speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once said: “You are the same today that you are going to be in five years from now except for two things: the people with whom you associate and the books you read.”
 
Grant Cardone, International Sales Training Expert, claims that the average person reads one book per year while the top performing CEOs read 60 books per year.
 
Books provide the highest ROI when it comes to knowledge. Therefore, if you want to develop a high performing team, the best thing you can do as a leader is to offer them knowledge by way of books.
 
My own personal list of must-reads include:
  • 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller
  • QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability in Work and in Life by John G. Miller
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • The Go-Getter: A Story That Tells You How to Be One by Peter Bernard Kyne

 

If you have a large team, develop a library. A great place to start is the book list at personalmba.com by Josh Kaufman, who has developed an outstanding list of the best business books available.

 

Put the library on display where it is easily accessible. Don’t implement an onerous checkout process as some organizations do. If books ‘disappear.’ consider that a small price to pay for upgrading your talent level.

 

Ask your staff to develop short book summaries and include answers to at least the following questions:

  • What are the top 10 key concepts from the book?
  • Are there additional ideas/points the author missed?
  • How are the author’s ideas applicable to our team?

 

Finally, find a way to motivate your staff to really push themselves. Why not announce a competition for who can read 52 books in a single year? Give away an iPad as a reward. Nothing motivates like healthy competition.

 
Soft Skills
Aside from an increase in general management knowledge, leaders generally excel at soft skills.
 
An easy and inexpensive way to develop soft skills within your staff is to introduce them to Toastmasters, a non-profit educational organization open to all people ages 18 and above who wish to improve their communication skills. Membership is typically in the US$20 to US$50 per year range.
 
Members meet once a week for 60 minutes and give planned and impromptu speeches. As they work their way up through the various levels, there is a sense of accomplishment. The results are outstanding: increased confidence, communication ability and leadership skills.
 
Starting a local chapter is easy; all that is needed is a group of dedicated people who are willing to start. Finding a club is even easier: visit toastmasters.org and search by city.
 
Other Ideas
There are many other ways to help your people develop their skills, some of them in the context of the workplace. Here are some more ideas:
 
Vendor demonstration. Set aside a day or a week as a one-time event or even a regular monthly one to have a new vendor come in and demonstrate their product. Put a different employee in charge and have everyone think through questions that need to be asked. How would this product work in our environment? What are the barriers to implementing this type of product? What type of efficiency gains would we see if we used this product?
 
Informal management letter. If you are in a large organization, your team may not get a chance to directly interact with the leaders very often. But if your team is going to be transformed into a high-performing organization, high touch points will be needed. An informal management letter (weekly or monthly) from you may provide your people insights into how the strategic direction is being implemented.
 
Informal offsite breakfast. Having formal monthly, quarterly or annual events is great but don’t let those events stand in the way of spending time outside of work with your team members to mentor them. Breakfast is generally the cheapest meal and breakfast meetings are a great, time-boxed way to begin the day.
 
Informal lunch session with top leaders. Having leaders from other parts of the organization spend time with your team is a great way to develop leadership. Ask the CEO or a board member to host an agenda-less lunch session with selected staff members.
 
Summary
Developing a high performing finance team doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. By using high-impact and low-cost ways, you can grow your group and develop the next generation of finance leaders.
 
About the Author
Jonathan Collins writes the blog CFO Newsletter, where this article first appeared. He is a senior manager for KPMG China in Hong Kong. Combining a passion for finance and accounting, an enthusiasm for business improvement and deep experience in technology, Jonathan specializes in turnaround and improvement efforts for CFOs and CIOs. He can be reached at [email protected].
 

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