The responsibility for the success of the team starts with the coach, who develops the plan that is then executed by the players — who are extremely well-prepared.
In a 1993 interview with the Harvard Business Review (HBR), former San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh was asked how he achieved “quickness and responsiveness” in his teams. The quote above was just part of his response. But it is a significant statement. As the HBR article notes, Walsh’s focus on developing “long-range strategic and personnel plans” for the 49ers from the moment he joined the organization in 1979 helped him create a powerhouse team that won three Super Bowl titles during his tenure.
Building an all-star finance and accounting team for your business also requires a solid game plan. With a well-thought-out staffing management strategy, you can complement the abilities of your current MVPs, and give them the support they need to deliver their best performance. You can also identify and address skills gaps that could undermine your finance function’s ability to meet critical deadlines, keep clients satisfied and generate new business.
When developing his personnel strategy, Walsh, according to HBR, “focused on what other coaches had considered the minutiae of the game: minute-by-minute choreographing of practices, breaking down individual and group tactics into parts, and defining responsibilities and setting objectives for both players and coaches.” You may not need to get this detailed when creating a game plan for your accounting and finance organization (although it can’t hurt!). But do consider applying the following five strategies as part of your process:
Strategy #1. Conduct a talent audit
Step back and assess your current team members to determine their strengths. Don’t just consider technical skills. Think about your employees’ interpersonal abilities and leadership potential, too. Public speaking skills, business acumen and effectiveness in collaborating with people inside and outside of your department are all qualities that deepen your finance function’s bench strength. A thorough assessment of each player’s talents can also help to inform your succession planning efforts for your organization.
Strategy #2. Identify critical gaps in your roster
Once you fully gauge your existing staff’s abilities, think about what roles and skills you’d need to recruit to create a high-performing and well-balanced “dream team” for your finance function. To fill critical gaps, would you need to hire more full-time staff? Could you train and develop promising employees? Or would it be better to engage specialists and experienced consultants? Depending on the needs of your business, you may find you need to employ all the above staffing strategies. (See Strategy #4.)
Strategy #3. Determine how long you will need certain skills
Your staffing management strategy should be designed to be flexible. It must stretch and contract with ease and speed as workload demands fluctuate. That’s why it’s important to differentiate between project-based and ongoing needs when creating your game plan. For example, if your firm pursues a merger or acquisition, or an IPO, you might need to hire specialized consultants to help guide the business successfully through these big change events. On the other hand, entering a new market or taking on a major new account might require you to expand your roster of full-time accounting and finance employees.
Strategy #4. Know how to compete for top talent
When you extend job offers to in-demand candidates, start with salaries that are at or above market rates — and be prepared to negotiate if needed. (You can use our Salary Calculator to quickly determine compensation ranges in your market for accounting and finance roles you’re trying to fill.) Your game plan for recruiting top players should also include publicizing the compelling perks your company offers, such as a work-life balance program.
Strategy #5. Keep top performers from jumping ship
Savvy managers know they need to put as much effort into retaining top players as they do to recruit them. So, your staffing management strategy should include tactics for keeping MVPs motivated to stay with your organization for the long term. Clearly mapping milestones for career achievement and offering professional development opportunities are just some ways to keep your employees engaged and satisfied on the job.
Creating a winning staffing management game plan for your accounting and finance team requires a lot of careful thought. Even then, there’s no guarantee that every staffing decision you make will be the right one. You’ll also need to adjust your strategy over time, as your organization changes and faces new challenges. But having a plan is better than no plan at all.
As Coach Walsh told HBR in 1993, “You need to have a plan even for the worst scenario. It doesn’t mean that it will always work; it doesn’t mean that you will always be successful. But you will always be prepared and at your best.”
Great teams don’t just happen — they’re built
Looking for more ideas on how to build a strong team for your accounting and finance function? Download Robert Half’s free guide, Creating & Managing the Dream Team, for tips on how to identify the working styles of elite players, manage different personality types with the right approach, and leverage effective management techniques to be an even stronger leader.