Don’t Leave Accounting and Finance Staff Puzzled: Explain Their Impact

By Robert Half on September 23, 2016 at 2:08pm

Managers: You expect your accounting and finance staff to deliver the best work possible and help the company to succeed. But do you know if every team member truly understands how his or her contributions have a direct impact on the firm’s bottom line?

There’s a strong chance that many of your employees aren’t making this important connection. A survey by our company found that more than half of professionals (53 percent) wish they had more insight on how their day-to-day duties make a difference to the organization.

Gen X employees feel the most disconnected

The survey’s findings also point to a potential staffing management issue that many employers will want to move swiftly to address: Only 38 percent of professionals who are 35 to 54 years old — essentially, the Generation X demographic — said they see a direct correlation between their efforts and the company’s performance. This compares to 44 percent of employees who are 18 to 34 years old (primarily millennials — Generation Y and Generation Z) and 59 percent of workers over the age of 55(baby boomers).

Given that many Gen X workers are now serving in leadership roles, this disconnect could ultimately hurt a company’s bottom line if it is left to fester. Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, says, “It’s concerning that so many workers who are 35 to 54 — a group that often serves as managers and top executives — lack a complete understanding of how their responsibilities help their organization’s bottom line.”

Hird also notes that when workers have a sense of connection, they are more engaged, make better spending decisions and can identify new ways to increase productivity and growth.

However, interestingly, the survey also found that only about half (51 percent) of respondents from the 35 to 54 age group said they would like more insight on how their work makes an impact.

Why not a higher percentage? It could be that Gen X professionals in some organizations do not have someone working above them who could provide this perspective. Others may not be comfortable asking their manager to provide such insight, as they might be concerned that admitting they do not completely understand how their work makes a difference will somehow reflect poorly on them.

All accounting and finance staff must be able to visualize how their work fits into the ‘big picture’

Even though millennial and baby boomer employees appear to have an easier time connecting their contributions to the bottom line, the survey findings show that managers need to do more to ensure that workers across all demographic groups in their organization understand how their work adds value. And failing to prioritize these efforts could have a negative impact on the business, according to Hird.

“Managers who do not have regular conversations with staff about how their work affects the company are missing a major opportunity to develop ideas for improving the business,” he says.

Good communication from management is essential to ensuring that accounting and finance employees know how they as, individuals, are making a difference at the firm. With that in mind, here's some advice for helping employees better understand how they make a difference:

Discuss company performance and goals with staff members at all levels.

Sharing this knowledge directly can also inspire workers to boost their own performance.

Find ways to keep the dialogue going.

Staff meetings, performance reviews and regular check-ins all provide opportunities for managers to communicate how individual employees’ contributions benefit the business.

Accounting and finance leaders should also seek out external perspectives as a way to benchmark their team’s performance and learn best practices from other firms. Executives can check in with their networks and with consultants to see how managers at other companies are communicating with their staff members about their contributions. Tapping outside resources for insights can yield ideas from a diverse set of organizations.

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