How All Finance Leaders Can Help Shape Corporate Culture

By Robert Half January 11, 2018 at 5:00pm

Corporate culture is a powerful thing. A lackluster or negative culture drives top talent away. An inspiring and positive culture attracts it and motivates teams to perform at their best. And when workers are happy in their jobs, they are more likely to become brand ambassadors for their employer, helping to influence public perception of the company’s products, services, mission, values and much more. That, in turn, helps the firm to build a reputation as an employer of choice.

Finance leaders can play a pivotal role in helping to shape their company’s corporate culture — and they should seek out and embrace that opportunity. Yet only about half (51 percent) of the CFOs interviewed for a recent Robert Half Management Resources survey said they are involved in that process. Nearly a quarter (22 percent) said they don’t contribute at all.

As a finance leader, where do you fall on this spectrum? If you haven’t paid much attention to your role in shaping corporate culture before now, you may want to consider making it one of your top responsibilities moving forward. Senior finance executives can help to build and champion corporate culture by defining (or refining, when necessary) the company’s core values and the way they translate into — and form the foundation of — the firm’s culture.

Get others thinking about corporate culture

One way to reinforce corporate culture is by helping employees feel more connected to it, and to see the company’s values and principles in action every day. If your corporate culture is one of openness and transparency, for example, you could take a more active role in improving communication about the health of the business by sharing details of financial performance and failures. If your culture emphasizes teamwork, celebrate successes so that all staff members understand how their work is having an impact.

Also, find ways to drive executive collaboration around corporate culture. While a company’s culture may evolve on its own, to a degree, executives can set the tone and provide direction for how it evolves. Kick off the discussion at senior management meetings by asking, “Are we happy with our current workplace culture?” or “What exactly is our workplace culture?” The answers to these questions could be a wake-up call that management should be doing more to modify, or strengthen, the prevailing corporate culture.

Here are three other ways you can make an impact on corporate culture as a finance leader:

1. Keep corporate culture in focus during the hiring process

When reading resumes and interviewing candidates, look for more than just technical abilities and financial knowledge. Identify professionals with top-notch soft skills. Also, try to make sure that every new hire is someone likely to support the company’s core values. For example, if your business has made innovation a top priority, hire professionals who can build processes designed to spur new ideas.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn't hire individuals who will challenge the status quo when appropriate; you’re looking for people who can readily understand what drives your company forward and are keen to help the business achieve its goals.

2. Help your employees build their careers

Does your corporate culture emphasize professional development and growth? If so, is leadership making that clear to employees and helping them visualize their future at the firm? Like many companies, this might be an area where your business needs to step up its efforts. In a recent Robert Half survey, 40 percent of professionals said their managers never discuss their career paths with them. However, 37 percent of workers interviewed said they would like to discuss their career paths at least quarterly, and another 45 percent want to review their options annually.

Become known as a manager who touches base with staff on a regular basis to make sure they’re still satisfied with their job and future options. Not only help them set steps toward their career goals but also make it easier for them to reach those milestones by connecting them with technical training and leadership development in preparation for senior roles. In words and deeds, let them know that they have a real future within your firm and that career advancement is a core part of your culture.

3. Lead by example

A company’s culture is largely the product of its history and its past leaders — but it is always evolving. As a finance leader, you can, and should, take an active interest in reinforcing the positive elements of your company’s culture so it continues to grow and become stronger.

You can do this by “living” your corporate culture and setting a good example for your team. Show pride in your organization, acknowledge the work of others, build positive workplace relationships with colleagues in other departments, and more. Small but powerful everyday actions like these can help to create a work environment where positivity and productivity flourish — the type of corporate culture that any talented professional would want to be part of.

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