Being a finance manager is often stressful. You worry about the bottom line, finicky clients, an up-and-down stock market, ever-changing regulatory standards and a shifting IT landscape. Often relationship building isn’t even on your radar, regardless of the fact that the No. 1 reason people leave their jobs is because of their manager.
You’re in a unique position to be that perfect mix of boss and friend, if you can build strong alliances with individual staff members and help them strengthen connections with each other. Why? Here are the many advantages of solid relationship building in the workplace.
- Loyalty — It’s harder than ever to find talented accounting staff. According to Robert Half’s 2017 Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Report, 62 percent of the finance managers polled said their department is understaffed. Leaders need to hang on to their top performers, and this is made easier when employees feel a positive, personal connection with their team.
- Conflict reduction — Some friction is unavoidable in high-pressure environments like accounting and financial services. If people can talk honestly and diplomatically about what’s bothering them right at the beginning of a disagreement, they can de-escalate a potentially serious problem.
- Job engagement — Robert Half’s IT’S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.® report emphasizes the importance of workplace contentment for productivity and staff retention. Employees who have solid friendships with their managers and colleagues are much more likely to stay with a company — and to be more productive — than those who feel alone at the office.
- A positive work environment — In a workplace where people feel respected and welcomed, your staff will feel comfortable suggesting process improvements, taking smart risks and accepting new responsibilities. They’ll also be more likely to refer friends when there are job vacancies, leading to a strong candidate pool and making it easier for you to hire top talent.
Relationships are the grease that keeps the wheels turning in any team. However, you can’t take it for granted that friendships will arise naturally just because people work with each other. Building bonds takes effort, and management plays a role in this process. Here are some ways you can foster camaraderie within your organization.
1. Take people to lunch
You have to spend time with people to build a relationship with them. This may be hard to do in an office environment, where computer screens and ringing telephones remind everyone of the work to be done. So get away from all those distractions by treating individual employees to breakfast, coffee or lunch. Ask questions and let people talk about themselves, their work and their family.
2. Promote sociability
A team that plays together often works well together. Encourage employees to get to know each other outside of an office setting by planning fun activities. Some ideas include bowling, laser tag, Frisbee golf, cooking classes or trivia night at a pub. Add a layer of corporate social responsibility to team building by volunteering to plant food gardens or pack holiday meals for needy families.
3. Support professional improvement
Training and development is vital for all staff, especially forward-looking millennials. Educational sessions are also a great way for you to build relationships with your staff, as the process starts with a conversation. What are they passionate about? Where do they want to take their career? What areas of hard or soft skills would they like to shore up? Talking openly about such things strengthens connections, and helping workers achieve their goals engenders trust and loyalty.
4. Encourage interactions
Your office is likely populated with boomers, Gen Xers and millennials. Help lead your multi-generational workplace and break down potential barriers with creative techniques that promote training and in-house networking at the same time. Send small groups of colleagues to conferences together and encourage them to brainstorm ways to make your department run even more efficiently. Mentoring and reverse mentoring are reliable ways to transfer knowledge among workers of different ages. Cross-training and job shadowing also encourage in-depth conversations about work and life.
5. Communicate better
Every interaction with an employee, regardless of the nature, affects your relationship. How you communicate can strengthen or weaken this bond, so make sure your words — verbal and written — are coming across effectively. Doing so may require you to tailor your communication, both the frequency and method, to individual workers. For example, your Gen Z staff may want continuous in-person feedback, while the Gen Xer is happy with occasional check-in meetings by phone.
Finance executives have plenty of business challenges to keep them occupied. At the same time, don’t overlook the value of genuine relationship building. Strong workplace friendships won’t solve all your problems, but they are a major factor in creating a dynamic, motivated and productive team.
Read The Do’s and Don’ts of Firing a Friend and find more management advice from Robert Half.