In today’s complex business environments, “cross-departmental collaboration” is more than a buzzword. Finance and accounting professionals are increasingly working with other departments as part of growing roles within their organizations, and they’re finding that such alliances are essential to company performance and career advancement.
Not only can collaboration push business strategies to new heights, but knocking down the barriers between people and departments can help companies overcome obstacles and encourage employees to build workplace relationships and reach their full potential.
Be sure to read: Business Collaboration: What Every Professional Needs to Know.
So what happens when finance and accounting teams venture down the halls and travel to different floors so they can interact with other coworkers?
They find out just how challenging it can be to work with the diversity of personalities and skill sets in their companies. At least that’s what CFOs said in response to a Robert Half survey. (See the infographic, below.)
Here are some of the reasons CFOs cited as to why it can be so difficult to navigate the cross-departmental hurdle — and some recommended solutions.
1. The range of personalities
Diverse personalities abound in every company. Whether it’s working with the IT team on a new systems implementation or discussing how to handle special transactions with department managers, members of the finance team can interact with all types of people — from extroverts to introverts, leaders to followers.
Solution: An awareness of different personality types — and a respect for each — is a critical component of collaboration. In fact, team diversity is often recognized as an important ingredient in invigorating workplace environments. Training in team building can help groups learn to interact with each other and find the positive strengths in all personalities.
2. Stressful situations
Workplace stress can be found throughout the company, but other departments likely won’t relate to the pressure of risk management and compliance regulations, for example, that accounting professionals face.
Solution: Take the initiative to provide positive feedback, strive to be a positive role model and be empathetic to the unique stressors facing your colleagues. Help cultivate an environment where employees feel respected and rewarded for their hard work, more connected to the company and committed to its success. A team lunch and recognition for good work wouldn’t hurt, either.
3. Conflicting deadlines
Some parts of the company aren’t likely to share the long hours required of finance professionals during tax season or the deadlines associated with the end of the fiscal year.
Solution: Information can go a long way to enlightening the rest of the company to your deadlines. As needed, consider using internal communications or the company Intranet to get out the word about the needs of the finance team during busy periods. Also make sure to keep your project teams updated on looming deadlines.
4. Different vocabularies
Finance and accounting professionals may explain the company’s earnings, payroll, budget preparation and reporting in a way that's very different from what audiences across departments understand.
Solution: Effective collaboration requires communication, which means you’ll need to convey financial information in terms that co-workers outside the finance department will understand. Honing your soft skills can help you with that, along with the following:
- Avoid the use of finance jargon
- Don’t assume people will understand even the most basic of acronyms, such as GAAP, COGS and FASB.
- Define terms in the language a non-finance person will understand.
- Use visuals, such as pie charts and graphics, rather than spreadsheets.
Finance and accounting professionals have a wealth of information and expertise to bring to cross-functional teams. Not only do they have technical expertise and skills in analysis and problem solving, but they also have business perspectives that others don’t have.
Others within the organization have ideas and talents to contribute as well, and when everyone gets together, that’s cross-departmental collaboration at its finest.
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Paul McDonald is senior executive director with Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Over the course of his 30-year career with the company, he has spoken extensively on employment and management issues based on his work with thousands of companies and job seekers.