Monday Management Minute: Four New Year's Resolutions for Accounting and Finance Managers

Quick! Look up from that spreadsheet. Do you see the calendar? 2014 is nearly here. Have you made your accounting and finance management resolutions? 

If not, here are a few ideas that can help you keep your team working smoothly together and feeling confident and performing at their best in the New Year:

New Year’s Resolution #1: Improve communication with your staff.

If you aren’t keeping your accounting and finance team in the information loop, they may feel disengaged — which can lead to low morale. They also might be in a fog about business objectives: One-third of chief financial officers polled for a Robert Half survey said their workers were not aware of the firm’s goals.

To improve communication, promptly alert employees about all company or departmental changes — especially if these will directly affect them. Check in regularly with everyone as a group and individually, and do so in person when you can. Also encourage staff members to ask questions and offer feedback. (You may find promoting two-way communication and maintaining an open-door policy can positively impact retention.)

New Year’s Resolution #2: Acknowledge your employees’ accomplishments.

Shining the spotlight on a team member who exceeds expectations not only encourages that person to keep performing at a high level, but also can increase morale, productivity and work quality throughout your entire staff. Just be sure praise is timely and specific, so it is meaningful. (If you work at a small accounting and finance firm, you’re likely already doing a good job of recognizing team members for achievements; if you’re at a larger company, there may be room for improvement.)

New Year’s Resolution #3: Support your team.

Many accounting and finance departments are having difficulty finding specialized talent to support business objectives. This situation is likely to be the status quo for some time to come, which means you’ll be leaning hard on your existing team in 2014 — especially top performers. However, your “MVPs” are often the least likely to complain or ask for help. Make sure you balance workloads so these workers don’t alert you to their job dissatisfaction through their resignation.

Your firm can’t afford to lose them or any other skilled worker to burnout. Let employees know it’s acceptable to ask for assistance with projects. And when you know heavy workloads and intense deadlines will converge, consider bringing in temporary resources. Extra support for your core team during an exceptionally high-stress work period can help bolster morale (and keep overtime costs in check, too).

New Year’s Resolutions #4: Identify and groom a successor.

Succession planning is important to the success and longevity of most any business, but it’s something few accounting and finance managers actively think about, according to a recent Robert Half survey. Most respondents said this process gets pushed to the back burner because they aren’t thinking about leaving the organization — yet.

And that’s the point: Someday, you will depart the firm to start a new chapter in your career or perhaps leave the workforce entirely. The coming year may not be the time, but it’s a good idea to start thinking now about who could take over your responsibilities in the future. It can take years to groom a successor. Meanwhile, you’ll be helping to develop a rising star, which also can benefit your organization in the New Year by keeping a top performer motivated to excel.