UK organisations are holding themselves back by failing to recognise the strategic importance of their finance teams, writes Michael Richards
Finance teams are one of the key elements of all successful businesses and organisations. As well as keeping company finances in check, financial professionals play their part in shaping the direction and future growth of a business.
With this in mind, it seems surprising that as many as 60 per cent of finance professionals feel undervalued within their organisation, with more than half (53 per cent) feeling they don’t get the same respect as colleagues working in other departments.
Both of these statistics come from a recent piece of research undertaken by webexpenses which interviewed more than 500 finance professionals across the UK.
One of the key factors behind these findings is that finance teams are constrained by long-held, established practices that often consume their time and restrict their ability to influence the bigger picture, such as processing expenses claims and other financial data.
Based on these findings, it is important for businesses to think about how they can unlock the potential of their finance professionals and build a more motivated team that has the time and freedom to add value to their organisation. It could be that finance directors and managers can achieve this by following a few simple steps.
Firstly, giving the members of a finance team a sense of empowerment can really boost their perceptions of themselves and enable them to demonstrate the value they add to people around them. Staff need to be given the chance to see the tangible difference that they can make to a business.
A useful exercise which has worked well for some organisations is to offer junior staff the chance to run and manage a project on their own, and take responsibility for this going forward. For example, an FD might give a finance assistant the chance to manage a cost-saving project. This could be anything from an audit of company production costs to something as simple as an audit of company expenses.
As well as auditing certain procedures and company outgoings, giving people the power to act on their findings and implement change can go a long way to making them feel valued.
Another important aspect of developing a happier and more productive finance department is to help its more junior members play a more strategic role in a business’ operations. According to the webexpenses research, more than half (53 per cent) feel that they are rarely seen as a strategic part of the business. In fact, 28 per cent said that having to deal with other people’s simple finance problems, was their biggest daily annoyance and drain on their precious time. Being time poor means that they have little to contribute to the bigger picture due to the day-to-day tasks that require immediate attention.
Again FDs and CFOs need to support their teams to ensure they avoid becoming embroiled in the day-to-day and are given the opportunity to play a more strategic or ‘bigger picture’ role within the company. One way of solving this problem may be to invest in companywide automation when it comes to financial processes – expenses management being one of these. By freeing up the time of financial professionals, you are effectively allowing them to make better use of their time on a strategic level.
What’s more, according to the research results, up to 40 per cent of the people who responded to the survey said that they could save their company over £10,000 a year if they were given greater time and autonomy away from the day-to-day. If multiplied by the number of UK businesses, this is a substantial saving for the UK economy.
Saving time and money are two of the main principles behind the webexpenses cloud-based expenses management platform. By having the ability to automatically process and harvest expense data at the click of a button, finance professionals can keep a close eye on expenses whilst also having more time to dedicate to strategic matters.
By automating day-to-day processes, empowering finance based staff members and giving them the opportunity to produce rewarding and tangible results, UK organisations will ensure that they have a more happy and productive finance department. If achieved, this could help all companies lay solid foundations for growth and future success.