What CFOs know about employee productivity and awareness of strategic objectives

16 Sep

Financial Ops magazine

By Juan David Romero

September 5, 2013

Ideal employees understand. Ideal employees shake themselves out of bed every day and head to work because of you. Ideal employees value you and your company. They have an enlightening awareness of that nurturing connection that has kept them in tune with your workplace ambitions since the day you shook hands, forging a long-lasting partnership, maybe even a friendship.

Well, that’s ideal employees. But to fulfill that role, they need a little help from their supervisors and the company’s leadership. According to a recent study, approximately one-third (34 percent) of chief financial officers said their employees are not very or at all aware of their firm’s strategic objectives.

The study was based on a survey by Robert Half Management Resources, which provides senior-level finance, accounting, and business systems professionals on a project and interim basis. Researchers surveyed more than 2,100 CFOs from companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

In the study, CFOs were asked, “In your opinion, how aware are your employees of the company’s strategic goals?” Thirty-five percent of executives from companies with 20 to 49 employees said their teams are not aware of the firm’s objectives, compared with  just 9 percent of respondents at the biggest organizations, those with 1,000 or more employees.

For many executives, especially at smaller companies, this might be more than a challenge. Keeping your employees informed and actively engaged in pushing forward on your vision is time-consuming, and time is money — money that smaller, more local businesses often don’t have.

Regardless of the size of the company, its leaders — including CFOs — should regularly communicate the organization’s strategic goals, says Paul McDonald, senior executive director with Robert Half. “Some effective internal communications vehicles include in-person meetings, town-hall sessions, videos, memos and Web-based trainings.”

McDonald says there’s no particular one-size-fits-all formula.

“It’s about ensuring employees understand how their work and specific daily efforts support the company’s bigger strategic vision,” he says. “Understanding that their efforts are making a difference — that they’re moving the needle — is the key.”

Think of it as an expense-turned-asset, Google type of attitude. You’ve heard of the Googleplex at Silicon Valley with its ping-pong tables, billiards, foosball, swim-in-place swimming pools, bean bags, comfy chairs, fountains, mood lights, and free healthy organic food.

It’s all about keeping employees happy at the workplace. By doing so, experts say, you enhance productivity, retention rates, professionalism, and trust. For smaller businesses where employee-executive relationships are often more direct, it might entail going beyond that individualized company culture and ensuring that all employees every day feel they’re integral contributors.

For a CFO, of course, this can be an everyday venture and another job all on its own, but it’s crucial, McDonald says.

“Employees who are aware of their company’s strategic goals are more motivated to perform to the best of their abilities, particularly if they feel their contributions are helping to achieve those goals,” he says. “It allows them to align their own objectives with the company’s vision.”

It’s also important to reward employees for their efforts in achieving the company’s business goals. A “thank you” goes a long way, and that can be expressed not just by a pat on the back, but also an investment in educating your employees and enhancing their awareness of your company’s goals and objectives.

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