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5 Skills Finance Professionals Need Now More Than Ever

September 29, 2020
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States reopen and then shut down again; some companies are forced to do layoffs while others thrive; the economy responds with fluctuations. No worker is completely immune to the turbulence of this season, but finance professionals especially feel the uncertainty at a concrete, measurable level as they process their company’s numbers.How do finance teams and individuals handle this situation as they work to manage cash flow, forecast for possible scenarios, and make decisions about their company’s spending? More than ever before, finance professionals should think about cultivating these five finance skills:

1.    Flexibility

With the shutdown, reopening, re-shutdowns, and general uncertainty of this time, finance professionals need to be willing to move fast and continue reforecasting to be ready for any scenario. If your collections are becoming more difficult while your bills still need to be paid, you need to find a way to manage cash flow. As an example, finance professionals should prepare to reforecast for a continuing shutdown through the fall, a reopening rollback, or somewhere in between based on their state or region.

2.    Communication

Finance departments work together more closely than many other departments. Remote work has made communication more difficult, especially for companies with on-premise software that can’t be accessed remotely (requiring some employees to go into the office for certain tasks when social distancing may prevent a whole team from being in the office). For example, larger reports such as cash reconciliations and revenue posting entries are essential but require a painstaking process on on-premise software. Finding ways to communicate through Zoom, email, and instant messaging systems like Slack to answer questions quickly (“How do our actuals to plan look for next month?” “Did Marketing come in under budget last month?”) is critical to keeping the lines of communication open and flowing.Simply asking your team members how they are really doing – especially those who live alone or seem stressed – goes a long way to supporting them. Teams also need to navigate unstable Internet connections and distractions like children and pets. Finance professionals need to find a way to stay in contact, exchange necessary information clearly and on-time, and encourage each other despite distractions, frustrations, and obstacles like these.

3.    Organization/efficiency

Some finance departments have had to restrict staff hours or lose some employees, so each employee’s task load has increased. These organizations need to find ways to fill these new gaps in finance skills without losing their work-life balance. They need to locate their productivity “sweet spot” so they can push through a difficult issue, keep going, and troubleshoot issues that slow down progress. Maybe it’s after a cup of strong coffee or a quick walk or early in the morning. For example, if a manufacturing company consistently has problems counting its inventory, an efficient accountant could tackle the problem by addressing inventory first during each monthly closing. While it sounds simple, it takes discipline and planning to prioritize certain activities based on your productivity highs and lows.

4.    Leadership/teamwork

Smaller teams and fewer hours may also require finance and accounting leadership to return to projects they have not worked on since the beginning of their career, such as helping close orders at the end of the month or posting accounts payable batches. Finance professionals of all levels need to invest in make sure their teams do not become overwhelmed, even if it means stepping back into tasks they would usually delegate.Whether they are leaders or not, finance professionals of any role need to leverage relationships to support their coworkers and get their work done. For instance, if a cost accountant has a quarter-end question about a product’s Labor Expenses, he has to know who to call and when to call them to resolve the issue. Team members need to know what they themselves need and what the rest of the team needs in terms of time, information, equipment, and support.

5.    Positivity

Uncertainty, stress, and anxiety can weigh a team down and harm a company’s culture as well as its productivity. Finance professionals need to find a way to stay positive and boost their team’s morale in confusing or exasperating situations such as discovering an Excel formula error that caused a $100,000 deficit, or unexpected journal entries due to poor communication between departments. Sharing relevant GIFs or funny articles over instant messaging, asking team members to share one good thing that happened on a hard day, and celebrating successes are practical ways to keep peace and build each other up in this season.

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