A heavier workload beats no workload at all. A bleak outlook — but it may be one many of your staffers share. No better time to be sure you’re employing all seven of these survival strategies.
The latest staffing stats confirm that the cavalry may not be riding in anytime soon — 94% of finance execs say they’ll keep their headcount constant in the third quarter, according to recent data from Robert Half International.
If you’re in this vast majority, here are seven strategies to keep everyone’s head above water — and maybe even enjoy a boost in productivity:
- Revive the suggestion box. People may have ideas on how to streamline but hesitate to put them out there. An anonymous format may help loosen some tongues. You may even get more creative solutions proposed when people aren’t worried how their co-workers will react.
- Post FAQs to cut interruptions. Your finance folks may feel like they work in customer service with the number of employee, vendor and customer questions they field. And it’s a critical part of the job. But maybe A/P doesn’t need to repeat what the current mileage rate is six times a day. Come up with a list of the most frequently asked questions — with answers — and post it on your Intranet, at the door of each finance department, or both.
- Take advantage of low-energy times for filing. With so much to do, there will inevitably be times when energy levels are low in Finance. A group nap probably isn’t an option. You could use those periods to tackle some of the more mundane and clerical tasks that come with the job: filing old invoices, clearing old suppliers from your filing cabinets, boxing up old Payroll records for off-site storage, etc.
- Cross-train to the hilt. It’s not as good as a new hire or even a temp, but if the staffers you do have can jump in when a teammate is out or even just overloaded, you weather any storm better. You can do this informally, but you might want to set aside an hour a week strictly for learning the ins and outs of each others’ jobs. Even in a small company, you can shift players in A/P, A/R and Payroll so each gets a flavor for what the other does. It’s a great internal control to boot — you get some new eyes on various responsibilities for some extra checks and balances.
- Use e-mail where you can. It may have its downsides and some people certainly overuse the technology (no need to send a reply that simply says “OK”). But e-mail can make finance staffers’ jobs easier. Start brainstorming how it can streamline your processes. Approvals are a great place to start: invoices, timesheets and expense reports.
- Set false/early deadlines. Used to be month-end was when Finance was whipped into a frenzy. That pace may seem to occur throughout the month now. To keep those days before the close as even as possible, think about setting some interim or even staggered deadlines so you’re not getting slammed in those final days.
- Close Finance — just for a few hours. A never-ending stream of interruptions can make any job seem unmanageable. Think about instituting “quiet hours” (dire emergencies only) in Finance maybe once a week. That uninterrupted time can be just what staffers need to feel on top of things again.