Of course human error can creep in any time – but it’s a lot more likely when staffers are feeling overworked and under stress. Check out this rather dramatic example of what can go wrong in Finance when that’s the case.
The Payroll department for the state of New Mexico recently had some major explaining to do when a third of the municipality’s workforce – more than 7,100 people – were underpaid one pay period!
At first, the mistake was chalked up to a system glitch. But upon further investigation it turned out a payroll employee failed to follow a checklist to prevent a snag when the department has to run a
Down three people!
So why was that vital control missed?
The finance department was very short-handed at that moment: There were two unfilled vacant positions and another staffer out on medical leave.
With the remaining staff stretched so thin, a mistake like this was almost inevitable. Now the employer will have to work to correct it and right all those paychecks – making even more work for a department that’s already too tight on time.
Avoiding a similar fate
Unfortunately, situations like this are all too common for many finance departments these days. But you can minimize the chances a similarly large mistake slips through by taking a few steps:
- Crosstrain. Letting staffers take turns in each others’ jobs will help with everything from unexpected absences to longer staffing shortages.
- Crosscheck. Of course, you can’t do it for everything, but be sure to have staffers eyeball each others’ work for major responsibilities, like payroll and check runs.
- Be on the lookout for signs of burnout: staffers becoming excessively cynical or critical, irritability or impatience with co-workers, etc.