“I need a check cut now!” “The CEO wants a report run!” “That customer needs credit approval immediately!”
Some days it may seem like Finance does nothing but respond to emergencies, legitimate or perceived.
But that can do a number on your department’s productivity. You can’t have your people pulled in a million different directions all day long. That’s why it’s worth creating a strategy to help staffers handle those emergencies that happen to come up at the worst possible time (month-end anyone?).
Here are four that can minimize the disruption to your department while still keeping Finance responsive to its customers, internal and external:
- Filter all “emergency” requests through a single staffer. Ideally you could set up a Finance emergency hotline, where employees, vendors and customers can make their requests known. But when the urgency is high, most people will want to reach a live person. Try picking a single point person in your department. That doesn’t mean that staffer will be the one to necessarily handle the issue. But at least you’ll filter all requests through a centralized location. And that can help you not only determine what’s a bona fide emergency and what can wait, as well as which member of your team is best to handle it.
- Factor a buffer into everyone’s schedules. Yes, everyone’s tight on time these days and your people likely have their plates full. But encourage them not to schedule every minute of the day. That’ll make the inevitable emergencies even more stressful on your team. By urging them to factor in a little extra time, they’ll be less thrown when they have to drop everything and take on something more pressing. No doubt if you make it through emergency-free, they’ll have no trouble filling those extra minutes (filing those old invoice copies, maybe?).
- Look for the causes of the fires. It’s worth having staffers track the types of emergency requests you receive in a given week. You might just identify some patterns emerge. Once you’ve figured that out, there may be an adjustment to your policies or procedures that could help prevent future fires of that type.
- Increase accountability. Other departments may be looking to Finance to clean up their messes. So if someone forgot to put a check req in and now a vendor won’t release a vital order, all eyes are on Finance to drop everything and cut a manual check. Or a deal that Sales has been dragging its feet on forever suddenly has to get approved today – the final day of the quarter. Hold other people accountable for their responsibilities and you might find your staffers have less clean up.
Do you have other strategies to minimize the numbers of emergencies Finance gets hit with? Share them here.