Google “empowering the finance team” and you will come across many articles talking about business partnerships, productivity and efficiency. Many studies extol the benefits of empowering teams and supporting diversity and inclusion. Add the word charity to that google search and the balance of results changes. The first page draws out values, education and a better world, but none of that relates to the finance team – it’s focused on beneficiaries.
Is it time to look internally to review how we can support our staff to further support our beneficiaries as well? Does support and development for the finance team make sense within the charity sector?
An empowered team is more than a well-trained team; each individual will have increased levels of ownership of their workload.
Carrying out a skills assessment on the finance team can ensure that everyone is working to their full potential and therefore supporting the charity in the most effective way. It can also identify needs for training that could reduce the time spent correcting errors, giving senior management more time for analysis and strategic thinking. Supporting members of the finance team to gain additional qualifications can also build morale and allow them to bring their learning back into the organisation. Investing in people ‘just so they can leave’ is often a fear, but positives can be found in staff turnover.
By supporting the lifelong learning of your teams and allowing ideas to be shared at all levels, productivity might be improved. This is not just about the senior members training those more junior. We can all learn from others in throughout the organisation. Morale of the team may be raised by seeing the investment the charity is prepared to make in its teams, rather than fearing change and wanting to maintain the status quo. Consider training the team all together rather than allowing only individual CPD updates which accountants may naturally gravitate towards.
Empowering people can often involve giving them the tools to use technology to its full potential. In the coming years we will need to adapt to a constantly changing digital environment that will call on all of us to change with the technology. Finance teams can drive best practice throughout an organisation if they are empowered to investigate and invest in the latest solutions.
By empowering the finance team do you lose control of your processes and information? The opposite may be true. Empowerment is more than delegating responsibility for tasks to others within the organisation. Empowerment drives the ownership of tasks and processes and enables those that are being held accountable to drive decision making, ensuring the implementation of processes. A team that is empowered is likely to support the leadership rather than pulling away from it.
Training and investment should always be aligned to your business needs. An empowered finance team should be set goals linked to performance, rather than processes. Motivating people to see their role within the overall success of the charity will improve engagement and drive results. Leaders still retain overall control of the expectations and direction of the team and will be looked to for praise, encouragement and support.
Show me the money
Of course, if we all had unlimited resources we might be able to work towards an empowered and enlightened workforce more easily. However, there may be ways of accessing funding and increasing resources available through apprenticeships and bursaries. However, some changes may require time rather than financial input and although time is something that is both scarce and precious the longer term benefits should give time back to the team.
A new superhero?
Finance professionals can be the superheroes of your organisation. They bring the superpowers of strength, resilience and shape shifting by identifying business needs and positioning you well to deal with challenges head on. However, they should be empowered not to use their powers of invisibility too much and instead to assert their right to join the legion of superheroes that make a charity work.
Don't miss Cara Turtington's session at the Annual Conference on Wednesday 23 May. Places still available, book now to avoid disappointment!
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