Finance Leaders Against The Great Resignation: 5 Things You Must Do To Retain Your Winning Workforce

Retaining the workforce in the age of the Great Resignation would probably be the biggest achievement that most finance leaders would boast about in the near future. In this session, we are bringing an expert who leads a team of 30+ members to talk about how she manages to retain her remote workforce.
Carolyn Etress

Carolyn Etress

Director of Accounts Receivable, EBSCO
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Session Summary:

Takeaway 1

Invest in upskilling, especially for the high-performing individuals

Key Points

  • Why upskilling and retaining high performing individuals is more critical than hiring talent
  • High turnover expense during onboarding and how it can impact your organization
  • Addressing the loss of cultural knowledge and some long-term customer knowledge
Takeaway 2

Communicate often and appropriately: Being approachable as a leader is essential to preventing conflicts from arising

Key Points

  • Upskilling and communicating the strategies, KPIs, goals, and visions to the team
  • Helping your team navigate complex customer behavior and escalations
  • Being agile to disruptions and changing market conditions
  • Empowering the A/R teams with automation to move toward strategic and value-driven tasks
Takeaway 3

Empower your team using a combination of technology, best practices, and proven strategies that have worked in the past

Key Points

  • Building a growth culture to achieve long term success
  • Strategies to keep employees engaged and motivated at work
  • Creating a structure to make sure your team keeps delivering
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Carolyn Etress [0:06]
So this is brought another important question. And I think the answers have changed for me over the last two years, what is more, important retaining or hiring talent. So, hiring is important, but retaining talent is more important. And this is why it matters to me. With high turnover, we have expenses for onboarding, we lose some, like tribal knowledge and some long-term customer knowledge. And it’s kind of a roadblock to productivity, our new hires need, you know, one to two years to really understand how our business works. I know that sounds like a long time, but I wonder if there’s anybody else out there who relates does it take a year sometimes two for your employees to really learn your business? Couple of people. So here’s another poll question for you. If you have your app pulled up, are finance executives and your organization driving an increased focus on employee engagement and retention today?

Facilitator [01:10]
70% Yes. 60 No, and it’s in the plan for 2022 12%.

Carolyn Etress [01:16]
Okay, so for 2022 2023 That’s like 82% total, right? That the answer is yes. So it’s been my experience. Also, our finance office was less focused on employee engagement, pre pandemic, and they see more and focus more focus today more interested in that I think they understand the costs associated with the high turnover. So I want to talk about some things that we can do for long-term success with retaining our top talent. And so those things are to invest in upskilling, our existing team, and to communicate our strategies, goals and visions to the team. So help the team understand what the bigger picture is that they’re working towards. And help them navigate complex customer behavior and escalations. And at the same time, we want to act like a small company and be agile and focused. And we want to empower that team with automation so they can feel more satisfied and do more value added activities. And a recent McKinsey Global survey, 87% of executives said they were experiencing skills gap in the b2b workforce, does anybody relate to that? So we have to rescale and upskill, our existing teams, we don’t want to disrupt our business. And so we need to help them build cognitive capabilities, and social and emotional skills, and that adaptability and resilience that we saw in the first and second quarters of 2020. The other thing that I’ve really had to work on and I’m still working on is communicating our goals and visions, clearly, and defining those KPIs for the teams and making sure that they understand what’s important to me and our finance leadership, and helping them distribute their time and efforts accordingly. And you want to be approachable, especially when a team member is in crisis, but giving them opportunities to have face time where they don’t feel rushed or feel like they’re a disruption to your day. I think that’s something that’s really important, even more so in the remote environment than it was in the in person environment. And trying to leave with examples also important. So sharing with your team, what you would do to solve a problem and then giving them a chance to way that against the specifics of the problem they’re facing is really important. And then stand up for them and advocate for them when needed, both in front of external or external stakeholders, and promote an open culture. So when we don’t do as well, we consider that a step toward eventual success. What are we going to learn from this? How are we going to be better next time. We also want to help our teams navigate those complex customer relationships. So helping the team understand how to balance their KPIs and expectations for their performance against those customer satisfaction objectives. That can be pretty challenging for us at EBSCO. Because, you know, we want to reduce our DSO and improve our collections. But at the same time, we want to retain customers as much as we want to retain that talent, right. So we’ve got to stand with them that when there’s an escalation and help them understand how they could have done things better. So when a customer complains about how they’ve been treated by our finance team, we want to support both the customer and the team member. In that experience. We want to train our teams on best practices for before, during and after customer interactions. And we want to make sure they understand how important customer satisfaction is to us. So I think in finance, we’re often all about the numbers are all about the money. We want our teams to understand Is that without customers, there are no numbers, there are no, there is no money. So when we’ll share examples of our success with customers, if possible, so I think that helps. And at EBSCO, we still act like a small company, we are flexible and pivot according to the marketing conditions. And we really managed our transition to remote work seamlessly for a team that was almost 100%. In office for accounts receivable, we transition to at home work in a matter of like, two days, it was incredible. And we were up and running, we help the team break small, break large problems into smaller ones, and so that we don’t overwhelm them. And then we guide them toward like a follow through. And one of the things we say that when we’re facing something that seems really overwhelming, like, you know, a big reconciliation, or a, like, complex problem is how do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time, we’re gonna get this done, we just gotta break it into smaller parts. And we want to be clear about our principles, so that define how our team should operate, and try to eliminate any confusion or gray areas about what’s expected from them.

Carolyn Etress [06:13]
And we’re always looking for new opportunities to create value. And we’re asking our team to make suggestions and do the same thing. We also want to empower our team with automation. This is a key to move away from those repetitive, boring transactional tasks that nobody really loves, so that our teams can work on things that make them that help them to feel fulfilled at the end of each day. So we train them to use an automation solution to its fullest capability. So any technologies that we’re purchasing, or teaching our teams to use those to the best, and we help them look at technology as an enabler and not as a replacement. And I mentioned that earlier, that I think one of the struggles we had early on in our digital transformation journey was that our team saw technology as a replacement. And we This allows him to focus on more strategic tasks as automation does those manual more boring things. And we record our improvement, our KPIs that’s enabled with automation to help show them this is what you can do with humans Plus technology. And this is why you want this to be a part of your everyday life. Here at EBSCO. We’ve also endeavored to drive a more people centric culture and 2022. So we need to, in order to achieve long term success, we have to balance the culture, strategy and structure. So we want a culture where our team can grow. And we want to keep them motivated and happy at work wherever that is. And we want to maintain structure at the same time to make sure everyone keeps delivering.

Facilitator [07:47]
Well, awesome. I hope you agree with me that Carolyn did a great job. Thank you

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