In response to COVID-19, more and more businesses are temporarily closing their offices and moving their employees to working remotely. With the abrupt change of circumstances, abundance of new and unforeseen challenges and general feeling of uncertainty, it can become overwhelming.
Fortunately, managing a remote team doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems. There is a wealth of resources at your disposal to make sure your business runs as smoothly as possible. We’ve taken the liberty of compiling key pieces of information that will help you effectively manage your team.
Assembling a Team (or Teams)
Working remotely changes how the entire business is going to be run for the foreseeable future.
Start by assembling a team- or teams, depending on the needs of your business — that can strategize a plan for business operations. It’s essential to clarify the best structure for your team and their needs.
Who should be on this team? Your company size will determine who should be on this specific team or ‘task force’. Usually upper-level management and the human resource department will come up with new policies and procedures for new types of protocol and it will work down into specific departments within the organization.
Once your team is assembled, consider the following questions:
What methods or tools will you use to keep everyone in contact?
Is there a better time for the team, or teams, to meet every day or week?
How frequently should we plan meetings to move projects forward?
What important deadlines must be met, and how will you communicate those deadlines effectively?
How will you allocate the possibly limited resources on-hand to whomever might need them?
These are all important topics to address and it’s essential that your team is aware of the expectations while working remotely. Every business is going to have unique answers to this set of questions. Answers will vary based on specific needs, projects, industries, and so on. Successful managers have structured and predictable check ins set up for remote employees so that their concerns or challenges can be heard. Remember, people are your greatest asset within your organization. Having a dedicated team during this time will help you – and your team – feel confident moving forward.
Keeping in Touch Through Technology
As they say, communication is key. The world is incredibly connected using modern technology. There are many great tools and products that can help your team stay connected virtually. Scheduling meetings through video, audio and chat collaboration platforms such as Skype, Asana, Slack, GoToMeeting, Zoom, or Google Hangouts offer an easy way to gather everyone in the team, group, or possibly even company in the same place.
Try to choose communication options that have mobile applications available. This can make it even easier for those that have smartphones to communicate through one easily-accessible resource.
In addition, make sure there is a readily available directory of email addresses and phone numbers that is distributed company wide.
If it’s an option, have employees set up their office phones to forward any calls to their personal phone. This will ensure that no business-related calls slip through the cracks.
No doubt about it, these are challenging times we’re facing. Working from home can be a big adjustment for some employees especially on top of other concerns and uncertainties we are facing. People have different work styles. People need time to process the current situation.
Some employees will thrive on working alone, while others will feel that the social distance is hindering their motivation or productivity.
Offer virtual activities so that your employees can get their daily dose of human interaction. Have a FaceTime lunch meeting with an employee each day of the week. Offer a fun virtual game before or after a meeting. Run a virtual contest. There are still things you can do to promote your company culture.
Lastly, try to encourage discussion between employees about their workload and how they’re managing to tackle it from home. Letting everyone more openly discuss their strategies opens the floodgates for new ideas and more effective ways to tackle new challenges.
The search for Accounting and Finance talent is tough and getting tougher. Therefore, I thought I’d share a strategy that many of our clients are effectively utilizing to counter this tough market – the part-time / “been there done that” CFO.
The economy is terrific. One might think that growth would be easy. Unfortunately, we talk to business leader after business leader frustrated by this market. The opportunity for growth is there, but the talent is not! Perhaps more frustrating is that many new hires don’t have the work ethic needed to maximize the advantages of today’s strong economy.
The fractional CFO offers a potential solution to this problem. There are two primary ways that our clients are utilizing these part-time CFOs: 1) on a project basis, and 2) to augment current teams.
In terms of projects, fractional CFOs are an excellent resource. Savvy companies are using fractional CFOs to plug in to long-term and short-term projects – conversions, due-diligence, acquisitions, process improvement, valuation, dashboarding, etc. Often, it is possible to find CFOs who have handled a client’s specific issue numerous times in their career – leading to a resource that can walk through the door with a proven toolbox of solutions.
The other use of the part-time CFO was rare a few years ago, but lately we have seen more and more companies using the fractional CFO to augment a current Accounting / Finance department. These CFOs join the team, sharing their expertise and assisting with day-to-day processes. The understanding that the CFO brings to the table allows for increased efficiencies and mentoring. We’ve seen huge impacts in productivity through this utilization of talent.
For an amount less than the annual payroll cost of a Senior Accountant, many of our clients are hiring these part-time CFO talents to help solve today’s accounting and finance challenges. Certainly, the hourly rate is higher than a Senior Accountant, but used twice a week at 8-hour increments, the annual cost is very similar.
Something to watch out for:
I always remind business leaders that want to use a part-time CFO to note that clarity on the front end of this arrangement is key. Part-time CFOs are hourly employees. That means that the responsibility of management is, at the end of the day, on the hiring manager / owner. Understanding this will make you and the part-time CFO much happier before, during and after the engagement.
The part-time CFO is a great way to bring talent to your team in a way that requires minimal training and maximum results. I hope you are able to utilize this excellent resource in today’s difficult hiring market.
Upcoming event for high-profile executives interested in innovative hiring strategies.
Date/Time: Thursday, August 15, 2019 7:30 am – 1:00 pm
Venue: Roam Dunwoody, 1155 Mount Vernon Hwy NE #800, Atlanta, GA 30338
Speaker: Dan Erling, CEO and President of Accountants One and author of “MATCH: A systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time”
Duration: 5 hours
What is your company’s hiring success rate over the past year? How about retention rate over the past three years? After over a decade of analyzing thousands of hires, Dan Erling has created the MATCH process, a best practice approach to hiring. MATCH virtually guarantees hiring success and leads to cost savings through a 90% retention rate.
In this session for C-suite industry executives, Dan shares how to incorporate MATCH fundamentals into your hiring and retention strategy in order to increase your hiring ROI.
Today’s hiring market demands the rigor and thought contained in this process focused approach to hiring and retention.
Leading the charge to get the right people on the bus
Making objective people decisions EVERY TIME
Ensuring that your team is conducting in-depth interviews and REAL reference calls
Creating an on-boarding process that works
Testing your hiring ROI
Ticket price includes reservations for yourself and a guest, MATCH Book, breakfast & lunch.
As space is limited, your confirmation of attendance is greatly appreciated. Please do so via email to Julie Foster at email@example.com. Once confirmed, Julie will be in touch regarding logistics and other relevant information.
The behavioral interview is the best tool for predicting success in the hiring process. In the hands of an organized hiring team, behavioral questions virtually guarantee a successful hire. Once an effective candidate pool has been established, a strong hiring team will systematically move through those potential hires using behavioral questions.
Behavioral questions focus on past behaviors. These are inquiries into the candidate’s past, demanding much more than a yes/no response. Answers to behavioral questions require story-telling and reveal strengths and weaknesses. Well-designed behavioral questions tie back to key technical skills and competencies as captured by the hiring team.
I’ve included two examples below – the first focused on technical skills and the second focused on soft skills. I am hopeful that these examples help to show the value of behavioral interviewing questions.
Behavioral Questions concerning Technical Skills–Excel Guru Needed
Here is an example of a behavioral question focused on a technical skill — Excel proficiency:
“Tell me about your experience writing formulas in Excel.”
Do you see how phrasing the question in this way will lead to the candidate telling a story about their level of experience? A traditional (less revealing and less effective) non-behavioral interview question might be, “can you write formulas in Excel?” There is not as much to be learned from that question.
Here is another behavioral question focused on technical skills in Excel:
“Describe a project where you created VLOOKUPs. What was the outcome of that project?”
Can you see how much the behavioral question will reveal about a candidate’s technical skills in using Excel?
Behavioral Question concerning Soft Skills — Capable of working under strict deadlines
What about a soft skill such as hitting deadlines? Here is a very revealing behavioral question:
“Tell me about the last time you missed a deadline and the implications of that missed deadline.”
When asked a question in this way, the person being interviewed is required to reveal stories related to their work style, processes, and even their understanding of how deadlines affect an organization. This is incredibly valuable data in determining whether the person will be successful in the role.
Behavioral interview questions give us a framework to evaluate the past behaviors of a candidate. Since past behavior is the greatest predictor of future action, this approach gives us the best way possible to predict the success of a candidate. And while this approach does require time and energy in setting up and managing a systematic process, when compared to the value of an effective hire, I believe the return on investment makes it worth every moment.
Your company needs to hire. Bill in purchasing knows someone who is looking. Not exactly the right fit, but Bill can vouch for him, after all, they have “ hung out” several times. After a cursory interview Bill’s friend is hired.
Hopefully you have never worked for a company where you experienced this scenario.
Hiring from a narrow candidate pool is extremely risky. Occasionally it will work; however, more times than not, this leads to an expensive mishire.
Please understand, there is nothing wrong with the inclusion of Bill’s friend in the interview process. The problem is in the single data point. In an effectively managed recruiting plan, a multi-person candidate pool is needed for the sake of comparison.
Finding multiple candidates is especially hard in a market like the one we have today. When unemployment is low, recruiting is difficult. But in order to hire exceptional people and stay competitive, a strong organization must work to create an effective candidate pool.
Strategies for Building a Talent Pool
When starting a pool, it is essential for the hiring team to cast as wide a net as possible. Once you have a large enough group of potential candidates, the organization should strategically and ethically funnel through the candidates based on technical skills and competencies. The ideal is to arrive at 3 candidates, all equally qualified for the role at roughly the same salary, but with different strengths and weaknesses.
It takes massive time, energy and resources to effectively bring together a pool of candidates. However, the pay-off is immense, as it allows the hiring team to compare apples to apples. Further, it raises the odds that the new hire will be successful.
To create a strong candidate pool, the hiring team must be resourceful. Tools can include job boards, a strong referral program, social-media, and networking events. Direct recruiting is also an excellent way to increase a candidate pool. At the risk of sounding self-serving, a good recruiting firm can bring tremendous value here.
So, in conclusion, creating a candidate pool is essential in managing a strategic recruiting plan. By filtering through a group of candidates, your goal is to find three strong finalists – matching corporate culture, technical skills and salary.
Who knows, perhaps Bill’s friend is the perfect candidate? By strategically building an effective candidate pool, you will be sure of your decision.
Recently, I was interviewing a Controller exploring new opportunities. She had been with the same company for many years, and I asked her about references. She replied, “just look at my LinkedIn testimonials. Those should be fine as references.”
I had to tell her that, while such testimonials were a terrific validation of her capabilities and professionalism, they are insufficient as legitimate references for a job opportunity.
A reference can help align the right candidate with the right job, but it must be more than just a few favorable thoughts shared on social media by an acquaintance or colleague. Effective references are honest assessments of a candidate’s character, work, and the outcomes resulting from that work.
Some argue that references are worthless. After all, why would anyone connect you with a person who would speak negatively?
That statement is true in the hands of an amateur. But in the hands of a professional, referencing is a hugely valuable exercise where true insights can be shared, strengths and weaknesses explored. Yes, it is even true that in a reference call, a professional dialog can occur leading to the realization that the person being discussed would not be the right fit for the role.
Exceptional recruiters know how to derive value from the reference checking process. They don’t go with ‘check a box’ queries, but behavioral questions that get to the essence of the candidate’s defining qualities. The desired approach allows the recruiter to unearth a sense of story about the candidate, revealing behaviors and qualities that will help define how they will fit into not only the available role but also the company culture.
Further, the savvy recruiter asks for references across the spectrum – peers, subordinates, bosses. And ideally the candidate will be reference checked in these three areas at each point in their career growth. In an executive search this can result in a dozen references – where upon a clear picture should start to emerge.
This is especially true when behavioral questions such as this are posed:
“When I am conducting your reference, I will focus both on your strengths and weaknesses. What do you expect your references to tell me?”
“When I inquire about areas where you need to improve, how do you think they will respond?”
For elite recruiters, the days of questions like “On a scale of 1-10, how are their people skills?” are a thing of the past. The questions take a more anecdotal, narrative approach, inviting references to recollect situations and stories about the candidate that provide an accurate sense of who they are, what motivates them, and how they engage to get results. For example:
Tell me about a time Rick had to deal with a difficult client.
Tell me about a time that Janelle had to overcome challenging circumstances to deliver for a client.
Tell me about Lin’s approach to working with his colleagues.
Rather than terse, one-word answers, this approach allows for references to expand on the qualities of the candidate, opening possibilities for dialogue that will truly help the recruiter determine which candidates are best to share with their client.
These questions are best asked in a 360° fashion – to supervisors, colleagues, and subordinates alike, across the spectrum of the candidates’ interactions – to get a full picture of how the candidate works and how they respond to different situations. While it might sound like a cliché to say, “What one has done in the past is likely what they will do in the future”, it stands as a strong litmus for measuring someone’s approach to their work. For recruiters and employers, it’s a smart business move to make this assumption, as it’s the most accurate way to evaluate talent.
The information gleaned from the references is then shared with the client, either before or after the candidate interviews with their prospective employer. Ideally, the responses offered by the references serve to reinforce positive attributes of the candidate, while providing a consistent picture of any areas that need improvement.
The ultimate outcome for this whole process is to gain a clear, encompassing understanding of the behaviors, character traits, and work habits of the top candidates vying for a specific job. As an employer, it gives you confidence that you have a keen awareness of who is onboarding with your company. As a prospective employee, it gives you assurances that the company hiring you knows exactly who they are getting, so you will truly be a Match.
So, while LinkedIn recommendations can be a very positive tool, they are far from the defining referral that one seeks when a job opportunity arises. The best recruiters know this and will work with you – candidate and client alike – to ensure that references are leveraged to create the most ideal match possible.
If you’d like to learn more about how Accountants One helps companies and candidates find their ideal MATCH, contact Dan Erling of Accountants One at 770-395-6969 or firstname.lastname@example.org