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Leading practices part 6A: Staff development

This is the sixth article in a series on leading practices in corporate treasury.

Consistent staff development is pivotal for creating a forward-thinking and truly innovative treasury culture. It empowers treasury to play an increasingly influential role in augmenting an organization’s financial goals and value-adding activities that are outside their traditional mandate.

So how can corporate treasurers set the tone for staff development in a manner that supports the organizational objectives and harnesses a methodology and culture that bring on talent and foster their growth?

Here are our recommendations on how treasurers can apply leading practices for staff development. These can vary or differ depending upon the complexity or size of a business’s operations. Nonetheless, there are some aspects that stand out – career development planning, career positioning and expectations, savvy communications, cross-training and cultivating strengths.

  • Career development planning: Compassionate leadership ensures that as treasurers hone their expertise to thrive in the modern workplace environment, their staff also grow and flourish. Leaders can do this by providing avenues for staff to reach their individual career goals while fulfilling the company's mission.

A career development plan is a pathway or an advancement roadmap that provides employees with an ongoing mechanism for enhancing their skills and knowledge that can lead to mastery of their current jobs, promotions and transfers to new or different positions.

The implementation of a career development plan that sets specific and measurable career goals creates a positive opportunity for staff to progress in their careers as well as meet departmental and organizational objectives. This will ensure a corporation’s continuing growth and productivity.

Investing in employees by creating a multi-year career plan that will understand their key drivers and what type of work or accomplishments make them most proud is a win-win for treasurers and their team. It results in a more valuable, skilled, responsive and motivated workforce.

  • Career positioning and expectations: While it is important to develop a treasury team with appropriate experience and skills, treasurers must not forget that employees have specific career aspirations and goals that must be contemplated.

Treasures should be cognizant of the fact that the employees they bring on board will perform best if their position is a good fit for them and aligns with their professional goals and personal needs. A bad fit for a treasury employee can become a bad fit for the organization. Putting the right people in the right job will ultimately create the most value.

It is important to set clear, distinct and mutually agreeable expectations for your employees. Treasury staff should know what is expected of them, as well as the context and intention in order to make it easier to follow.

It is equally important to create a conducive environment and provide opportunities to improve the chances of employees meeting or exceeding organizational expectations. “What makes someone successful early in a career (or as they build expertise) will change as they move up or over. Knowing what they want to do and how their historical success strategies may need to shift can be a massive factor in their ongoing development,” observed Craig Jeffery, managing partner at Strategic Treasurer, a leading treasury consulting firm. ⃰

  • Savvy communications: Treasurers are acting as strategic advisors to the C-suite and the board and are expected to engage with a broader range of internal and external stakeholders. Treasury teams are now stepping out in the limelight, and that means they have to become savvy communicators, talking with people at all levels, across demographic cohorts and from different fields to deepen corporate relationships.

Active listening and curiosity help build workplace rapport and camaraderie, assist in accepting divergent opinions, and enhance understanding of a wide spectrum of businesses. Additionally, treasury staff must be encouraged to communicate complex financial concepts in simple language blended with good data storytelling skills.

Today, simplicity is at a premium, and the future will belong to the influential communicator who is a master of simple, clear, concise and compelling communications. Extraordinary treasurers, consultants and speakers know this. Treasury employees’ rise will be determined by their ability to be powerful “simple” communicators. As John Kotter, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School, commented, “Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isn’t about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way.”

Able treasurers know the importance of developing effective leaders because effective leadership is primarily about communicating effectively. Remember, communications dexterity is a vital leadership skill that treasury staff of today will have to embody to become tomorrow’s successful treasury leaders.

  • Cross-training and cultivating strengths: The best and the brightest will move, either within the organization or externally.

Recognizing and retaining emerging or rising stars and nurturing them as next generation leaders promotes organizational growth and prosperity. “Foster movement to other areas of treasury that can benefit from the skills and abilities of the top talent. Cross-training is essential as rotations into different business units or moving up into different roles develops staff. For example, someone may move from being a corporate finance analyst to a risk-management analyst to the manager of foreign exchange and then to director of all risk management for the organization,” remarked Jeffery.

An important, yet often overlooked aspect of treasury staff development is that employees’ strengths make a treasury stronger. Employees who are allowed to use and cultivate their strengths are more actively involved than their counterparts, perform better and boost their company’s bottom line.

In his book, The Mind of the Strategist, Kenichi Ohmae, former partner at McKinsey & Company, said “Strategic thinking and strategy formulation is about achieving competitive advantage.” Treasurers who consider leveraging their staff’s strengths as a business strategy will be the ones who achieve competitive advantage. This will mean identifying their staff’s strengths, working with them to let their strengths shine and connecting these positive characteristics to their business goals.

The basis of a strengths-based approach to staff development is a focus on maximizing strengths and accepting the fact that no one person, no matter how financially astute and visionary, is without some areas that need work or improvement. “If you are looking for people with strengths on one side of their puzzle piece and some weaknesses on the other; you’re really offering to them the ability to work on those weaknesses. If you’re a treasurer and understand that people come together with a positive and negative charge, you’re going to do everything you can to help them achieve their objectives on the negative side and really give them career opportunities by doing that. In the meantime, you have the chance to leverage their strengths,” affirmed Joni Topper, former senior vice president and regional director of Government and Institutional Banking at Wells Fargo & Company.

Treasurers shouldn’t be dissuaded from offering their staff constructive criticism or notes to improve. They should merely avoid focusing on weaknesses or negative characteristics. When they put their team members in roles that play to their strengths, they’re more likely to excel, and when they make them feel valued or appreciated for a job well done, their team is more inclined to remain actively engaged and accomplish their goals. 

Attracting and retaining the best employees isn’t easy. Treasurers need to demonstrate to staff that they are willing and eager to invest in their workforce.

The benefits of ongoing employee development are substantial and can inject a new life and enthusiasm in the treasury team. It will also more likely lead the top talent to stay and help the treasury team gain a competitive advantage.


⃰⃰ Disclosure: Strategic Treasurer owns CTMfile.


Read more from this series:

Part 1: Bank account management

Part 2: Bank relationship management

Part 3: Cash concentration

Part 4: Liquidity structure

Part 5: Treasury owns cash

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