Monthly Archives: April 2022

Beyond the Numbers: Mentorship in Finance

Beyond the Numbers: Mentorship in Finance 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We all strive to be successful. And in our effort to do so, many of us spend time on professional development. We use the tools and resources available to us, we invest in continuing education, and we download the latest apps all in an effort to help us be more effective and productive in whatever path we are pursuing. But how often are we relying on one of the greatest resources we could have—a mentor? This is particularly true in a financial career, which can be difficult to navigate for unseasoned professionals—the rules are complex, the technology can be convoluted, and there are often extremely high stakes involved. 

Why Mentorship? 

We all understand generally that mentorship is a unique relationship between two individuals where one possesses more experience, knowledge, and connections than the other and has the ability and willingness to pass along what they have learned. However, many people confuse mentors with coaches. And while similar, there is a significant difference in that coaching focuses on performance, where mentoring focuses more on the person’s development.  

A mentor will generally form a long-lasting relationship with their mentee, providing them with advice and support in navigating their professional path. And the results speak for themselves. In fact, according to a case study at Sun Microsystems, mentees are five times more likely to both advance in pay grade and receive a promotion.  

Benefits of Mentorship in Finance 

While a mentor can help an individual in a variety of ways across a myriad of industries, they can be especially advantageous when it comes to finance, where access to industry experience and technology expertise is invaluable. Mentoring and support are often ongoing in this field, rather than merely in the early stages of someone’s career. 

A mentor will help the mentee pave his or her path right alongside them by calling out the challenges in advance and providing possible solutions based on past experiences. Additionally, many finance mentors can provide networking connections through opportunities in their own network and other events or conferences in which they have found value. These opportunities generally don’t surface for someone new to the industry. 

How to Find a Mentor 

It’s crucial that a mentorship starts out strong with a mentor and mentee who have the right fit, not just in experience variances, but in personality. Just like any other relationship, mentorships are best when founded on a personal connection and are mutually beneficial to each party. Similar personalities, working styles, goals, values, and life circumstances are all attributes that can indicate a potential fit and form solid bonds between a mentor and mentee.  

As you begin your search for the right mentor, consider the following: 

1. Know What You Want 

It’s important that you understand not only who you are and where you want to go professionally, but also the type of people with whom you work best. This will help you decide what attributes are most important to you as you search for a mentor. With that being said, you should never go into a mentorship just because you feel as if you have to or to find a cheerleader. A good mentor will support you wholeheartedly, but they will also be tough on you when you need it. You need that honesty to grow and develop. 

2. Start Forming Connections 

A strong personal connection is the foundation of a successful mentorship. Reach out to your professional circle, whether it be someone you work with, an old boss, or a respected family friend. See what you have in common. Remember, you are not interviewing this person for the position of you mentor. You are getting to know them and beginning to build a personal connection. Many mentorships are formed organically, with the mentor and mentee simply falling into their roles.  

3. Don’t Give Up  

Finding the right mentor can be a process, but it’s better to take your time rather than have the wrong person mentor you. Developing meaningful relationships is difficult in general, let alone in the professional world. Some people are fortunate and have their perfect mentor without even trying. But others have to work more for it and take the time to find the right one. If you can’t find anyone in your professional circle, there are also mentorship programs you can join to connect with mentors ready to help.  

Regardless of what age you are or stage of career you are in, a mentor is a key resource in helping you get to where you want to go in your career. Mentees have an incredible competitive advantage, as their mentors help them avoid common roadblocks, as they guide them toward future growth.  

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow, especially as it relates to your personal and professional development. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

The Top 3 Tips to Increase Your Team’s Financial Literacy this April

The Top 3 Tips to Increase Your Team’s Financial Literacy this April 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Financial literacy is an essential skill for navigating the worlds of both personal and business finance. However, many Americans have not received proper financial education, if any at all, leaving them extremely vulnerable to the pitfalls that can occur when one lacks requisite knowledge.  

A financial literacy study conducted pre-pandemic noted, “Individuals need at least a fundamental level of financial understanding. This knowledge, paired with financial decision-making skills, can best ensure an individual’s financial capability.” Yet, the same study found 66% of Americans were unable to answer more than three of five financial literacy questions correctly. This deficiency in knowledge about one’s own financial outlook has been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing financial instability throughout the country.  

Lack of proper financial knowledge can be damaging for both individuals and businesses. That’s why April has been designated as National Financial Literacy Month – a time to focus on financial education for both adults and children. Financial Literacy Month began as part of the National Endowment for Financial Education (“NEFE”) more than two decades ago, as Youth Financial Literacy Day. In 2000, it was expanded into Financial Literacy for Youth Month, and when the Jump$tart Coalition took over for NEFE, it was eventually retitled “Financial Literacy Month.” In 2004, it became nationally recognized by a senate resolution.  

Financial Literacy for Your Team 

Financial literacy does not begin and end with the finance department. Whether we like to admit it or not, money is at the foundation of much of business. In fact, without it, we wouldn’t have businesses at all. But when it comes to your team, it’s not just about their financial decisions within your company. What about what they’re doing when they go home? The financial wellness of your individual team members is just as valuable as the financial wellness of your company. Setting them up for success when they get their paycheck by giving them the tools to relieve financial stress and achieve their goals is more important than ever.  

Employer financial wellness programs have become increasingly popular in helping employees reduce their overall stress by forming better financial habits that lead to financial wellness. And less stressed employees equate to more productive teams. Additionally, creating a financially literate team can aid in flailing recruitment and retention efforts, serious problems facing many businesses today. Letting your team know that you care about their overall wellbeing, including finances, has become progressively more valuable. Simply, their personal success is your business success.   

Top 3 Tips for Employees 

Financial Literacy Month is a great time to introduce financial education to your team. Here are our top 3 tips to get started:  

  1. Assessing Finances 

Introduce financial assessments to your team, but switch the focus from business assessments to personal ones. A personal financial assessment is a useful tool for team members to begin thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of their finances. It also provides a framework for team members to take action to improve their financial health and achieve their goals. You should be aware that this exercise can spark anxiety in some, as they fear learning the reality of their situation. However, once they realize that ignoring it will only make it worse, they will begin to have comfort in gaining knowledge and making small steps to induce big changes.  

  1. Setting Up Online Financial Education Programs 

Once your team has targeted their financial weaknesses, it’s time to give them the financial knowledge to implement change. Online video education is the easiest way to help them learn financial principles that they can use for the rest of their lives. Give them some time during the day to make use of tools like Udemy, Coursera, and YouTube – all of which have high quality training and educational videos. Or provide a few lunch and learns with speakers. These types of courses will give them the strategies for navigating their finances on a variety of topics from learning to create a budget to investing in the stock market to saving for retirement.  

  1. Making Financial Resources Available 

The members of your team will invariably have different goals. Similarly, financial resources are rarely a one-size-fits-all solution. Creating a weekly/monthly email or a team document where you can show various resources for different goals, such as debt elimination, homeownership, family planning, or retirement, creates a system where every team member has access to resources that are helpful in achieving their individual goals.  

We can do better, as a country, in helping others understand their finances better. And business owners can play a large role in increasing this financial literacy by taking some time to educate their teams. Remember, the more your employees understand their own finances, the better they will handle yours.  

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow, especially as it relates to your team development in financial literacy. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

How Remote Work is Influencing Financial Recruiting and Retention Strategies

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Over the past few years, we have learned that we are entirely more adaptable than we ever thought possible. We’ve learned that we can not only survive, but actually thrive in extreme disruption. And much of that adaptation and success is based on the ability to work remotely.  

Today, remote work has become a priority for most employees … in some respect. In fact, in the 2022 Salary Guide from Robert Half, 75% of workers said they wanted to work at least part of the time remotely, and 34% said they would quit a company that didn’t allow remote work.  And those who work in finance or accounting departments are no exception to these numbers. 

While our new remote or hybrid workforce has been around for two years now, it is no longer about logistical prowess to achieve social distancing in a global pandemic. Rather, it’s about the reprioritization among us all that includes increased flexibility and enhanced employee experiences. And while these are incredible benefits for candidates and employees, CFOs and other leaders aren’t lacking in advantages either – namely, a massive widening of the talent pool.  

In the same survey, 35% of finance and accounting leaders said they expanded their searches geographically to find the right candidates. Having employees across time zones also leads to the ancillary benefits of nearly automatically increasing the organization’s customer service, while helping with work-life balance at the same time. Consider an employee on the east coast who no longer has to solve a problem at 7:00 pm because they have a west-coast colleague who can easily take care of it within business hours.  

Realizing our remote world is not going anywhere, CFOs are now considering how to revamp their recruiting and retention strategies around it. It’s no secret that competition is fierce. To successfully recruit top talent and keep them, they need to have structured strategies that have been adjusted to our new realities.  

When recruiting for finance or accounting positions, there are, of course, the “typical” qualifications and skills needed – certain degrees and designations, attention to detail, accuracy, confidentiality, ambition, embracing continuous learning, and problem-solving skills. That’s not changing. But now, more recruiting efforts are shifting to look not merely at the skills for the specific position or the necessary education and certifications, but the skills needed to work in a remote environment successfully.  

To work remotely, CFOs need to look for candidates who can exhibit discipline, initiative, and the following abilities to:  

  • stay focused,  
  • be a self-starter,  
  • work well without supervision, and  
  • work well under pressure.  

Additionally, by the very nature of remote work, they need to have more advanced technological skills or, at a minimum, be willing to learn them quickly.  

So much of retention is based on organizational culture – whether we are in-office or remote. And the flip side of the flexibility advantage that remote work provides to employees is isolation, especially when some employees are in the office and others are not. Remote workers could feel less appreciated or valued, or think that they will be passed over for opportunities since they are not directly in front of their leaders. They can also start to feel detached from their work and those with whom they work. 

To ensure the organization has a people-first culture, these fears (real or perceived) must be minimized. Leaders should ensure remote workers are getting the time and attention needed – that they are acknowledged, promoted when justified, and provided equal opportunities to training, continuous learning, and resources, including access to the financial tools needed to do their jobs efficiently. Proactively sharing information, providing peer mentoring or coaching, and focusing on clear, timely communication, with opportunities for feedback are other helpful ways to keep them involved. Essentially, it comes down to the human connection, even when you aren’t physically together. Remember, technology is great, but alone, it will not build a culture your employees won’t want to leave.  

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow, especially as it relates to using the right strategies to keep your company running efficiently. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.