In the current uncertain business environment given that management is so concerned with the continuity of their businesses and the health of their loved ones, it has become critical for organisations to rely on their finance and accounting professionals who can collaborate virtually in an effective way.
To shine in the digital era and to be truly successful, financial planning and analysis (FP&A) and accounting professionals need to work on their human skills (also known as soft skills or interpersonal skills).
There are two important rationales that support the importance of strengthening human skills in times of great uncertainty:
1) Human skills are at the core of our professional practice. It is well demonstrated that as long as we have a strong mindset, no matter how severe a crisis becomes, we will be capable of dealing with it.
As we are witnessing, there are a lot of professionals who are suffering due to COVID-19 while others are dealing with the pressure by their CEOs to make dynamic forecasts. So, how can FP&A professionals deal with stressful situations better than others? A lack of human skills is more evident when times are harder.
2) Virtual work is becoming a more human interaction. We all need a point of connection with our peers, even more so in times of uncertainty. If we can embed empathy into our virtual interactions, this will enable us to be fully informed in our remote job. Having the right information is the first step to use technology to improve workplace productivity.
So, what human skills are required in times of digital transformation era?
- Use the correct style of leadership
- Encourage remote collaboration with empathy glasses
- Upskill your team and look for new challenges to inspire the “next normal” at your organisation
- Make your virtual communication effective
- Take the remote control of your mind and body
- Eat the frog: focus on what really matters
Why is all of this important and how can we do this?
1. Use the correct style of leadership
Leading does not necessarily have to do anything with your job title. Leadership that has an impact requires the adaptability and character of collaborators to use the correct style of leadership when the uncertainty increases or decreases; that is to say, “informal leaders.”
These are times in which relying on teams and letting them deal with small and medium-scale matters is critical. This is a very effective way to ease our burden and be able to cope with more complex issues. There are three proven phrases always helpful for an effective leader at this time:
- "Thank you", and
- "GOOD JOB!"
2. Encourage remote collaboration with empathy glasses
Collaborating is taking on a task as a business partnership, with equal responsibility. In this sense, collaborating means taking an empathetic approach to fully understand and detect potential problems between colleagues.
- In times of crisis, job stability becomes valuable. Therefore, if you have the chance to collaborate in other areas of your organization, it is wise to ensure you are not perceived as taking over the duties of a co-worker.
- In the current unstable environment, some people tend to be more aggressive. Do not let someone’s bad mood affect you and care how we express our ideas.
3. Upskill your team and look for new challenges to inspire the “next normal” at your organisation
Kick it into action with the following question: Which activities should I invest my time in now to increase opportunities in the digital era? The job market for FP&A professionals is becoming more competitive than ever, and this creates the need to fill the biggest gap in human skills to make new inroads into career options.
Reinventing accounting and financial professions will be challenging because we have developed an analytical mindset; in other words, we are used to analysing past events to inform the future. However, the job market of the future will be oriented towards logic and creativity with the help of technology (e.g. creative dashboards with Power BI).
4. Make your virtual communication effective
Before COVID-19, connections were predominantly physical. Today, key virtual interactions call for using a clear voice, gestures and eye contact:
- A great way to begin the day is with a resounding “good morning”. This type of greeting releases positive energy to start the synergy process.
- Management may be faced with a complex matter, but they cannot see you in a call. Therefore, link your financial reasoning with analogies, benchmarks or references to boost the trust factor.
- It is critical to leave written evidence of mutual agreements to prevent future costs of personnel change over. Nobody is free from catching the virus. Create personal backup.
5. Take the remote control of your mind and body
It is vital for us to take the time to breathe consciously, to ease our afflictions and take full control of our mind. This control will provide the following:
- a structure in your brain to help with cognitive tasks such as analysing financial reporting, and
- a shot of resilience to boost productivity and the decision-making at critical moments.
- creativity is sharpened by meditation. A practical recommendation: write it down on a post-it note or in your smartphone and return to it later.
6. Eat the frog: focus on what really matters
What do I have to address today? It may be the right question to start the day. However, on certain occasions, we are not viewing critical things, because we are focusing on unimportant things. For example, if we are in the living room doing a personal project, our mind will unconsciously drift far more than we even imagine. Let’s focus on what really matters:
- Reduce your desires with the one-thing-mindset. If you try to multi-task too much, you risk doing everything half as well.
- It is valuable to try and “eat the frog” first thing in your peak time. The rest of your day will flow much better.
Preparing for the post coronavirus era
Today, nobody can predict what the "New Normal" will look like. The work we were performing in the last months would have been completed from any part of the world by anyone.
Will we compete with FP&A professionals overseas for the best remote job positions? No doubt about it. New job opportunities will arise from your unique perspective on the intersection between your past career and your human emotion: curiosity. It may be time to strengthen interdisciplinary passion-based learnings, where a digital mindset starts.
Your preparation now is critical, and we should focus on the 4 P’s:
- Peak purpose: Who are you? Where are you going? What do you want to do? How are you going there?
- Personalize learning. There is now evidence that serious changes occur when you connect emotional experiences with your own necessities. For example, by reading articles, watching videos, listening to podcasts, etc. Pick what suits you best & enjoy.
- Planning microlearning. Make your own project-based learning in bite size chunks. It will help you avoid procrastinating.
- Permanent mentoring. Find a mentor who worked in different disciplines.
Real change occurs inside out, and therefore, if our way of seeing the world fails, we will not be able to shine.
New realities demand renewed HUMAN BEINGS.