Get the Most Out of Your Accounting Department with Effective Communication
Effective communication is important when dealing with employees and outsiders, such as vendors and clients, but it holds even greater importance with regards to your accounting department. Accounting functions, such as budget preparation and reporting, bill paying, payroll and recording income, are crucial to your business and need to be effectively and properly presented to both management and employees throughout your entire organization.
The Accounting Department: A Necessary Evil or Valuable Asset?
Ineffective communication not only has a negative impact on the business, but it can lead to the accounting department being viewed as a necessary evil, rather than a valuable asset. The best solution to this problem is for senior management to take the first steps in improving communication with finance and accounting and this is where an outsourced CFO services provider can play a valuable role.
There are many articles out there that focus on how managers need to communicate. Companies spend a lot of time and money with ongoing professional development to make sure managers are effective communicators, but often times the accounting and finance department are overlooked. Companies need to recognize that the employees in the accounting department touch on every area of the company and work directly with employees in other departments on an ongoing basis. And for this reason, effective communication is vital. One example of how ineffective communication can have detrimental effects on a business is when a payroll clerk does not enter payroll and benefits correctly and an employee’s paycheck is incorrect. This is a very sensitive area for employees and can affect morale.
Creating an environment within the company for open communication is a good place to start. “Effective Communication Skills that Gets Result” by Anne Bachrach is a great article that breaks down the guidelines for effective communication into seven easy steps.
7 Steps to Better Communication
Step 1: Establish Trust
Some people naturally distrust other people because they do not know what the other one is thinking. Therefore, the sooner that you come out and say what you want, the sooner you can begin establishing trust.
Step 2: Speak Clearly and Concisely
Speaking clearly can sometimes be a problem since not everyone takes the time to improve in diction or word usage.
Step 3: Recognize Problems in Communication
What are some of the most common barriers in effective communication? For starters, there is language or word usage. One cannot always assume that what sounds benevolent to you would strike others the same way. People can easily misinterpret or even distort a statement’s original meaning.
Step 4: Learn How to Use Tone and Body Language
In trying to improve your own communication, beware of a defensive posture or negative voice inflection. Once a person goes on the defensive, the conversation tends to spiral into oblivion. Make sure that you use a friendly and welcoming posture, with open arms and a smile. If you sense yourself taking on defensive gestures or even resorting to a defensive tone (perhaps provoked by the other person) then eliminate those telling signs. Don’t let emotion overpower good judgment.
Step 5: Never Assume Anything
Assumptions are another common problem, whether they are self-fulfilled assumptions or merely if others see things in the same way that you do. Never assume—the fact of the matter is that most people do not see things the way that you do, nor do they have the same feelings as you do. The less you assume, the better. This falls under the category of making sure that your communication is always clear.
Step 6: Recognize Communication Issues Caused by Technology
With the advent of new technologies also come new technology-related barriers in communication. Technology-based communication problems might result from lost phone messages or ambiguous email messages. Lastly, remember that this form of impersonal communication usually doesn’t allow for non-verbal clues.
Step 7: Learn How to Talk Business
If you are trying to get someone to open-up, then try using open-ended questions rather than yes or no interrogations. When reviewing your own tactful manner analyze how you approach people. Do you bully them with close-ended questions or do you ask them in a positive manner how the both of you can make necessary changes to get a project moving more efficiently?
Effective communication does not always come naturally to everyone and may need to be a learning process. Senior and Middle Management should set a good example for the employees, but employees also need to take the initiative to help create an environment for open communication. A company should encourage an environment where employees feel empowered to ask questions and solve problems. Management can help create an effective communication environment by recognizing that employees want to be valued and feel that they have a say on important matters. Employees who feel that they are valued will feel more connected with the employer and, in turn, be more engaged and motivated to do the best work possible for the organization.
Linda Meade is a Consultant on Fahrenheit’s Finance & Advisory team. She has more than 25 years of accounting experience in small to medium sized companies with a background in all areas of accounting, including Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, General Ledger, Sales Tax, Fixed Assets, Financial Analysis, and Reporting.