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UK firms held back by failure to recognise the strategic importance of the finance team

With this in mind, it seems surprising that as many as 60 per cent of finance professionals feel undervalued within their organisation, with more than half feeling they dont get the same respect as colleagues working in other departments.

Both of these statistics come from a recent piece of research undertaken by webexpenses, which interviewed over 500 finance professionals across the UK.

One of the key factors behind these findings is that finance teams are constrained by long-held, established practices that often consume their time and restrict their ability to influence the bigger picture, such as processing expenses claims and other financial data.

This shows how important it is for businesses to think about how they can unlock the potential of their finance professionals and build a more motivated team that has the time and freedom to add value to their organisation. It could be that finance directors and managers can achieve this by following a few simple steps.

Firstly, giving the members of a finance team a sense of empowerment can really boost their perceptions of themselves and enable them to demonstrate the value they add to people around them. Staff need to be given the chance to see the tangible difference that they can make to a business.

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A useful exercise, which has worked well for some organisations, is to offer junior staff the chance to run and manage a project on their own, and take responsibility for this going forward. For example, an FD might give a finance assistant the chance to manage a cost-saving project. This could be anything from an audit of company production costs to something as simple as an audit of company expenses.

As well as auditing certain procedures and company outgoings, giving people the power to act on their findings and implement change can go a long way to making them feel valued.

Another important aspect of developing a happier and more productive finance department is to help its more junior members play a more strategic role in a business operations.

According to the webexpenses research, 53 per cent feel that they are rarely seen as a strategic part of the business. In fact, 28 per cent said that having to deal with other peoples simple finance problems was their biggest daily annoyance and drain on their precious time. Being time poor means that they have little to contribute to the bigger picture due to the day-to-day tasks that require immediate attention.

Again FDs and CFOs need to support their teams to ensure they avoid becoming embroiled in the day-to-day and are given the opportunity to play a more strategic or bigger picture role within the company. One way of solving this problem may be to invest in companywide automation when it comes to financial processes expenses management being one of these. By freeing up the time of financial professionals, you are effectively allowing them to make better use of their time on a strategic level.

Read on to find out what’s happing in the finance world:

By empowering finance based staff members and giving them the opportunity to produce rewarding and tangible results, UK organisations will ensure that they have a more happy and productive finance department. If achieved, this could help all companies lay solid foundations for growth and future success.

Michael Richards is chairman of webexpenses.

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