CEO Notebook |
I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with business officers in educational institutions for more than two decades. I began in higher education, and now work, of course, with independent schools. Throughout this time, I have witnessed firsthand the evolution of the business officer role. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: this position is no longer simply the manager of accounting, finance and tax issues on behalf of the school. Rather, the business officer is the strategic partner to the head of school and trustees, vested with the financial stewardship of the institution.
As roles evolve, we must make paradigm shifts in how we lead at any particular moment. Even though core responsibilities remain the same, how business officers approach and deliver in their role is one of the fundamental distinctions between management and leadership. I read, therefore, with great interest the Forbes article, “3 Ways CFOs Can Attract Top Talent As The Country Gets Back To Business.” The piece encapsulates where CFOs across all industries are at the moment and where CFOs need to go, following a fiscal year of unique challenges and opportunities. I think the ideas apply not only to attracting but also to keeping and reenergizing the talent we already have in our business offices.
Here are my top takeaways.
If there was ever a time to invest in our staff it is now. “Many realize they need to amplify and diversify their skills sets,” author Paul McDonald writes. The word “amplify” is apt. It is largely understood that investing in your staff’s professional development not only increases their abilities to give back to the school, but it engenders staff’s loyalty to the school as well. Opportunities for professional development have grown exponentially more affordable and ubiquitous as organizations, such as NBOA, have further honed their delivery of professional development in the online environment.
“Provide specifics about what options for learning, growing and advancing are available,” urges McDonald. At NBOA, we ask each staff member to develop a learning plan for the coming year. The plan is tied to an area in which they seek to improve and further develop. Staff members have an opportunity to identify publications, online learning and professional development programs aligned with that interest. Now is the time to partner with your staff to develop these plans, as you prepare for another upcoming school year that is sure to hold unpredictable challenges.
If you’re still “on the fence” about telework, consider national trends. “Opening the doors to the office and expecting a wave of top talent (or current talent) to rush in and work — day in and day out — is likely wishful thinking,” McDonald writes. One thing we learned from the past year is that we can advance the mission of our schools in new and different ways.
We have improved processes, implemented technology and enhanced communication to get the job done. Put this investment to its best use by continuing these efforts, at least in some part, to maintain and support a more flexible workplace that is desirable to many talented accounting, human resources and business operations professionals.
Supporting and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace benefits everyone in your school. As an independent school, you have an abundance of resources to fully commit to this work. Yet the commitment is not easy; it is something that every leader, faculty and staff member, including the business officer, must demonstrate every day. This is perhaps our greatest opportunity and our greatest challenge.
Independent schools are potentially an ideal setting to attract diverse individuals to financial, business and accounting roles. While business operations across sectors has significant room to grow in this regard, educational settings would seem to be a conducive entry point to broadly open opportunities and attract a diverse talent pool. If we re-imagine how and where we recruit, hire and support our staff, a more diverse workforce could follow.
If there was ever a year to collectively push a “reset” button, it is this one. But let’s not return to business as usual. We have so much to build upon that I can’t help but be optimistic. And, since the most tenured and successful business officers already know this challenging, yet enormously gratifying profession of ours will continually evolve, there seems to be no better time to ride the current wave into a successful year and future for our roles and our schools.
Follow NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields @shieldsNBOA.
Can Hybrid Workplaces Benefit Schools? (Jun 2021)
Developing Future Leaders from Within (Jul 2021)
Strategies: Diversifying the Senior Leadership Team (Mar/Apr 2021)
A Visible Difference: Recruiting and Retaining Diverse Faculty and Staff (Jan/Feb 2019)
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