Challenges facing treasurers include communication, hiring, reviews and figuring out what lies ahead.
The pandemic has demonstrated that treasury operations can function smoothly and without major problems when team members and managers are forced to work from home (WFH) for several months—while at the same time exposing the shortcomings and challenges of working and managing remotely.
- That mixed picture, as well as unresolved questions about the future, emerged during a recent virtual discussion among members of the Life Sciences Treasury Peer Group, sponsored by Societe Generale.
“Generally positive.” That’s how one group member described the experience of overcoming “a lot of the challenges,” encountered while working and managing from home. Another treasurer said that “we’ve all discovered we can survive” remotely, but doesn’t think anyone really wants to do this permanently. “Zoom phone call exhaustion is part of our day,” he said.
Fans of Teams. Screen fatigue aside, more than one member mentioned their use of Microsoft Teams to keep the lines of communication open, with one describing the benefits of being able, with one click, to automatically connect to anyone on his team. “Any time you want to reach out and touch someone—they pick up right away,” he said.
Permanent remote? One treasurer shared that some people on her team are asking if they can work from home three times a week going forward—with others asking if they could go remote full time, allowing them to leave California, where the company is based, to save money.
- “I have many introverts on my team,” said another member who is having similar conversations with team members who like working from home. Another member’s company did a survey that showed many people on his team want to go back to the office on a part-time basis only.
- One treasurer raised the issue of paying people less if they move to areas with lower costs of living.
- More than one treasurer said employees would have the option of working from home unti the end of 2020. One noted that Google employees can chose WFH for the next year.
Whiteboards and watercoolers. Among the clear negatives of working and managing remotely is the loss of informal, impromptu communication when one team member or manager stops at a colleague’s desk or talks while grabbing a drink at the watercooler. “You lose that flow of information and that understanding,” one treasurer said, adding that people can end up feeling isolated.
- One member said that conversations about career development have fallen by the wayside during the pandemic. “Development is something we’ll have to pick back up,” he said.
The hiring hurdle. Hiring, training and onboarding have become more challenging during the pandemic, members said. One member said culture is particularly important at his company and introducing someone new to it is “harder when you’re remote.”
- Another treasurer who recently hired a senior manager described holding a lot of Zoom calls with the candidate and a broader set of panelists to compensate for the lack of in-person interviews. The treasurer is now meeting the new hire in person once a week while wearing masks and socially distancing.
- One member expressed reservations about hiring junior staffers who are less able to self-manage than people in in senior roles.
- A third treasurer who described hiring an intern as an “interesting experience” said the person has worked out quite well, emphasizing the need in times like this to hire people who have an ability to work on their own.
- One member has recorded training sessions and saved them “forever” so she can bring new hires up to speed.
Reviews during WFH. Several members said they have emphasized the positive during remote, mid-year reviews; they expected year-end reviews that involve discussion of promotions and compensation to be more difficult if done remotely.
- One treasurer said he wants to reward high performers but was troubled by penalizing people who have struggled for personal reasons during the pandemic. He asked how others would manage year-end ratings given this situation.
- Another member said he is spending much more time understanding the personal challenges facing team members. His general message is that he doesn’t care when people work as long as they get the work done. “People are quite productive, so you give them some slack,” he said.
- That kind of flexibility will be necessary as members prepare for the fall and the difficulties faced by team members whose children cannot return to school.