You’ve Got a Great Employer

How do you know if you're working for the right company? Here are ten markers that all point to the same thing: a great workplace for finance managers.

In 1914, The Ford Motor Co. made an announcement that shook the industrial world. Henry Ford, inventor of the Model T and the company’s eponymous chairman, was going to start paying Ford factory workers the unheard of sum of $5 dollars a day. That daily rate was more than double the minimum wage for the industry — yes, double. At the same time, Ford also reduced the standard work day from nine hours to eight.

In the years that have followed, most businesses have substantially upped the ante. The majority of employers now offer workers paid vacations and health benefits. Some have even have turned to offering workers flexible hours, day care, and the option to telecommute. During the new economy boom of the late Nineties, some employers really larded on the niceties, allowing workers to wear sneakers to work, installing cappuccino bars next to foosball tables, and issuing reams of generous stock options.

Why all this largesse? Real simple: good companies start with good employees. To retain prized workers — and to maintain an edge on competitors — it almost always behooves employers to give valued employees incentives to keep them from jumping ship.

That’s true of finance employees as well. In past years, finance department staffers were often regarded as faceless, back-office workers. In Henry Ford’s parlance, interchangeable parts. But given the rising importance of finance, many employers now seem keen to keep turnover in the finance department to a minimum.

That’s smart, considering a recent survey conducted by HR consultancy Towers Perrin showed that a fair number of employees are currently looking for other work. “When the economy begins to rebound,” notes Don Lowman, managing director at Towers Perrin, “companies with a high percentage of disengaged or moderately engaged employees could become revolving doors for talent.”

Seemingly bad news for employers, good news for employees. But while taking on a new job can be exciting and rewarding, it also has its snares. The fact is, it’s almost impossible to know exactly what you’ve gotten yourself into until you’ve worked at a company for a while. And even with large amounts of due diligence, some finance employees will sadly discover they were better off at the jobs they left behind.

That, of course, raises the obvious question: how do finance department workers — from junior accountants up to CFOs — know they’ve got it good where they are? Admittedly, identifying a great job situation can be an exercise in relativity. The fact is, human beings value tangible — and intangible — benefits differently. And even good employers employ some bad managers. An accounts payable hand may love his boss, the treasurer, while a VP of internal control may really dislike her boss, the CFO.

Nonetheless, we asked our careers expert, assistant editor Lisa Yoon, to talk to finance managers, headhunters, and recruiters, all in an attempt to identify the tell-tale signs that you’ve got a great employer.

As Yoon found out, many of the signs are non-pay-related — often intangible. As CFO Bob Briggs of San Francisco-based healthcare network Kaiser Permanente puts it, “I’m a CFO — I’m not touchy-feely. Still, at the end of the day, there’s that element of ‘how does it feel?’” The following ten signs may not apply to all finance workers everywhere. But generally speaking, they’re fairly solid indicators that you may be better off sticking than kicking.

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