You’ve Got a First-Rate Finance Department

The hallmarks of a great workplace for finance professionals aren't necessarily what you'd think.

“The goal,” explains Pergola, “is that every function can be done by at least one other person in the department.” And now, he adds, “people tend to volunteer and offer to back each other up” when someone’s sick or on vacation.

That spirit of cooperation and accomplishment breeds good vibrations. This doesn’t mean Pergola is arguing for a return of the excesses of the dot-com era; the work comes first. “We want people to have a fun time at work,” says Pergola. “But I wouldn’t say it’s a lax environment. It’s a comfortable environment with high expectations.”

9. Good Chemistry

Generally speaking, superior talent tends to produce superior results. But it’s important to remember that building a great team means more than simply hiring the best resumes. Experts says it’s also about how well the members of a team work together. For example, headhunter Wilson says a candidate’s style and fit are a major consideration in a CFO search assignment.

The same goes for the finance staff. “When we hire, we interview until HR is ready to strangle us,” says Pergola, who once met with 50 candidates for a single financial-analyst position. Prospective employees may have all the right qualifications, he adds, but his real concern is whether they’ll fit in with his team.

Active Network’s Smith sees it the same way: “It’s important to wait till you find the right person. I’ve learned that the hard way — earlier in my career.”

Obsessive cherry-picking has paid off for Pergola. Though he values a diverse workforce, he doesn’t specify preferences in hiring. Yet, his 35-member finance team comprises 18 women and 17 men; about one-third are minorities.

Taking your time when hiring also does wonders for staff continuity; experts say that good fits tend to stay at jobs longer. Pergola himself has been with Comedy Central since its 1991 launch.

But Buck Consultant’s Casey points out that it’s equally important to meet a candidate’s expectations of the position. He offers a checklist of the five key characteristics of an attractive employer: ample learning and training opportunities; extra-competitive pay (that is, more than what the market’s paying, if possible); solid, well-planned mentoring programs; clear career paths within the company; and a well-regarded reputation for ethical standards.

10. Employees Trust You

Human-resources professionals say that worker trust in management is essential to competitiveness, productivity — and shareholder value. Indeed, a recent study by Watson Wyatt showed that three-year total shareholder return is almost three times higher at companies where employee trust is high, compared with companies with low levels of worker trust.

Why is that? Robert Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau, authors of The Trusted Leader, say trust in senior management fosters focus, passion, and innovation, and helps attract the best talent.

At Comedy Central, a “work hard, play hard” mindset may seem like the party line, handed down by management. But for Pergola, it’s more than lip service; it’s apparent that he takes job satisfaction personally as he recalls a company party at a previous workplace. An hour into the party, he took off his suit jacket. He was asked to put it back on.

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