You’ve Got a First-Rate Finance Department

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

But while he’s sincere about having fun, he also expects his staff to work as hard as he does. To that end, it’s important to Pergola that his staff doesn’t perceive a double standard for senior management. “They see me [working],” he says. “I’m the first one in the office in the morning, and I’m working all day.”

Trust is also about open communications. Employees shouldn’t be afraid to point out problems for fear of incurring the CFO’s wrath. “I’m always saying, ‘I want the bad news fast,’ ” says Active Network’s Smith. If the invitation to be frank is sincere, she explains, “people know you’re going to help [when there's a problem], and not overreact.”

Likewise, Vanguard’s Packard avoids lip service. He and other senior executives at the index fund specialist regularly ask the “crew” (as Vanguard calls its workforce) “how life is” through feedback and quarterly surveys through the company intranet. And employees know their opinions are actually heard, not just solicited to make management look good. Special task forces, based on survey results, handle such issues as education and development, employee communications, and work-life balance.

The work has paid off. Vanguard employees seem extremely happy with the jobs. In fact, last year, Vanguard was recognized for the overall performance in a CFO magazine article on the Best Workplaces for Financial Professionals program. Senior editor Roy Harris, who wrote the article, reports that “Vanguard employees say they’d stay at the company even if times were tougher.”

That, perhaps, is the ultimate measure of a great workplace.

(Editor’s note: Be sure to take a look at the flip side of this story — find out the ten sure signs “Your Finance Department Is Second-Rate.”)

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