September 2014: Performance Management: Am I Doing a Good Job?
As a financial manager, how do you measure success? How does your boss measure your success? Ideally, you and your boss have sat down and established meaningful, measurable, challenging annual goals for you to achieve – however, that doesn’t always happen. HR Consultant Gordon Gottlieb facilitated a discussion on how performance evaluations get played out at different nonprofits, and how to think about setting goals for CFOs, other finance staff and for the rest of the organization. Gordon has many years of experience working as an HR consultant and currently works only with nonprofit and public entity clients.
In general, many CFOs have general goals such as balancing the budget, producing timely monthly statements, etc. Gordon recommended that when setting goals that a CFO will be evaluated on, the CFO should play a role in setting those goals and it is better to move from the vague to the specific. The agency’s mission, values, budget, and strategic plan (if it is current) should be taken into account when setting goals. Once the goals are set, check-in should happen more than once per year. That way there is time for improvement if necessary. Check-ins or evaluations sessions should be structured and have a time limit. The larger your organizations is, the greater the need for formal, structured evaluations. Someone in the Agency has to make sure that the evaluation process is “real” and takes place for all staff. The goals that are set in advance need to be clear enough so that everyone know what success looks like.
There are different types of goals pertaining to a CFO. There are the non-finance goals, pertaining to professional development. Then there are project goals, either for specific innovative projects or for predictable functions of the job. In financial management there are a lot of routine goals – 80% of the job is making sure that the finances and operations run smoothly. And finally, there may be performance benchmarks for staff whose performance needs improvement.
Again, goals need to be specific so that everyone involved know what success looks like. The two major aspects of specificity are as follows. First, the outcomes need to be very clearly spelled out. And second, the process needs to be considered: what will it take to get from here to there? Are the resources available? If not, then limitations and conditions need to be communicated.
Gordon was asked about the usefulness of 360 evaluations, where input is sought from all stakeholders. He stated that he did not think that they were that useful – the benefits did not justify the effort involved. Instead, the CFO should do informal check-ins with key stakeholders. Also, Gordon emphasized that the whole goal setting and evaluation processes really are not the way to deal with agency morale and culture. The two are completely separate.