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Accounting

How to Improve Employee Retention by Improving Corporate Culture

By | Abila, Accounting, Corporate Culture, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

We’ve all seen the statistics: it costs several thousand dollars, and several weeks or months of lost productivity to fill vacancies. Nonprofits face additional employee retention challenges in a strong economy with low unemployment. Retaining skilled employees becomes more challenging in a strong, robust economy.

There is no one size fits all program you can put into place to improve retention. Instead, consider building a sustainable corporate culture that encourages people to feel loyal to your organization.

What Is Corporate Culture?

Corporate culture is the overall tone, mood, feeling and method of work that occurs within an organization. While difficult to define, it is easy to spot. A productive, positive corporate culture leads to loyalty, low turnover, and high productivity. A negative corporate culture leads to disgruntled employees, poor productivity, high turnover, and myriad other problems.

 

Improving Corporate Culture

The Harvard Business Review lists several methods to improve corporate culture.

 

  1. Clarify the organization’s vision. Nonprofits who successfully retain employees have a clearly defined vision for their organization. Pathway to Stop Diabetes, an initiative of the American Diabetes Association, has a clearly defined mission: “Our visionis simple yet revolutionary: find a new generation of brilliant scientists at the peak of their creativity, then provide them with the freedom, autonomy, and financial and professional resources to set them on the road to breakthrough discoveries.” A defined vision helps unite and clarify the work of everyone at a nonprofit, enhances company culture and is a central point around which all conversations can revolve  .
  2. Hire the right people. We know, it’s easier said than done, but hiring people who believe wholeheartedly in the vision is an important step toward building organizational culture and reducing turnover. Look for people with a demonstrated work history aligned with your mission. People’s actions speak louder than words when it comes to demonstrating their values, and their work history is the record of how they implement those values in their careers.
  3. Develop guiding principles. Guiding principles are the shared statements that reflect how to implement the mission and vision of an organization. They also document how you expect employees to behave, treat one another, and do their work. Guiding principles should include the ideas and concepts you would like to inculcate throughout the organization. A corporate culture that accepts and honors diversity, for example, might have as its guiding principle tolerance for all races, creeds, religions and sexual preferences; a corporate culture that values innovation might have as a guiding principle the embracing of creativity and the time needed to generate creative ideas.
  4. Build a compelling narrative. Narratives are stories and every nonprofit have its own unique story. Marley’s Mutts, a nonprofit animal rescue in Bakersfield, California, builds on the narrative of the founder’s battle with end stage liver disease and the role that Marley, his dog, had in helping him overcome hopelessness. That bond between dogs and people is what inspires all of Marley’s Mutts actions and programs including their prison outreach, special needs children’s outreach, and rescuing so-called unadoptable dogs from shelters around the world.
  5. Promote connections. People are less inclined to leave an organization if they feel strong connections to it and to others who work there. Millennials are often cited as lacking loyalty, but in fact, they simply have a low tolerance for boredom and the lack of interest in their work. Build connections to the organization through promoting challenging projects, increasing responsibility, and improving chances for advancement.

 

Building a strong corporate culture to improve employee retention takes time and effort. Make it a concerted effort among your leadership team, human resources, and managers to enact positive changes that build culture and improve loyalty.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

5 Tips to Accomplish Goals with Your Consultant

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

At some point in your nonprofit work, you may need to hire a consultant. Whether it’s a technology consultant  retained to help you choose the right fund accounting software for your organization, or a marketing consultant to  assist in building a great website, consultants are a smart way to expand your team with the expertise  required to complete a project.

Consultants are experts in their field. They are seasoned professionals who choose to work with a variety of organizations rather than spend their time with just one. They are truth-tellers whose main objective is to help you solve a problem.

There are several tricks to finding a terrific consultant and achieving successful project goals together. Here are our top steps to accomplish your goals with your consultants and to work successfully together.

 

Tips to Work Together with Consultants

 

  1. Build a good rapport with your consultants so you can trust and have confidence in their suggestions. Communications must be clear and understandable; while consultants are experts, they shouldn’t speak in such lengthy jargon that you can’t understand what they are trying to say. Speak up if you don’t understand anything and be sure to ask plenty of questions. Consultants are there to help you, and they should be able to answer your questions in ways that you understand.
  1. Set expectations in writing. Although you may have discussed the nuances of your project, it is easy to forget the details once the work begins or other projects take center stage. Having expectations, goals, milestones, and dates in writing with your consultant ensures that there is no ambiguity around the work undertaken, the definition of when a project is complete, and other details of the project.
  1. Establish communication channels and preferences at the start of the engagement. Consultants should be flexible about the method and frequency of communications. Some people prefer instant messages while others prefer telephone communications. Make sure your preferences are known at the start of the project. Also discuss frequency of communications; how often will the consultant check in with you? Do you require progress reports or other reports for your Board or supervisors? Clarify communication expectations in writing early in the project to avoid frustration on both sides.
  1. Identify people in your organization with whom the consultant should work. Establishing who the consultant should communicate with inside your organization is equally as important as establishing the method and frequency of communication. To ensure the consultants always have someone available, identify one to three people that the consultant can contact for questions and a discussion of issues.
  1. Discuss boundaries. Consultants are not employees. At some point in the project, their work ends, and yours begins. They will pass on their recommendations to you to implement. Have a plan in place to initiate their recommendations as soon as they are accepted. If you do not have a plan for implementation, you may have a great document from the consultant that sits on a shelf gathering dust.

Consultants add a great deal of value to an organization, but you can only benefit from their expertise if you communicate well, trust their judgment, and establish who will take their work on to the finish line.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Can’t Find Internal Auditors? You’re Not Alone

By | Accounting, Audit, Nonprofit | No Comments

If you can’t seem to find internal auditors with some experience for mid-level career positions, you’re not alone, and you’re not imagining the scarcity in the marketplace. There’s a shortage of internal auditors with 5 to 10 years of experience. Worse, many organizations are dissatisfied with the skills of their existing internal audit team.

What’s behind this problem and how can it be addressed?

The Current Situation: Few Are Happy with Current Situation

A study released by Deloitte sheds light on the situation. According to the results of the study, just 13% of Chief Audit Executives are very satisfied with the skills of their current audit team. More than half responding to the study expressed outright dissatisfaction with their teams. How can this be?

We could blame poor leadership, but there are some wonderful CAEs out there, and many organizations have strong leadership, yet weak teams. The real problem lies in the fact that there are few university-level programs that educate people for the internal auditing profession.

Most internal audit professionals begin their careers with a general accounting or finance degree. They end up specializing in the internal audit function by accident. A job opening appears and they take it, entering the audit department as junior level members.

When they reach the mid-career stage, however, many either leave the audit team or seek jobs elsewhere. This leaves a gap within the mid-level ranks.

The trail to the audit team is also one that is not well known to most college graduates. Many graduates with degrees in accounting and business look for work in the for-profit sector. The internal audit function is a relatively hidden profession within the larger sphere of accounting that many might be attracted to if they only knew it existed.

The Remedy: How Can We Encourage More and Better Internal Auditors?

The problem seems clear enough: lack of a formal education pathway into the professional and a lack of clear progression in a career path once established. Lack of awareness for the job’s many interesting facets is also part of the problem.

To remedy this situation, nonprofits might consider the following steps:

  • Recognize that the internal audit department provides a valuable and important function in your organization: Ensure that everyone knows the importance of internal audits and why they aren’t just checks and balances for finances, but are viewed as a valuable aspect of business development. The internal audit function can help nonprofits successfully analyze their finances and plan better for development. They are a vital, integral part of the finance and accounting teams.
  • Support professional development: Offer professional development to your existing internal audit staff. More than half of internal auditors surveyed by the Institute of Internal Auditors, for example, admitted that they lacked training in cyber security, a growing threat to nonprofit organizations. Such training is relatively easy to find online or through many organizations and could bolster your nonprofit’s ability to defend against attacks. These and other professional development opportunities could help your current auditing team feel engaged and motivated, both of which reduce employee turnover and improve retention rates.
  • Talk to undergraduates: Consider contacting the chairs of the local business colleges and ask if you can address business and accounting students on career day or in their accounting classes to share with them what the internal audit function is like and why there are so many opportunities for young, smart graduates in the field. Someone out there may just need a nudge in the nonprofit direction to find a rewarding career as an internal auditor, but they won’t know the career path exists until it is shared.

These are just a few of the steps you might wish to take to help improve the situation among internal audit teams at your own nonprofit and to support the profession in general.

Internal auditors provide so much assistance to a nonprofit, that it’s hard to imagine an organization without them.  Yes, the shortage of mid-career talent is real, but we can do so much more to fix that problem then we are doing now. With the right steps, we could improve the situation and help more people enter the field.

Welter Consulting, Your Bridge to Solutions

Navigating the many options available to you for technology resources can be tricky. There’s always something else tugging at you for attention. Where do you start? How do you decide?

Welter Consulting offers a bridge to solutions that work for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

 

12 Steps to Improve Internal Controls

By | Accounting, Audit, Fraud, Internal Controls, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

There’s no better time than now to review and analyze your organization’s internal controls. We’ve broken up the intimidating task of updating and maintaining proper internal controls while being slightly more focused and productive, with these 12 simple yet necessary steps.

Step 1: Map out your current processes and workflows. Detail out internal accounting procedures with a simple step-by-step checklist or list of rules. Clearly identify how long each step of authorization should take to process.

Step 2: Identify clear separation of duties. Open your workflow documentation back up and assign owners for each procedure, and other process owners who may be involved in authorizations, approvals, or reviews.

Step 3: Bring in an outside expert to review your current processes. Leverage outside expertise like certified fraud examiners (CFEs) or attorneys specialized in evaluating and improving internal controls. They can help identify any gaps or vulnerabilities.

Step 4: Find a new home for your documentation. You’ll want to maintain documentation of your processes in a commonly-used location that is easily accessible by staff. It will need to be continually updated as needs shift throughout the year.

Step 5: Review security permissions in your fund accounting system. Your technology should fully support your desired workflows encompassing your separation of duties. Update your security settings to limit system access, based on defined roles and security groups.

Step 6: Set up monitoring alerts. Ideally, your fund accounting system can be set up with active monitoring alerts to quickly notify other staff about key activities, such as when checks are printed, but not recorded, or vendor hold payment status is changed.

Step 7: Create a digital audit file. Here you’ll organize and maintain artifacts for future audits, including bank statements and reconciliations, investment summaries, fixed asset and depreciation schedules, documentation of donor pledges and grant funds received, and year-end accounts payable and expenses.

Step 8: Update your employee onboarding. Now that your documentation is up to date, you’ll need to update your new employee onboarding to reflect the changes. It’s important to promote a shared commitment of financial responsibility from the start with a new employee.

Step 9: Set a reoccurring monthly budget review. The budget is not just a planning tool – this is a key internal control. Schedule monthly budget reviews for reconciliation, explaining variances to the budget keeps proper checks and balances across departments.

Step 10: Recruit for an audit committee. You’ll want to institute a strong audit committee of independent members (typically from the board) who are familiar with finance and accounting. They should select and review the independent external auditors and help monitor for fraud.

Step 11: Schedule an internal audit. The best prepared organizations perform internal audits to ensure key control activities are being followed, and to identify any reconciliation discrepancies. Find an appropriate time for your team and stick to the date.

Step 12: Set up quarterly staff trainings. You must reinforce your controls with periodic trainings. Take the time now to get these on the calendar and build into the agenda time to discuss any shifting accounting standards for which you may need to adjust.

Remember, the objective of internal controls is to put “checks and balances” in place to help manage and preserve the charitable assets of the organization. It builds a foundation of policies and procedures that ensures employees act responsibly and ethically and prepares the organization for expected scrutiny (for example, audits and budget reviews) and tough to predict events (for example, staff turnover).

Here are a few resources to help you implement the 12 Steps to Better Internal Controls:

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.