more-arw search

Former Sun Microsystems CFO on Employee Development

Former Sun Microsystems CFO on Employee Development

Heading into the new year, many businesses are becoming even more focused on maintaining limited budgets, particularly with the economy still recovering at a relatively slow rate.

While budget restrictions undoubtedly mean capping investments and ensuring operational efficiencies, employee development strategies can also be critical.

In a recent CFO Magazine column, the former chief financial officer of Sun Microsystems, Michael Lehman, noted that employee development was always one of the areas in which he placed a strong emphasis.

The publication notes that the company's resources and rotational programs enabled a number of Lehman's former employees to be elevated to CFO and corporate controller roles at large companies after leaving Sun Microsystems.

In his current role as CFO of venture-backed Palo Alto Networks, however, Lehman has been forced to adapt to fewer resources and tighter budgets.

"When I got there, two years ago, there was no concept of employee development; development was for products,” Lehman said during a presentation at the publication's Playbook for Private Companies conference, which was held in Miami recently.

As a result, the finance chief has adapted to his situation and offered a number of easy, cost-effective ways to spur employee development in the workplace.

One of the most important things Lehman points to is a framework to provide feedback to employees, beginning with self-evaluations and evolving to quarterly reviews and goal setting. The finance chief also noted the importance of keeping workers abreast of potential organizational changes within the company that may be on the horizon.

An easy way to develop an employee's communication skills can be forcing them to stand up during staff meetings and offer a quick overview on the project he or she is currently working on, according to Lehman.

One final employee development tool designed specifically for finance professionals was for CFOs or other members of the C-suite to allow finance staffers to accompany them on customer visits. This, Lehman notes, can get the staffer comfortable with these situations and prepare them for potentially larger roles in the future.

These tactics are increasingly important with a number of recent CFO surveys indicating companies are still hesitant to hire employees based on budget restrictions and a lack of qualified candidates. If each new hire is developed properly, the consequences of hiring mistakes can be much more easily avoided.

Products and Companies: