Managing the finance talent squeeze
3 focus areas to address the changing talent equation in finance
Mike Walker & Brooke Baker | September 11, 2015
When it comes to talent, finance leaders are getting squeezed. More is demanded of CFOs and finance leaders, yet fewer available resources have the necessary skills. As a result, finance leaders are looking for ways to think differently about talent and accelerate transformation efforts.
"CFOs are being asked to make more of an impact on the business with their decisions," IBM CFO Martin Schroeter told the Wall Street Journal. We see this with our clients that are looking to move finance from a controller-centric to an FP&A-centric organization. (Think: less backward-looking analysis and more forward-looking decision support, such as M&A analysis and new-venture business case support.)
Finance is also being impacted by the rise in quantitative tools, because finance is seen as a natural place to house these capabilities. (Take big data, for example.)
This should be good news, right? Yes, CFOs benefit from increasing their sphere of influence while helping organizations develop quantitative-decision support capabilities. But here’s the problem: Finance teams lack the skills to pull it off. And industry groups are sounding the alarm that there isn't enough good talent to meet the increasing demands.
"Indeed, a shortage of top-quality, entry-level employees in the (finance) field is worsening as companies raise the bar for the skills they require from newbies, largely because of today’s advanced information systems and complex data-analytics tools." - CFO.com (source)
This is compounded by the fact that the areas with the largest skills gaps—such as business planning and strategic thinking—are the same ones required in this increasingly FP&A-centric world.
The two-sided talent equation
As finance leaders grapple with this challenge, they’ll need to accelerate transformation efforts to free up capacity for decision support and other highly-complex tasks. Additionally, a fresh take on finance talent is needed to appropriately hire, develop, and align the right kinds of talent to meet the new demand.
To do so, it’s important to look at both sides of the talent equation: work and talent. Focusing on one and not the other will result in inefficiencies and a failure to achieve organizational goals.
For example, if a company focuses on transformation work to alleviate capacity, but ignores its talent strategy, it risks not having the right people to do the work.
Alternately, organizations can hire top talent all day, but if they don’t optimize the work with a bias on value-add activities, their talented people will be stuck working on transactional tasks.
At Slalom, we help our clients focus on three areas to address these issues:
Leverage finance transformation efforts to optimize work allocation
- Optimize work alignment in the organization between shared service centers, centers-of-excellence, and business support for the best-possible work mix allocation, resulting in new capacity for key personnel.
- Refine internal processes and enabling systems to reduce cycle times and “brute force” task completion.
Use people analytics to articulate ideal future-state skillsets
- Identify profile for a successful future-state finance employee, then take stock of current talent against the profile to identify gaps and inform a ‘build and buy’ talent strategy.
- Predict high-value and high-risk talent groups, plan interventions, and measure retention, then revise talent strategies.
- Develop learning strategy and build capabilities of current employees based on the future-state finance employee profile.
Make financial information more accessible and impactful to the business to build a culture of financial stewardship (outside of finance)
- Expose financial information on a near-real-time basis to organizational decision makers using easily customizable dashboards, predictive analytics, and data visualization tools.
Focusing on these areas will help address the finance talent squeeze and contribute to a finance organization that provides superior value and helps drive the business forward in a volatile and uncertain business environment.
Brooke Baker is no longer with Slalom.
Mike Walker is a practice area lead in Slalom Atlanta’s finance & performance solutions practice. He serves a team that drives strategic consultative support in and around the finance function. Mike is passionate about helping his clients solve their most complex problems and supporting them through the decision making process. Follow Mike on Twitter: @walkermikep.
Brooke Baker is a talent management consultant at Slalom Atlanta, where she brings compassion and organization to help her clients succeed. Brooke is passionate about increasing employee engagement, helping clients develop and retain their talent, and creatively managing work-life balance.