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Talent Search: Why Finance Needs to Use Advanced Analytics

  • By Nilly Essaides
  • Published: 9/14/2015

selectHiring and retaining top talent remains a constant challenge for finance departments in general and financial planning and analysis (FP&A) groups especially. An upcoming FP&A Guide, to be published next month, looks at why this issue continues to create headaches for CFOs and their teams.

A key problem is the fact that most companies rely on old-fashioned interviews to hire new talent. However, new research from Deloitte revealed key advantages to utilizing advanced analytics systems when looking to hire new staff. The study found that that the 14 percent of the 436 companies surveyed with mature talent seeking approaches outperformed the S&P by an average of 30 percent between 2011 and the end of 2013. According to Deloitte, the study “reveals that advanced analytics is helping achieve better talent outcomes in terms of leadership pipelines.”.
The challenge

Four drivers are making it harder for CFOs and senior FP&A professionals to find new talent:

  1. The growing unpredictability of the business environment
  2. The expanding role of the profession
  3. The advent of big data
  4. The evolution of new technologies.

Combined, these four forces are highlighting a growing talent gap between what hiring managers are able to find and the kinds of skillsets they want to acquire. Increasingly, finance chiefs want to hire FP&A staff with more than just Excel and analytics skills. The role of FP&A is to be the CFO’s right hand, driving business change and asking the tough questions. That kind of role requires new competencies: knowledge of operations, influencing abilities, business partnering and soft communication skills.

Additionally, as new tools are becoming available for both optimizing and automating low-value tasks and advancing analytics through big data, companies are looking for candidates who are also tech-savvy. Ideally, they want to hire candidates who have experience working with financial consolidation systems and advanced data analytics. Yet every company AFP interviewed for its upcoming guide insisted that it’s easier to train people to use technology than to develop their softer skills that allow them to become change agents in the organization.

The big challenge many companies face is that they don’t know where to get started, according to Josh Breslin, the Deloitte report’s author. “The first thing they should do is encourage and support human resources (HR)  to advance its analytics capability,” he said. “That’s where the finance team can help. “Finance typically has the most advanced analytics capability.”

The benefits in terms of performance are numerous. According to Breslin, “companies with a mature talent analytics function—one that allows HR to use advanced statistical models or predictive analytics to improve their business planning and performance—are deriving value from their efforts in nearly every talent area—recruiting, talent mobility, leadership pipeline and cost reduction.”

For the FP&A teams, new skill requirements parallel changes in the behaviors and responsibilities needed in finance, according to David Axson, managing director of CFO and enterprise value at Accenture. That means the onus is on CFOs and their teams to acquire the right personnel. Finance is far more than just a steward of the company’s financial well-being. Finance also helps protect the business’ profit against risks and assesses new avenues of growth for the company. Finance also drives innovative insights and value-added analysis to improve business performance.  
“Good FP&A professionals are the ultimate storytellers who provide the meaning behind the financial figures,” Axson said. “Owing to this expanded role, finance professionals often now balance core business and finance responsibilities to help the business as a whole. This development has put a premium on skills beyond those traditionally valued by finance.”

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