Jim Kaitz, President and Chief Executive Officer, AFP
It’s no secret that among the challenges CFOs face today, finding and retaining talent remains arguably the most prominent—and frustrating. Study after study points to a widening chasm in the level of talent companies seek to make their finance departments a more integral part of their business. But the real disconnect lies in what leadership is actually doing to fill the void.
A study from Deloitte says that 60% of CFOs look outside their organization for the next finance leader. Is that the wisest course of action? Is it the best use of company resources? The talent they need to help lead the finance department may be sitting in a cubicle down the hallway. But what are they doing to train these people—to prepare them to lead?
Companies today need a strategy to identify top talent in the field. And as the pool of qualified candidates gets smaller, that strategy becomes even more integral to building a solid team. To devise a talent strategy, companies need to ask a number of critical questions. How are you engaging with your team—motivating and training them to become finance leaders? What are the most important skills finance leaders of tomorrow need today? CFOs talk about the importance of communication, collaboration and negotiation skills, but are they doing anything to train people in these areas?
The disconnect between what the rising crop of finance professionals wants and what companies are doing to recruit and retain them has grown noticeably stark. Millennials are looking for—in fact, demanding—professional development opportunities, but companies are doing very little to provide these opportunities. The result? Good, smart talent is walking out the door. And they’re not looking back.
At the same time, CFOs recognize that their staffs lack the people skills that finance professionals need to be successful in driving performance. Finance requires expertise in areas beyond data and numbers. There’s an art to the finance discipline. Skills such as business-partnering, being a top communicator, business proficiency and the ability to leverage influence are critical. Again, what are finance leaders doing to ensure their staffs acquire these skills?
CFOs from every industry are going to continue to face increasingly growing talent gaps without professional development tracks, education and specialized training for their finance teams. Perhaps even more important is ongoing training and development so junior people can keep up to speed and move up the leadership ladder, giving CFOs the opportunity to hand off the baton more seamlessly.
Clearly, ongoing training is critically important to help close the talent gap. According to an IBM Institute for Business Value Study, 82% of CFOs see the value of integrating enterprise-wide information, but only 24% think their team is up to the task. That’s telling. Who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the staff has the skills to keep the flow of information fluid? If you believe it’s finance leaders, starting with the CFO, that’s a good start. The next question is: What internal steps are you taking to help finance become a more strategic partner? Once you can answer that confidently, you’re on the right path.