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The Finance Team of the Future: 4 Management Challenges

  • By Nilly Essaides
  • Published: 7/8/2016
Building the right finance team is one of the CFO’s top challenges. Nearly three quarters of respondents to the May 2016 Adaptive Insights CFO Indicator Survey said the biggest impact on their future role will come from talent management and skills shortages. Many newcomers to finance will come from the millennial generation. It’s therefore incumbent upon senior finance executives to learn how to attract and best manage this younger workforce.

Ajit Kambil, global research director at Deloitte’s CFO Program says one of the big challenges CFOs face is how to develop people and get the right talent in the right seat. The other is how to create a well-functioning team. “CFOs have to deal with the diversity of the workforce, which includes generational diversity,” Kambil said. “Millennials have a very different mindset,” he said. Thus CFOs need to develop a new thinking about their career paths and consider how to motivate the new generation to keep the best performers engaged and loyal.

Challenges ahead

Millennials bring a lot of opportunities to the finance function. They’re curious. They’re innovative. They ask the right questions and have advanced analytical and technical skills. But as every senior finance executive will admit, this new generation presents some management challenges.

Challenge # 1: How to communicate? According to Carl Seidman, an independent management consultant and trainer, millennials are more likely to want quicker results and a lot more engagement from their superiors. They want more feedback and more development opportunities.

Solutions:

  • Provide mentoring opportunities.
  • Communicate openly, frequently.
  • Ask them what they want.

Challenge # 2: How to react to uber-ambition? Millennials appear impatient to move to the next assignment, the next role, the next promotion. While it’s good to have ambitious staff, in finance a lot depends on building relationships. According to one finance professional: “In finance a lot of competencies take time to develop. You have to accumulate experience.” That means living through various business cycles. “If you are going to be a long-term value add, you got to stay somewhere for a while.”

Solutions:

  • Provide ongoing learning opportunities; keep them challenged.
  •  Offer team-based, cross-functional special projects.
  • Initiate intra-finance rotational programs.

Challenge # 3: How to provide continuous growth? “According to all the studies I’ve read, the number one thing millennials are looking for is the opportunity for professional development,” said Jim Kaitz, president and CEO of AFP. Companies that are unable to provide that will face the consequence of higher turnover. “But if you create a learning culture, you can create loyalty in that group.”

That’s one of the reasons AFP is offering the Certified Corporate FP&A Professional designation. The certification process includes mastering a comprehensive body of knowledge and passing a two-part exam. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, it’s a viable—not to mention cost-effective—alternative path to an MBA.

Solutions:

  • Support continuous education.
  • Offer internal training and career development.
  • Sponsor external professional designations.

Challenge # 4: How to get beyond the busy work? Day-to-day finance work may not be too sexy. By rotating staff through different assignments, companies can ensure millennials get diverse experiences, and that has to be part of the recruiting message. However, it needs to go beyond the message. It must be delivered.
 
Solutions:

  • Don’t just promise a growth environment—deliver!
  • Automate the daily grind as much as possible to free up time for analysis.
  • Offer exciting projects to supplement day-to-day work.
Act now

As CFOs look to build the best finance teams they can going forward, they need to become more adept at managing millennials. “This is not something that managers can handle five years down the road. It’s something you need to be addressing today,” said Chris Ortega, manager of financial planning and analysis (FP&A) at WebLink International, himself a millennial. “What I’m seeing is that a lot of high-level Baby Boomer executives are not in tune with even the basic characteristics of this younger workforce. This is mission critical now. In 10 years, these young workers will make up 75 percent of the workforce. You want to make sure that you have the right environment. You want to stay competitive.”
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