The battle for talent in the finance sector has never been fiercer. To find and train the best talent in market, CFOs need to get actively involved in talent management. To do so effectively, CFOs should to take on a different role.
Our interviews with CFOs from SMEs to multinationals have revealed four key ways of approaching challenges with talent acquisition and retention in their teams.
• CFOs are leveraging their influence and knowledge to get personally involved in recruiting and training the most talented candidates on the job market.
• As the CFO gets more deeply involved in managing the financial talent pool in the company, he or she will also have more qualities of the Pilot: a leader and strategic thinker.
• One of the new responsibilities of the CFO is making sure that employees who are already longer with the company develop their technical skills.
Click below on the Pilot, Scientist, Coach and Engineer to reveal an insight from one of our interviewees on different approaches to this challenge.
From moderating conflict at board level to aligning team competencies with business needs, the CFO as coach and talent manager is a growing trend. How has this relatively new skillset impacted on their interactions with both finance teams and the wider company structure – and their view of soft skills versus the more technical competencies?
Previously, the finance function required many attributes: analytical thinking, comprehension, assertiveness and - without a doubt - technical expertise. Although these may not have changed, the modern finance employee also needs to exhibit a wide range of soft skills, including an ability to convey complex ideas in simple, yet engaging terms.
For Mehmet Çayırezmez, CFO of Getir everything can be taught, if the candidate has the right attitude. “When I recruit or hire people I look at their potential, rather than if they have enough experience. I believe that a good person with a fair amount of finance skills in general, can be fitted in and do anything if they are given the chance and a little bit of time.”
“I can teach accounting in one day - but what I really need to see in an aspiring financial leader is curiosity. Curiosity about the business; curiosity to identify ways to drive different teams towards the same goals and grow the company.”
Personal involvement in developing talent
In many businesses, the CFO has already moved up the ladder of influence as a Coach-like figure, moderating conflict at board level and defining their department’s contribution to overall strategy through company-wide visibility.
It is highly likely that other senior leaders do not actively monitor issues such as financial management, accounting, tax or the supply chain – but the business requires all to be working harmoniously to function profitably.
As the Pilot in this context, driving the company to better performance, Philippe de Briey, CFO of Monsanto Europe, explains this in terms of market view. The CFO is the window into the business for shareholders, investors and other external stakeholders.
“One of the things I hope that I bring to the leadership team [is helping them] to think differently about the business, having this holistic and systemic view, really putting themselves in the shoes of the markets,” Briey notes.
Coaching other board members when it comes to linking facts and figures to strategy and linking it to investors’ pays dividends. But to achieve this, senior financial leaders have to reevaluate not only their own competencies, but also those of their closest team members.
Building better teams for the future
The battle is not only to locate the best talent, it is to build teams around it, and to ensure the competencies the CFO needs to drive better productivity in their department are available. Bob Braasch, CFO of Marathon Capital, understands that it is as much about depth of talent and understanding as it is numbers of employees. “It adds pressure to make sure you’ve got the right people in the right roles and that you’re also building a depth chart. That’s something we have worried about for years.”
When looking closer at the Coach role of the CFO, there is a need to critique their own competencies and drive their own agenda, because a transformational leadership style is important to bring others on the journey.
CFOs must act as a forerunner for their team, being coach and motivator at the same time and a focal point for an increasingly diverse team. The trick is to combine the best aspects of everything culture, says Pürnur Üner, CFO of the Japanese Turkish company Ajinomoto Örgen Gıda. “The Turkish culture is a more entrepreneurial, and very action-oriented, the Japanese culture has a strong emphasis on planning, moving cautiously and taking enough time to get prepared for projects. It will be quite interesting to combine these two cultures.”
Clear goals and vision
Understanding that it is more than just numbers that affect the bottom line is a vital part of the CFO’s role. As Engineer, the ability to build a system that helps retain the best people is a huge part of that element, acknowledging the cost of employee churn.
Sodexo VP Global Finance Services Florence Rocle says: “It is very important for the CFO to define strategy and needs clearly. If you define too many objectives, or the strategy is vague, you can go in so many different directions and end up doing nothing.”
This plays into the media-friendly idea that the work ethic of the Millennial generation is lacking. From the CFO’s point of view, this criticism falls short of the mark when the newer generation places a stronger emphasis on personal development and workflow design.
This is where the CFO as Coach is called for. As BizSpace CFO Phil Dennis contends: “For the generation that are in their late twenties and early thirties, a job is about their own personal development. Knowing this, financial leaders have a responsibility to directly support employees’ developmental needs, particularly regarding their ability to influence and engage others.”
Some CFOs rely heavily on external recruiting; others generate their own CFO trainee programmes in their companies in the sense of continuing training, as they cannot find the personnel and skills they need on the market. As JLL’s UK CFO James Gregory explains: “Our focus on people is around being straightforward with them in terms of the advantages of technology as well as making sure that we are re-training and re-skilling them. Very rapidly you’ll see opportunities coming up that strike a line through certain admin tasks and allow employees to move to the more skill-based positions”.
The CFO, though, must know how to use new technologies on the market, or at least be able to identify the operational advantages. Andrea Wesson, Eversholt Rail CFO, agrees. “You do need to have a mixture of operational knowledge in my role. I am quite happy to roll up my sleeves, get involved and play.”
- Soft skills, particularly curiosity, are a more coveted asset than ever in aspiring financial leaders
- CFOs are well-positioned to understand talent gaps across teams and add great value through their involvement in the hiring process
- A sustainable business model that develops leadership internally should be a focus as it maintains the right environment for high performance
- Having a clear vision and workflow are key to retaining talent
A CFO who is prepared to get involved at all levels is one who can best adapt and profit from a rapidly-changing climate