3 Tips for HR to Find and Develop the Best Finance Talent

By Ash Noah October 8, 2015

Ash Noah, CPA, is vice president of CGMA External Relations at the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). He is also responsible for elevating awareness among employers of the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation.

For HR professionals looking to identify and develop the best financial talent, it’s important to know that the finance industry is experiencing a rapid shift and significant evolution. We’re working within a VUCA world—one of increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Your chief financial officer (CFO) is likely mindful of this shift and looking for a partner who can help implement an effective and future-facing solution. Since the HR team is responsible for developing and obtaining the best talent, you have a great opportunity to lead the charge in partnering with the CFO to develop a high-functioning finance team.

How the Finance Role Is Evolving

Here’s what you need to know: expectations of finance professionals are becoming increasingly broad, demanding and elastic. They’re expected to manage more than their predecessors might have, from partnering with other functions of the business to identifying and articulating business insights. Overall, finance professionals are becoming more holistic, strategic and operationally minded.

Finance is being pulled from conformance and compliance toward business performance. Technology is fueling rapid disruption and business models everywhere are being reinvented. Online retailers are bundling media services with faster shipping while wireless service providers are ditching contracts, betting on phone financing plans. All of these new models require finance to formulate and execute new methods of forecasting and measurement, planning from an operational and strategic viewpoint. After all, if they applied traditional measures to gauge whether an investment in these new approaches would be successful—or weren’t a part of these conversations at all—new models wouldn’t stand a chance of seeing the green light and your organization wouldn’t innovate. Or worse, they’d bet on the wrong horse. All of these business changes have resulted in some major adjustments for the finance role.

First, you’ve likely found that many departments call for greater efficiency. Finance is one of them, in arguably the most unique way. Fueled, in part, by technologies and shared services across organizations, finance teams are tasked to do more with less, often splitting operations internally and externally unlike any other sector and widening their daily duties to include business decision making. All of this is happening fast, challenging the finance team to remain efficient.

We’re also living in the age of big data, which requires integrated operations; the modern finance professional needs to collaborate with other parts of the organization to be able to integrate across functions. Think of it as connecting the dots across the organization—driving powerful business insights from large amounts of raw data and providing integrated thinking and decision making in order to create business success.

These new job requirements may be driven by technology and automation, but obtaining new skills and competencies are essential for finance professionals to act as optimal business partners. That’s what’s changed. This is where the gap is occurring. Now let’s talk about how HR can help bridge this gap.

Tips for Building Your Finance Team

With all the changes mentioned above, your CFO is likely being invited to innovation and business strategy meetings more and more. Your finance team is using new ways of thinking to make calls on disruptive business models. And you’re required to be aware of these shifts to ensure your current and new hires meet these shifting needs.

What is HR’s best strategy? To assist in implementing a strong, structured solution with the CFO to ensure proper measures are being taken, and then to make sure that it’s effective. But, how do you start? What do you look for when finding and molding the best talent? Here are three tips to incorporate into your recruiting and talent management strategy when it comes to the finance role:

Take a Structured Approach

Remember that talent needs to be identified, developed and measured in a structured manner. If there’s ever been a time for increasing your investment in talent development, it’s now. Cost of turnover, retraining and acquisition will far exceed your costs of development and retention, so propose new trainings, certifications and learning opportunities to your CFO and teams. A look at competency frameworks is an essential building block in order to recruit, develop and retain the right talent.

Identify Leadership Skills

When recruiting new team members, seek professionals with strong leadership skills. Look for tangible examples such as how have they partnered with cross-functional areas and managed teams to achieve a greater goal? Can they speak to a track record of team building, mentoring, motivating and managing change? Do they communicate in business contexts, participate in real decision making and have a history of drawing insights from raw data? Keep in mind these skills come from both application and experience.

Mentor Your Team

Finally, get to know the 10/20/70 rule. For about 10 percent of their learning and development time, expose your current finance team to new concepts and thought leadership. Utilize another 20 percent of learning and development time to mentor and train them, allowing them to get some insight into the best ways to apply what they’ve learned. Provide them with the right opportunities and experiences to master these concepts with the remaining 70 percent of time. Apply those methods with a job rotation program, within and outside of finance, and offer a clear career path so that developing talent knows what they’re progressing to, since these new training methods may find them shadowing or mastering skills they may not initially equate to their current role or skill level.

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