CFOs, recruit for the team you need in the future - here's how

Recruitment specialist Chantelle Smith explains how to make sure your finance function will support your goals.

We have all heard the lingo being spoken around the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the impact it has on companies and professions, but how seriously are we taking it when it comes to making the right choices when hiring for finance-related roles? These people are focused on ensuring that companies remain sustainable while also maintaining a competitive edge in a very turbulent market.  

As new technologies are adopted by companies and incorporated into processes, the talent needs to change as the business evolves. The challenge now is that finance managers and CFOs must ensure that their teams are always equipped with the right tools, skills and capabilities to stay ahead of the game and at the forefront of customer experiences. 

Retaining this talent is now challenging, as other companies target the best people in the finance stable to add value to their teams. It’s a fight for the best talent and the best management will win that fight. 

In a recent study carried out over a number of years, the number of CFOs to say that they have difficulty finding highly skilled candidates has not dropped below 80 percent. 

Traditionally, companies looked for finance professionals who were highly skilled in accounting principles and procedures, able to work well with numbers, interpret those numbers and provide a report on those numbers, all done in the “back” with very little customer interaction and very specific systems in terms of IT and computer proficiency. 

Now, we’re seeing a shift in the roles that are finance-related in South Africa. Finance professionals need to be skilled in managing people, working with customers, using technology to simplify their roles freeing up time in order to engage in customer relationships, drive change and focus on strategic relationships with internal and external stakeholders. 

Resource and succession planning are important elements for any CFOs looking into the future of the finance function. It is all about having an understanding as to which skills the company will need in the future and identifying where the gaps are most likely to be. The best strategy around people is to proactively add employees to the team who have specific skills, according to a carefully developed plan and schedule. 

The most important skills for finance roles have slowly evolved and changed and are now spread over the soft skills and technical skills needed to successfully move with change.

When working with clients from a recruitment partner perspective, I am seeing more of the job specifications highlighting the explicit need for excellent communication skills, leadership, flexibility and commercial acumen and are noted as the most important skills that finance professionals need to develop the most in the next five years in order to remain relevant. 

The other areas highlighted are in the technical skills set and those include having more analytical and advisory skills, financial software package literacy and being able to comply with risk and compliance standards in line with management reporting standards. The short supply of the niche technical expertise in staff is a constant challenge for CFOs looking to grow their teams. 

There is an opportunity to move away from ‘traditional’ routine and repetitive tasks, where finance and accountants worked in separate areas from the rest of the business, conducting slow and manual processes within a very limited scope. Now, these roles are expected to move towards being more instrumental in delivering business success and being an integral part in change and adaptability. 

It may not just be about recruiting new staff, but also about getting more out of the people you already have as well. We advise our clients to constantly develop their staff and encourage them to gain more knowledge and upskill themselves. When valuable staff are considering leaving, why not train them and develop them, give them a clear career path that will give them a reason to stay? These days, people need a clear career path, clarity in their roles and a clear perspective of their professional futures. 

CFO’s and financial managers now have the task of encouraging their staff to grow and work with technology. It’ll help them achieve so much more on their career paths.

Leadership isn’t always necessarily about people management, but a way of inspiring and motivating others to achieve the same common goal, and it is becoming increasingly important because accounting and finance professionals are working more and more with other departments and they also need to demonstrate their abilities to guide top decision-making and have the confidence to do it. 

The best talent needs to feel that they are making a difference and if they don’t feel that way, they’ll move on to a company who has embraced the evolution of the finance function, using available technology and resources and people, to advance their careers and grow personally and professionally.

The responsibility also lies in the candidates themselves; they have got to be open to change, willing to adopt new processes and technologies and use them to their benefit and that of the company they work for. They need to identify with change and be part of it, not resist it. 

If finance staff are not making suggestions about what new technologies to use and providing solutions and alternatives, then CFOs and financial managers will find others who are. 

My core advice to the CFOs out there is to establish recruitment and retention strategies and start with them now. Start the planning now to make sure that your finance function has the right professionals available to help you attain the business goals in 2020 and beyond.

CFOs must have a salary benchmarking process in place and make sure they are offering competitive market salaries to the available talent in the market and remember to include an attractive benefits package as well. Most candidates want a good work-life balance and that means the benefits need to “speak” to them too.

Also, CFOs need to make sure they have a competency framework in place and identify the skills needed for the finance function of the future. Perform a gap analysis when it comes to the skills you need for their teams to be successful and also identify where staff are going in their careers. 

Use a recruitment specialist Partner to help search for the right talent and make sure a clear training and development plan is put in place.