Natasha Bell and Chantelle Booysen, Cassel & Company: EQ and culture matter

“Our focus is to look beyond the technical aspect of positions,” says Natasha Bell, General Manager at Cassel & Company. “How do you ensure that you retain your employees? That is one of the biggest issues at the moment. At Cassel we focus strongly on both sides of the hiring process – the business and the candidates. We focus on the EQ, the emotional intelligence, of a person and zoom in on a cultural match.”

Cassel & Company is a trading division of multinational Advtech. It is one of the leading financial and accounting recruitment firms in the Johannesburg area. The company has offices in Sunninghill which serve as a central point locally as well as internationally and focusses solely on finance-related positions. "Often we notice that technically it is hard to differentiate between candidates," says Bell. "From our own surveys we have noticed that further career opportunities are crucial for employees, so that is one of the things we're focussing on."

"We do things a little differently," says Bell, who was interviewed by CFO South Africa together with Marketing Manager Chantelle Booysen. "We don't differentiate between clients and candidates and we are seen as very candidate focussed compared to other agencies," says Bell.

Of course it is crucial for Cassel to know what is on the mind of CFOs, as they play an important role in hiring finance staff. According to Booysen there is the danger of "disconnect" between recruitment agencies and those clients, because the agencies are perceived to take away talent from these same businesses. "That is not how we see it and we like to help clients with their strategies to retain their staff." According to Bell, Cassel speaks the language of CFOs that focus on the bottom line. "Although we look at personality and culture, we don't believe in fluffy terminology. We are there to help the CFO find and retain good people."

Cassel does not only recruit and place staff, but also goes into businesses to assess the culture and make recommendations. "When you bring in a Financial Director with the goal of changing the culture of an organisation, you usually find that you temporarily create a very high staff turnover," explains Bell. "People are used to doing things a certain way. We find that finance people, especially, dislike change. We come in as advisors and try to help companies mitigate those risks and streamline the processes." The personal match is crucial, Bell reiterates. "If a person is all about career opportunities, we won't offer him a position without growth opportunities. It sounds silly, but if you're a person who drinks coffee while the rest of the team drinks tea, it's not going to work."

According to Bell retention issues are related to generational changes. "Babyboomers would stay a minimum of 5-10 years at a company, often their whole career. Generation X , which came after that, wants to go as quickly up the ladder as possible and the latest group, often dubbed Generation Y, is focussing on growing its expertise and experience. We are noticing that the majority of young CAs now stay in a position for 2 to 3 years and then move on."

The room for error also gets smaller for employers, because the word spreads quickly when hiring processes drag on or the company culture leaves a lot to be desired. "Social media platforms have changed the environment a lot over the last few years," says Booysen." A lot of companies are battling with this. People talk."

Booysen's advice to young Chartered Accountants is to choose a career path, rather than a first job. "Go for something you like doing. A lot of CAs are starting businesses at the moment for example, entrepreneurship is huge." Bell agrees. "Look before you leap. People are moving quite quickly at the moment, which might impact their personal branding negatively later on. It is important to make a conscious decision about where you want to go."

If you also want to be part of the leading CFO South Africa Community or you want to know more about hosting a CFO South Africa event, you are most welcome to get in touch with CFO SA. Please contact Jurriën Morsch at [email protected]

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