Jonathan Schiff, Professor of Accounting at Fairleigh Dickinson University, spearheaded roundtable discussions on best practices for finance in 2019 at the 2018 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum in New York on November 28. The roundtable discussions, “Lessons Learned and New Imperatives,” focused on several best practices for finance in 2018, including:
Talent engagement and retention are exceedingly difficult for finance teams worldwide. As finance teams search for top talent, they face competition from global organizations. Meanwhile, without a clear talent engagement and retention strategy in place, a finance team is unlikely to help its organization stand out to potential candidates.
Ultimately, the ability to offer short-term assignments to workers may help a finance team bolster its talent engagement and retention levels. For example, Schiff noted that one organization used a database of short-term assignments to engage with its finance team. This database allowed team members to accept or decline assignments at their convenience. At the same time, the database gave team members the opportunity to build their skill sets and accelerate their career growth.
“One of the biggest reasons that people leave a company is a lack of opportunity for growth, and these are usually the people you want to keep the most,” Schiff pointed out. “Because for high-potentials, it’s all about the value proposition.”
The ability to develop leadership within a finance team is crucial. If a finance team can build a leadership development structure, it may be better equipped than ever before to accomplish its immediate and long-term goals.
To develop finance leaders, a finance team must identify the right talent for leadership roles. This team should foster employee engagement and promote collaboration and communication among team members. It also should encourage its team members to ask questions and gain the insights they need to successfully perform everyday tasks.
A finance team should take a gradual approach to leadership development, too. Rather than have a set plan that requires an employee to take steps to achieve various leadership-based milestones after a certain amount of time, a finance team should craft a flexible leadership development strategy. Once this plan is in place, it will allow employees to develop their leadership skills at their own pace.
“People are sometimes put into leadership roles and they don’t know how to lead,” Schiff indicated. “[There needs to be] a wake-up call.”
Finance is complex, and the skill sets associated with finance professionals constantly evolve. Furthermore, finance teams must be ready to adapt to a frequently changing global marketplace and add professionals who can deliver long-lasting contributions.
To find the right finance professionals, a finance team must search for candidates who possess a combination of soft and hard skills. These candidates will understand how to deal with current finance challenges that an organization faces, as well as offer tips and insights to help this organization prepare for the future.
“With the skill set of finance people … companies have changed their tune,” Schiff said. “[Finance professionals] need not just flexibility, but they need to be quantitative.”
Also, finance professionals should be willing to collaborate with multiple departments across an organization. They can work with myriad departments to ensure an organization can consistently accomplish a wide range of goals.
Finance professionals who are willing to build their skill sets over time often prove to be great additions to a finance team. These professionals have a commitment to learning that a finance team must recognize and cultivate.
With educational and training programs, a finance team can help team members develop a broad array of skills. This team can empower finance professionals with skills they may struggle to obtain elsewhere. It also may help finance professionals engage with an organization and feel satisfied in their day-to-day work.
“A person who has an interest in something and goes out of their comfort and zone to study accounting and finance probably has the right characteristics for the future,” Schiff stated.
How a finance team builds its short- and long-term plans may have far-flung effects on its ability to accomplish different goals.
If a finance team maintains a forward-thinking approach, it may be able to identify new opportunities and resolve challenges before they get out of hand. This team could help finance professionals obtain skills they need to succeed, too. And if a finance team understands an organization’s goals, all team members can work together to help this organization accomplish these goals both now and in the future.