With the myriad of challenges businesses face each day, Finance leaders are being called upon to do more with less. Successful Finance leaders need an array of capabilities to handle the chaos that comes with the job. Cutting costs is simply not enough. Finance leaders must attract, develop and retain all-star talent in order to meet today's enterprise expectations.
The best way to assemble the required collection of talents and tools is by building the capabilities of the Finance leader’s team. This is a considerable task, exacerbated by factors including a war for top talent, rapidly changing requirements and requests, and limited opportunities within many companies to cultivate opportunities to develop new skill sets. Rather than fear these challenges, Finance leaders should embrace them and create an environment that rewards creativity, accountability, and critical thinking. Finance excellence isn’t simply acquired; it’s achieved through practice, hard work and commitment.
Don't assume a fancy title, the company's solid reputation, or a 10% pay bump is going to open the finance talent flood gate.
Making Big Plans
As a Finance leader, you have to establish a desirable environment that will entice talent to join your team. Don’t assume a fancy title, your solid reputation, or a 10% pay bump is going to open the talent flood gates. There are tangible steps you should take to attract and retain top Finance talent.
- Know what is expected of “Finance of the future”: Finance leaders need to clearly understand where their business and industry are going, and what Finance will be called upon to support in the future. Your vision needs to align with your marching orders, and understanding the direction your company has to go is a critical first step to set the Finance function on the right path.
- Paint “The art of the possible”: Once your vision is clear, aligned, sanctioned and subsidized, it’s time to tell your story. Let your organization know about your plans and clarify Finance’s mandate. Define Finance’s value and ensure that your team and key stakeholders understand where you are going, how you will get there, and what you will need to be successful. Talent loves to coalesce around vision; make sure things are clear and it's understood what’s in it for them if they help you get there.
- Embrace diversity: It’s impossible to solve increasingly complex problems with a team that all think, act, and execute the same way. By actively engineering a diverse yet complementary group of all-stars, Finance leaders will greatly benefit from a variety of perspectives, skill sets, and lessons learned from different walks (and locations) of life. Look at augmenting your Finance team with professionals who have gained valuable experience from such areas and disciplines as internal audit, business intelligence, operations, and compliance. While these resources may not have a CPA, they do understand financial data, complex problem solving, and achieving process and program excellence.
- Employ contrarians and challengers: By encouraging healthy debate and discourse, a Finance leader is demonstrating one of the greatest tools in the toolkit; the art of compromise. As long as opinions are respectfully shared, there is no downside for constructive dissension. Socratic methods and Scrum make sound ballast for your Finance function to stay afloat.
Cultivating Finance Talent
Once you have assembled and enabled your leadership team, it is important to continually challenge and cultivate talent so that they wow instead of wither. High performers need high bars to leap, and need to feel continually challenged and appreciated. Here are some tips to keep your team motivated:
- Customize Finance competency development: Finance will benefit from creating a customized model that clarifies the competencies, capabilities and proficiencies needed to progress. While HR needs to ensure that competency development aligns with the overall organization, Finance will greatly benefit from driving this process. Once this is in place, leaders can focus on career pathways, training and development, and performance management in meaningful, measured ways.
- Learn how your colleagues think (feel, act): Finance soft skill development is just as important as hard skill development. Being a world-class accountant or spreadsheet wizard will not ensure success if you don’t know how to present and defend your ideas with constituents who may see things in a different manner. It is important that Finance leaders understand the general thinking styles and triggers of their team so that effective communication and collaboration takes place. Using tools like Meyers Briggs or the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI), a Finance leader can help his/her team better understand themselves and their colleagues.
- Expose leaders to new environments: Leaders who undertake job rotations, overseas assignments, sabbaticals, and enter high performer training programs bring back invaluable experiences and perspectives that will benefit your team’s collective capabilities. Don't sequester your top Finance performers; set them forth into new, challenging environments so that they return more seasoned and skilled.
High performers need high bars to leap. They need to feel continually challenged and appreciated.
Keeping Your All-Stars In The Game
Once you’ve built your Finance leadership team, it is important to secure their long-term commitment. You will need them to realize and sustain the vision and value Finance has pledged to the organization. In an era where options abound, few superstars stay long enough to get a gold watch. Still, you want to create an environment where the best performers join you for the long journey. Here are a few ways to improve your chances of long-term continuity and retention:
- Pay for talent: Reams of research and benchmarking confirms that top talent is worth the cost. They outperform their peers, can do more work than others, and constitute one of the best investments an organization can make. In order for this to work, there needs to be clear expectations and evaluation metrics so that high pay isn’t viewed as favoritism. Find the winning formula for your team and challenge them to swing for the fence.
- Celebrate success: Incorporate promotions, accolades, and acknowledgments and elevate the art of the “shout out” for your talent. Make sure they receive recognition for accomplishments and that their value is known beyond Finance’s four walls.
Captaining The Team
By viewing capabilities as a collective, a best-in-class Finance team can accomplish anything it sets out to achieve. When the right confluence of finance talents comes together, you can captain your team through anything. Lean on the collective capabilities of your talented team to keep you in the game, and take comfort in the fact that they are prepared for any pitch, pop-up or play that comes their way.
For more information please contact:John Thissen