The new CFO: How chief financial officers can win the talent war

Tom Wolf doesn’t mince phrases in regards to the prospects for hiring gifted folks.

“The largest problem of any enterprise proper now, I imagine, is to proceed to search out expertise,” says the CFO of Progressive Options.

His and different rising companies urgently want high-level experience, says Wolf, who joined the cloud consulting, migration, and improvement agency late final 12 months. For instance, West Henrietta, N.Y.–headquartered Progressive Options is trying to rent a senior worker someplace between vice chairman of finance and chief monetary officer, most likely with 20 years’ expertise.

“These individuals are in unbelievable demand, however they’re actually, actually laborious to search out,” says Wolf, chief of an eight-member finance group on the firm, the place his wide-ranging function consists of working with the CEO and the president on technique. They’re additionally unlikely to modify jobs, he provides. “A whole lot of them have been in positions for a very long time, they get pleasure from the place they’re, and it’s tough to persuade folks to make a change.”

CFOs and their organizations are competing for prime monetary expertise in a job market the place sure candidates are anticipated to stay scarce, regardless of ongoing layoffs. As all the time, compensation issues with regards to attracting and protecting the very best folks. However being an engaged, empathic chief and making certain that every group member has a way of goal can provide employers an edge, say CFOs and specialists who work carefully with them.

If Wolf and his friends agree on one factor, it’s that discovering the expertise they want isn’t simple. In a survey of 234 CFOs by analysis agency Gartner final July, hiring and retaining sufficient workers emerged as their most tough job over the following 12 months. It was additionally the one job chosen by a majority of respondents, with 54% rating it No. 1.

“Expertise continues to be a significant concern of CFOs,” says Steve Gallucci, international and U.S. CFO program chief with Deloitte. Gallucci cites quarterly surveys by his group that ask CFOs to call their most urgent inside and exterior dangers. “Repeatedly, during the last, I’d say, three years, expertise has risen to the highest.”

Jeff Constable, co-leader of the worldwide monetary officers observe at organizational consulting agency Korn Ferry, sees two forces driving the expertise scarcity. “It’s been a mixture of a decent labor market mixed with a much less bodily geographic area,” Constable says, referring to the rise of distant work. “The looser labor market and the significance of place made it a bit of bit simpler to handle groups, in a means, for a very long time.”

However as Constable factors out, the mass layoffs at know-how firms have created hiring alternatives. Simply ask Jonathan Carr, CFO of cybersecurity agency Armis. Of their haste to reply to shareholders and different buyers, tech companies are letting extremely expert folks go, explains Carr, whose duties embody strategic evaluation. “In that respect, there’s a number of actually nice expertise on the market available in the market.”

For CFOs, the timing is sweet. As finance groups get pushed to embrace automation and digitization, talent units are altering, Gallucci notes. “Whereas most finance organizations have been constructed with people which have backgrounds just like mine—accounting, danger, controls—what CFOs are actually in search of are folks with a a lot better diploma of tech fluency, information analytics abilities.”

Constable has seen large modifications afoot. “In the event you speak to CFOs, you’ll hear the theme of, ‘We’re going via a change of the finance perform, or a monetary transformation,’” he says. Amongst different issues, that would imply shifting from on-premises software program to the cloud, integrating finance capabilities after a number of acquisitions, or deploying extra automation or synthetic intelligence. “So we do hear a number of want from CFOs round techniques and individuals who perceive the change administration a part of the finance group.”

5 years in the past, employers sought more-traditional accounting abilities, says Jason Dess, who leads international CFO and enterprise worth companies at Accenture. “Now it’s about making certain you will have the best abilities to make strategic selections,” Dess maintains. “As CFOs attempt to grow to be a greater enterprise companion or they’re taking over extra transformative components throughout the group, there’s an actual must drive perception.”

To that finish, Carr sees demand for monetary planning and evaluation (FP&A). “Individuals are in search of these people which have the talent set of digging into the numbers after which wanting ahead,” he says, noting {that a} VP of FP&A for his 24-member finance group was certainly one of Palo Alto–primarily based Armis’s newest senior hires. “It’s taking the context of the historical past and utilizing that to tell selections and be companions and assist all of our leaders make the best monetary selections.”

CFOs additionally need information scientists and even economists, Dess says. “As they get deeper into situation forecasting, they’ve a must convey a broader perspective.” ESG is one other scorching space: “There’s a spread of abilities which might be required, from understanding the regulatory parts of it via to understanding the danger efficiency of what you are promoting.”

On the identical time, firms have leaner groups, Carr observes. “Know-how individuals are most likely 70% of the expense base,” he says. “So ensuring that you simply’ve bought prime expertise out there’s extra important than ever, since you’re asking every certainly one of your groups to be extra lean, to do extra, to drive the issues that add the most important worth.”

To draw and preserve prime expertise, CFOs should provide aggressive pay, whereas being conscious that cash isn’t every thing. “Compensation all the time reveals up within the prime three most essential issues that individuals are fascinated about,” Gallucci says. “However I believe the opposite issues that you simply hear with compensation [are] profession improvement alternatives, definitely flexibility.”

For Constable, it comes again to goal. “Feeling part of one thing and being affiliated with a way of imaginative and prescient and mission and goal of, like, ‘What are all of us attempting to do right here?’” he says.

“When folks go away organizations, it’s as a result of they don’t really feel that. And I believe that’s been a problem for some CFOs as we’ve grow to be a extra distant world.”

It isn’t so simple as visiting the troops at totally different workplaces annually, Constable warns. “Whenever you’re a senior government in an organization, like a CFO, you’re CEO of one thing,” he says. “It’s a must to do what good CEOs do, which is put goalposts on the market that articulate a imaginative and prescient or a mission or a goal on your group.”

In a current examine, Accenture identifies 4 elements moreover compensation that assist entice and retain folks, Dess says. One is goal. Two, “groups anticipate to be supported by their leaders,” Dess explains. Three, folks desire employers that use the most recent know-how to empower their operations. The fourth issue: “How are leaders investing in folks via coaching and constructing their profession?”

With everybody who reviews to him, Wolf holds weekly one-on-one conferences for a minimum of half-hour. For him, it’s an opportunity to attach with group members privately and to make sure that they’ve the instruments and assist they want for achievement. “Proper now, I’m spending 4 hours of my week simply on that, however I see the dividends that it pays, as a result of they know that I care.”

Carr tries to know group members’ objectives. “Realizing what it’s that individual’s going to worth after which working with them to go obtain that, I believe, is such a important a part of recruitment,” he says, “[and], in the end, retention and engagement whereas they’re nonetheless with you.”

Crew members must really feel that their function issues, Wolf argues. “Lots of people don’t take the time to only clarify to an worker, ‘Hey, that is why what you’re doing is essential to the general well-being of the corporate.’”

In addition to main with goal, CFOs who excel on the expertise entrance do two different issues effectively, Constable says. First, “They root out underperformance and transfer on it, both by letting go of the individual or intervening with teaching and improvement sources.” For superstars who would possibly lack recognition, these CFOs discover stretch alternatives.

In Constable’s expertise, talent-oriented CFOs additionally take pleasure in serving to others succeed. “They don’t should assume lengthy in regards to the query of, ‘Inform me about a few of your success tales about folks you’ve managed,’” he says. “Their eyes mild up, they usually like to rattle off 5 or 6 names of people that have surpassed them of their careers now.”

High leaders let their personalities shine via as effectively, Constable relates. “The framework and the philosophy and the aim and all that, I believe, is basically essential,” he says. “But additionally understanding when to interrupt character and be an actual individual on your groups.”

Requested the place CFOs see the expertise market heading in 2023, Gallucci says their total financial outlook is cautious: “CFOs have a stage of optimism that’s about as little as we’ve seen within the final couple of years.” As for expertise, “their perspective is it’s going to stay tight for the time to come back, though [there] are definitely indicators that the financial system is slowing.”

Wolf doesn’t anticipate hiring sought-after folks to get any simpler for him in a work-from-anywhere world. “I believe it’s going to proceed to be a problem, particularly for companies like ours, the place we really feel the in-person presence and connection is essential,” he says. “We’re nonetheless seeing, after we speak to folks, that there’s a number of candidates that may lead with, ‘Hey, pay attention, I’m solely open to a job the place I’m going to work 100% remotely.’”

Carr can relate. “In the event you’re in a startup setting, it may be difficult to persuade folks in immediately’s market that they’ve to come back in,” he says. “I’d like to see our world shift extra to devoted occasions collectively face-to-face, however continued flexibility for different avenues for folks to handle their complete self.”

For 2023, Dess sees “a softening on the whole demand,” partly because of layoffs. Nevertheless, strain to search out sure abilities will persist, he reckons. “CFOs and finance capabilities are driving reinvention agendas proper now for organizations, in a compressed transformation timeline,” Dess says. “They want particular expertise to have the ability to transfer that needle.”