Attracting talent: Filling the gaps

Directors of finance and CFOs are playing a more crucial and integrated role in attracting, finding and retaining talent than ever before.

This feature series explores the importance of mentoring and attracting talent, with today’s installment discussing how CFOs can use mentoring initiatives to attract the right talent.

Our sister title Mid-market Insight talks to international CFO of Capital One, Neil Herbert, to get his view on addressing the skills gap.

Times are changing. Talent management has often been seen in the past as the preserve of human resources in each organisation. Today, with skills gaps emerging in finance and in other key business areas, directors of finance and CFOs are playing a more crucial and integrated role in attracting, finding, and retaining talent than ever before.

In fact a survey of financial directors by the Journal of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) and DLA Piper found in 2015 that the skills shortage in the jobs market has caused many of them to have more sleepless nights than China’s slowdown and more than any perceived threat that might emerge from ‘Brexit.’

“For ICAS CEO Anton Colella the talent gap is the elephant in the boardroom: recruiting and retaining people with the right skills is what primarily hinders economic growth,” writes Carlos Martin Tomero in his 4 September 2015 article for The Accountant. “It’s the talent gap, stupid – an ICAS survey of finance directors revives war on talent.”

He adds in the survey that most CFOs feel the need to boost economic growth is a task for the private sector, which offers the potential for more effective investment in employee motivation and training measures than the public sector. However, chartered accountancy isn’t the only profession feeling the war on talent that has emerged because of the increasingly competitive environment.

The financial crisis of 2008 and beyond had led to more CFOs being tasked with more responsibilities. As a result, the talent gap has widened because CFOs are now required to be more than number crunchers; their role has become more strategic and enterprise-wide.

“The CFO role has expanded significantly over the past decade beyond financial management to embrace risk and regulatory compliance as well as innovation and data analytics,” explains Phil Sheridan, the managing director of consultancy Robert Half UK. “Like departmental heads, CFOs have to be involved in their talent management initiatives to ensure their finance function operates as efficiently and as effectively as possible.”

So with the skills gap in mind, how can CFOs use mentoring initiatives to attract the right talent? Will Banks, executive director and CFO at Challenger Capital, explains: “Mentoring is needed at all levels, and CFOs need to be available at all levels of an organisation and to drive people forward involves training.” He also underlines that budgets should be available to support talent management.

Charlotte Wheeler, a consultant at Willis Towers Watson, says she has a client who recognises the value of mentoring and talent management: “We are working with a CFO from a large financial services company and he is driving the initiative around talent, and he is recognising that to protect and develop the capability of his department is now far more critical than it was previously.” She finds the competitiveness of the jobs market is making it harder to recruit and retain the right people.

For this reason she argues both CFOs and other senior executives need to be on board with mentoring and talent management initiatives “to ensure they are dealing with the right values – including the establishment of a strategy and vision because it’s important to have the right people in place to fulfil those roles.”

She elaborates “those roles” will vary from company to company, but in essence today it’s about making sure that staff working in finance have the depth and breadth of experience to permit them to gain a wider view of finance and accounting.

They will then be able to fill roles where skills gap are present and they will also gain a better understanding of how important finance and accounting are for achieving organisational objectives.

In tomorrow’s series we will discuss how to mentor talent and make employees feel valued within a company.