The most urgent obstacle facing many finance teams comes from an unexpected source: talent. Expectations around finance are changing fast, prioritizing new skills like data analytics over strict accounting acumen. At the same time, only 2.2 percent of accountants are unemployed, creating a severe talent shortage across the industry. The confluence of these forces has left many CFOs without the skills they need to embrace the future of finance.
Fortunately, closing the knowledge gaps in your finance team doesn’t have to involve an expensive talent search. Strategic CFOs can use resources at their disposal and the talent already in the ranks to create highly capable finance teams that can meet the demands of today and tomorrow.
Balance Talent with Tech
Software for every aspect of finance, from financial reporting to enterprise-wide budgeting, has become more sophisticated. At the same time, it is becoming more accessible. New technology can supplement the work done by finance professionals, automating routine workflows and expediting major obligations like the quarterly close. The right technology helps finance teams do more with less. Perhaps more importantly, once technology is doing the heavy lifting of finance, the professionals on finance teams have more time to cultivate their skills in other areas.
Choose Practical Priorities
As finance becomes more strategic and analytic, accountants need to become data experts. However, it’s not practical to expect someone on the team to become a qualified data scientist without investing a lot of time and money in their training. When closing the knowledge gap, it’s important to focus on skills people could realistically acquire while looking for alternative sources of other skills. For example, instead of expecting accountants to become data experts, you could use technology that makes data intuitive and accessible to users of all skill levels.
Create Learning Opportunities
As the head of the team, CFOs must be proactive about expanding everyone’s skill sets. This endeavor can take many forms, from sponsoring continuing education opportunities to creating inter-generational mentoring partnerships. Cross-training people at different roles inside and outside finance is also helpful, along with encouraging everyone to take up side projects outside their core responsibilities. It is no overstatement to say that without support and resources from the CFO, the rest of the finance team will have difficulty growing beyond their current capabilities.
Prioritize Change Management
The concept of closing knowledge gaps sounds like it’s about getting back to full strength. In reality, however, it’s about transforming into a different and better finance team. Prioritizing different skills is just one part of a broader evolution changing the expectations around finance. Change management, in relation to talent and all other things, is going to be essential. CFOs need to envision where they want (and need) to be one year, five years, and a decade down the road. Then they must systematically plan how everything from the talent pool to the tech stack will change along the way. Taking change management seriously keeps existing knowledge gaps from getting worse and prevents new ones from forming.
Developing agile and able finance teams is just one of the many challenges facing today’s CFOs. Learn how to meet existing obligations and excel at new opportunities simultaneously by downloading our free whitepaper.