A New CFO Priority: Talent Development With a Focus on Soft Skills

Latest APQC report details how proactive CFOs are evolving their talent development programs so that Finance can excel at the strategy table

(Houston, Texas - September 13, 2012) A New CFO Priority: Talent Development with a Focus on Soft Skills, a survey conducted by APQC in partnership with EPM Channel, indicates there is a war for top-tier talent in the finance organization.  This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that baby boomers will soon begin to retire en masse. Many organizations are already finding themselves short of well-trained and properly polished finance professionals.

The survey also revealed a significant gap between the potential value the typical finance organization can deliver to stakeholders, and the current value being delivered.  Finally, survey results outline the skills and competencies that finance professionals must arm themselves with in order to close this performance gap.

The survey drew responses from finance professionals at 119 organizations, mostly U.S./Canadian and European, and generally mid- or large-sized. 

“Surprisingly, only 5 percent of survey respondents believe that finance is currently delivering game-changing value to their enterprises,” says Mary Driscoll, senior research director, financial management, for APQC. “There are many reasons for this gap in performance, but the primary one is an age-old albatross: finance is often bogged down with transactional work and doesn’t have the time to produce meaningful analysis. What’s more, many finance professionals lack the soft skills necessary to present concisely to senior operating managers and to persuade with diplomacy.”

“What really stands out after looking at these results is the enormous gulf between the value that finance is delivering today and the potential value they believe they can bring,” says Susan Serven, managing director and CMO of EPM Channel. “But what makes the survey so remarkable is it points the way forward by looking at what the top tier companies are doing, and allows organizations of all sizes to work towards making their finance teams true partners in the business."

Other top-level findings from the survey include:

  • It is difficult to add bandwidth because finance, in general, is not given the tools needed to increase productivity and free people from grunt work (58 percent indicate that finance does not have enough time for value-added analysis, and 45 percent say they lack enabling technology to make finance more efficient or effective).
  • The toughest vacant positions to fill are for financial planning and analysis (64 percent ranked this the biggest challenge in filling positions).
  • Finance organizations that are considered effective business partners tend to work for CFOs who have a strong commitment to professional training, including crucial soft-skills training such as courses on persuasive presenting.

Twenty-one percent of survey respondents indicated that finance is not seen as a partner to the business and has no seat at the decision-making table. Interestingly, more than 40 percent of those who are considered “partners” make it a point to invest in soft-skills training, and they also go out of their way to encourage finance employees to learn the business. In contrast, only 16 percent of “non-partnered” finance organizations invested in soft-skills training, and more than 30 percent say they have made no investment whatsoever in developing and retaining finance talent.

“There is a war for top finance talent, the type that can deliver game-changing value,” says Serven, “but not every company can afford it right now. So, training and development are key, and the results of this survey should help any company identify where those investments should be made.”

“By developing managerial skills not adequately addressed in a traditional accounting curriculum, CFOs can prepare the next generation of finance talent to take—and keep—their seats at the strategic planning table,” says Driscoll.  “Soft-skills training programs aim to strengthen a finance staffer’s ability to communicate concisely with top executives, negotiate with managers in other domains, build effective teams, and collaborate with others in pursuit of common goals.”

About APQC

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the world’s leading proponents of knowledge management, benchmarking, and best practices business research. Working with more than 750 organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC provides organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with confidence. Visit www.apqc.org or call +1.713.681.4020 and learn how to Make Best Practices Your PracticesSM.

About EPM Channel

EPM Channel is a leading information provider focused on the needs of Finance executives in FP&A, Strategy, Decision Support, Advanced Analytics, and Compensation.  We understand the real-world challenges confronting organizations and provide the intelligence needed to stay current and to compete effectively.  In addition to providing on-demand thought leadership and core strategies for improving enterprise performance management, we also offer benchmark data, analytic tools, and peer-to-peer networks to deliver unparalleled, actionable insights.  Visit us at www.epmchannel.com to learn more.

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