HomeAnalysisFuture Finance: Making Talent a Top Priority

Future Finance: Making Talent a Top Priority

By Stéphane Baranzelli, GM & VP of Commercial Sales at Spendesk

By Stéphane Baranzelli, GM & VP of Commercial Sales at Spendesk

The rate of digital maturity in businesses has accelerated to extreme levels in recent years, making talent scarce and leading to companies across many sectors struggling to fill roles.

The reasons for this are multifaceted and nuanced, but education and training simply cannot keep up with this accelerated tech growth and the widening skills gap has become not just a national, but a global problem.

This shift, alongside an economic downturn, has been seen in finance teams across small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and firms are now having to balance limited resources, while keeping existing staff happy. Chief Finance Officers (CFOs), therefore, face considerations to keep talent engaged for the long term; starting with the finance team, and then expanding to the wider company.

The importance of creating the strongest financial team possible is not something CFOs need to be told, but how can they convince their C-Suite counterparts that a talented finance team should be a priority for the business?

There are compelling arguments for the cause, as well as actionable steps that can be taken.

Prioritising finance talent

All parties at the C-Suite table need to understand the importance of prioritising finance talent, both when recruiting and developing the current workforce, as this specialised role demands unique skills and knowledge for managing and analysing financial operations. They can make informed decisions related to budgeting, forecasting, investment, risk management, and financial strategy — all elements that ensure good stability and growth for any business.

The value of finance professionals, for example, can form part of a conversation between the CFO and the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). A CFO can help their C-Suite counterparts see how the finance team plays a significant role in providing data-driven insights that influence key business decisions, such as evaluating the financial implications of various choices — especially in the area of technology and IT infrastructure — so they can make sound and informed choices that align with the business’ overall objectives.

There is a note of caution, however. There is no point in recruiting top talent if there is no incentive to keep them engaged and motivated. Business leaders should empower their employees to take more ownership over business objectives and work at a more strategic level.

This can be achieved by allowing employees to define their own individual development plans based on their career goals, and then enabling their upskilling by providing relevant training opportunities and on-the-job experiences. The kind of ethos needed to implement such an approach can only come from the top down, from senior leadership.

New employer-employee value exchange

In today’s economy, discussions around the rising cost of living and employee wages are prevalent. Even though the Consumer Price Index that includes owner-occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) is on a downward trend, at 7.3% it is still as high as it’s ever been since the 1990s.

So, the headache for business leaders is trying to navigate pay rises and the cost-of-living crisis, while at the same time managing their own business cost increases. As previously stated, keeping talent engaged and motivated is critical and it seems UK industry understands the importance of this. A recent survey found that 65.5% of UK companies have or planned to offer an increase in salaries, including 48% who have offered permanent pay increases.

But what about those businesses that simply cannot offer salary increases? Looking beyond wages may still reveal other ways to keep employees happy. For example, employee perks and time off for team building can prove positive contributors to a satisfied workforce, and when combined, these benefits can have a low impact on budgets, but high reward by giving a morale boost.

It would be prudent for any CFO to speak with their fellow C-Suite colleagues about taking a fresh look at employee incentives. That conversation could start with how the finance team will be positively impacted, and then how any new activities or processes established would strengthen bonds between employees and foster loyalty to the company. Non-monetary incentives can be just as powerful as cash.

The boom in flexible working

Reading the content of any job advertisement highlights just how important a flexible working policy is when attracting new talent to your business. An increasing number of companies are offering hybrid/flexible working arrangements and specifically highlighting this as a featured benefit during the recruitment process.

For senior leadership, the key word here is policy. Setting clear expectations around remote and flexible working means a business can ensure it’s being inclusive, consistent, and has the long-term future of its employees in mind.

Any policy should be comprehensive and adaptable to meet the needs of both the employees and the business, and should address various aspects of remote and in-office work to ensure a balanced work environment.

For example, considering the following policy criteria will put any business in good stead when offering these flexible arrangements to new and existing workers.

  • Clearly define eligibility and the specific criteria for participation, outlining the different options available, such as remote work, flexi-time, compressed workweeks, or part-time hours.
  • Address the provision of necessary equipment and technology for remote work, such as laptops, software, secure access to company networks, and office furniture.
  • Define communication channels and response times for remote employees, ensuring that they stay connected with their teams and managers.
  • Implement strategies to foster team building and social interaction among remote and in-office employees. Regular team meetings and events can help strengthen team cohesion.
  • Train managers to effectively lead and support remote and hybrid teams, including skills in communication, performance management, and fostering team collaboration.

But what does this mean for a company’s financial function and prioritising finance talent? Other than the CEO, the CFO has a stake across the entire business more than anyone else at the C-Suite table. The CFO and the finance team are in the best position to have strategic insights and offer value to all teams and leadership company wide.

When recruiting finance talent, it is important not to get caught in a short-termism mindset that cannot see beyond economic recovery. By recognising the wider benefits of a highly-skilled finance team and keeping company-wide talent engaged and impactful for the long term, the overall health of any business can be future-proofed.