A newly released survey by APQC, A New CFO Priority: Talent Development with a Focus on Soft Skills, indicates that many organizations are falling short of sufficiently skilled financial professionals as baby boomers begin to retire in growing numbers. The survey found that the gap between the value of a typical financial organization and what it can provide its stakeholders is growing.
“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.”
Other findings from the survey include:
• Finance organizations generally lack the tools needed to increase productivity and free employees from menial tasks; more than half (58 percent) of respondents said they do not have the time for value-added analysis while 45 percent say that lack the technology to increase efficiency.
• 64 percent of respondents ranked financial planning and analysis positions as the hardest to fill.
• Organizations considered strong business partners tend to have CFOs with dedication to professional development, especially in soft skills training.
Over one in five respondents agree that finance is excluded from the decision-making process as it is not seen as a partner to the business. However, over 40 percent who consider themselves partners invest in soft-skills training and encourage finance employees to learn the business.
“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.”