UK: The Finance Talent Paradox - Rising Unemployment vs. A Lack Of Critical Business Skills

Last Updated: 6 November 2012
Article by Sally Fisher

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

In Deloitte's Global Talent 2020 Survey published September 2012 it showed the emergence of a "Talent Paradox" – while unemployment rates in the developed world remain stubbornly high, there continues to be a scarcity of talent with the critical skills businesses need to succeed in the future. Few functions are feeling this paradox more acutely than Finance.

The common response to the economic slow-down and tougher job market for employees has been to delay plans to accelerate careers by changing employers. We found that 80% of those surveyed indicated that they plan to stay with their current employer for the next year. That represents a 45-point swing compared to our 2011 survey and is one of the largest sentiment swings we have seen.

So what does this mean for those responsible for managing the Finance Talent Agenda?
These two dynamics are playing their part in the emergence of a perfect storm.  As the ability of the finance function to more effectively drive value through the business becomes a common business imperative, the strategist and catalyst skills of the Finance professional are becoming more critical. 

But these strategist skills have historically not been developed broadly within Finance teams and those with long tenures in role, who have typically had a strong operator and steward brief, are now more likely to be intending to stay with their employer.  These are the skills that are also scarce in the market-place.  With retention rates generally on the decrease due to the rapid rise in the reluctance of individuals to move employer in these uncertain times, there is little headroom for significant changes in the skills and strengths mix of the Finance function without some structured organisational changes.

A structured approach to finance skills development is required
It is clear that the hunger for the finance skills of tomorrow, that put a premium on skills such as analytics, strategic planning, business and industry insight and forecasting is not going to be fulfilled by osmosis.  It will take structured development investment and targeted recruitment efforts and many organisations are still defining the specific competencies and behaviours in order to prioritise their investment. 

Since there is a lack of these skills across many industries, the challenge is set for those organisations that can shift mindsets, build the knowledge and develop the new skills and behaviours of their current teams that will take the lead in establishing their Finance function as a creator of value and innovation for the business.

Increasing the strategic impact of the Finance function
In our experience, there are five orientations around which skills, knowledge and mindset cluster that make a difference to the strategic impact of the Finance function.  It is interesting to reflect on how far your own Finance Business Partner team has come along the journey to strategic partner with a few simple yet probing questions:

  1. Value Orientation – How effectively can your Finance Business Partners articulate the most lucrative sources of value in your business and to what extent are they leading initiatives to optimise value generation?
  2. Impact Orientation – How charismatic and persuasive are your Finance Business Partners?  Can they "make things happen"?
  3. Insight Orientation – How often does the insight of your Finance Business Partners make your Business Leaders think differently about their opportunities and challenges?
  4. Leadership Orientation – How effective are your Finance Business Partners at taking the initiative to lead business thinking? How effective are your Finance Leaders at inspiring their peers and the next generation?
  5. Relationship Orientation – Have your Finance Business Partners developed a quality of trusted advisor relationship with their business counterparts that they are able to challenge thinking and drive innovation?

If these are the sorts of Talent challenges facing the Finance Business Partnering element of the Finance Function, there is an equally interesting set of challenges facing Finance Shared Services.  Sounds like a topic for my next Finance Talent Blog!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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