Archive for May 2016

Hiring, onboarding, and management strategies for young professionals

Hiring, onboarding, and management strategies for young professionals

The largest demographic group in the US labour market is also the least engaged in the workplace, and that’s a problem, according to Gallup research, because poorly engaged employees lower companies’ profitability, productivity, and innovation.

The approximately 73 million Millennials (born between 1980 and 1996) make up the largest share of the US labour market, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. About 53.5 million Americans working or looking for work in the first quarter of 2015 were Millennials, compared with 52.7 million Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1979) and 44.6 million Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).

Of the three generations, Millennials have the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment, Gallup found, and the highest annual turnover rate (21%, or more than three times that of non-Millennials). Lack of engagement drives turnover, especially amongst young employees, who tend to be more transient than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers with families and mortgages. Gallup found that 55% of Millennials are indifferent about work and show up just to put in their hours, compared with 50% of Gen Xers and 48% of Baby Boomers.

In the workplace, Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton writes in the report, Millennials look for:

  • Purpose in addition to fair compensation.
  • Development opportunities.
  • Managers who coach them to build their strengths.
  • Ongoing conversations and consistent feedback about their job performance.
  • Employers that give them a chance to do what they do best every day.

Based on Gallup’s engagement data, about half the employees of any generation aren’t getting what they are looking for, said Doug Blizzard, vice president of membership at Capital Associated Industries, a not-for-profit that helps businesses with human resources, people compliance, and management issues.

“It comes down to simple blocking and tackling many companies don’t do well,” Blizzard said.

To capture the hearts and minds of Millennials, and employees of other generations, for that matter, companies should assess how they hire, bring recruits on board, and promote managers, Blizzard said. Here are strategies he recommended to boost employee engagement:

Hiring. The best accounting talent is hired through referrals and networking, so companies should ask themselves what they can do to encourage employees to refer friends. As digital natives, Millennials are the most wired of the generations, Gallup found. Seventy-one per cent use the internet as an information source, compared with 51% of Gen Xers and 30% of Baby Boomers. And 93% of Millennials use social media to connect with friends and family, compared with 84% of older generations. Businesses, especially those looking for young professionals, could provide employees with recruitment language to post on their social media accounts, such as Twitter or Facebook, Blizzard suggested.

Official hiring ads should focus on what recruits will be able to learn and accomplish rather than the duties they have to fulfil, he said. And taking young professionals to college recruitment fairs helps attract promising talent.

To assess how the recruitment and hiring process works and whether it attracts the best talent, businesses should survey their hiring managers.

Onboarding. New hires should neither be overwhelmed nor left to their own devices during their first few days on the job, Blizzard said.

New employees should start with a desk, business cards, and an agenda for the first week on the job. Young professionals especially should be assigned a buddy who can help out initially, he said. And the manager should sit down with the new employee and map out milestones to be reached the first 90 days and the first year.

Managing. A manager needs to quickly learn how a new employee wants to communicate, be it by texting, in person, or by phone, and then use that mode of communication, Blizzard said. Also, in addition to email, businesses should offer an internal social platform that allows employees to chat.

To keep up with what’s going on, managers should have employees check in regularly for 30 minutes to an hour. The check-ins should be once a week initially but never less frequent than once a month, he said.

Especially in technically demanding professions such as accounting, businesses should ensure that different career pathways exist for people with different skillsets. Somebody with great technical skills but poor people skills should be able to advance professionally without having to become a manager, Blizzard said. “You don’t want to lose a great accountant to gain a lousy manager.”

Source : CGMA

Are you a scorekeeper or a business partner?

Are you a scorekeeper or a business partner?

 The CFO of the future will be less tactical and more strategic, deeply versed in operational finance, and will maintain a keen focus on customers, shareholders, and employees. The finance chief will have worked in functions across the organisation, becoming a masterful manager of people and communicator of results and strategy to a range of audiences. And he or she will foster a team that will accept a lifetime of learning and application of skills.

Finance no longer is just about recording and reporting performance. It’s about partnering with the whole organisation to mitigate risks, drive strategy, and add value. The problem: The rising talent pool isn’t evolving fast enough for the new demands of the role.

About 68% of US CFOs said it was a challenge to find skilled candidates, according to a 2015 survey by staffing firm Robert Half, which polled 2,100 finance chiefs. Last year, 87% of UK CFOs said they faced challenges finding skilled talent.

So finance leaders must venture beyond the once-siloed scope of their department to become business partners critical to the success of the broader organisation.

That was the crux of a CGMA panel, “From Conformance to Performance: Developing the Finance Leaders of Tomorrow,” hosted Tuesday by Bloomberg Radio in New York.

“The technical skillsets that we have as financial professionals are not adequate anymore,” said Ash Noah, CPA, FCMA, CGMA, vice president–External Relations for Management Accounting at the American Institute of CPAs, who was one of the panellists. “So we need to go beyond that.”

Here are some key themes that emerged from the panel.

Master the basics, then build

Understanding the regulations and mastering technical knowledge is the price of admission for high-level finance jobs today. Finance professionals must take a wider view of the business if they are to lead in the future. They need to move from being a scorekeeper to being a business partner, panellists said.

Panellists encouraged cross-training, pursuing roles outside of the finance function, and examining the company through an operational lens. If that education can’t come through work experience, then academic and professional credentialing programmes can help introduce young finance professionals to the concepts.

“Employees who enjoy embracing challenges, that’s something that we look for,” said Linda Zukauckas, CPA, CGMA, executive vice president and corporate comptroller at American Express. “We also look for employees who are focused on building partnerships, continuously improving. … That technical aspect of it is a non-negotiable.”

She also encourages employees to closely follow the company and its competitors to develop a strong view of her industry’s landscape.

Industry knowledge and breadth of exposure across the organisation is critical; it develops relationships and perspective – and ultimately better employees, said Robert Falzon, CPA, the CFO of Prudential Financial.

“You want to understand what’s driving value beyond the balance sheet,” he said. “… Understand how the market looks at your company from a valuation standpoint, and that should help focus where you want to spend your time and where you want to learn and be better as an organisation and as an individual.”

Get out of your comfort zone

Falzon’s circuitous career path with Prudential – which included roles in investment banking, real estate investment management, and corporate finance before rising to CFO in 2013 – is proof that movement within an organisation helps develop well-rounded professionals.

Prudential’s finance employees – there are about 2,000 of them around the world – are developed through a variety of rotating job assignments and training programmes. The company wants flexible “financial athletes.”

“We try to intersect technical skills and those people and then leadership skills as well,” Falzon said. “Ultimately, you develop this group of professionals where they’ve got this broad base of experience in training, and as you’re looking to plug holes or fill opportunities, you’ve got this great pool.”

Be willing to take some career risks for the benefit of learning the broader business, he added. Don’t focus on promotions; focus on learning experiences. Falzon himself moved from a corner-office job to a cubicle job within Prudential knowing that in the long run, the education would benefit him. “From a career progression standpoint, it was a big step back,” he said. “But it was a whole new field for me.

“Sometimes you need to get in that elevator that goes down and then take it back up again.”

Zukauckas added: “People oftentimes want to stay in their comfort zone, and that may be the quickest path to promotions,” she said. “… And [when] you’re looking for people that you want to plug in because you know you can count on them to deliver, they’re more often than not the people who have the diverse skills who have taken some risks in their career, who have made lateral moves at the sacrifice of promotion to become a more well-rounded finance person.

Hone your soft skills

Soft skills – communication in particular – are critical if you want to advance, panellists said.

“Technical expertise is highly valued,” Falzon said. “And those are the people who tend to get promoted. But that promotion requires a whole different skillset. … As you climb up that food chain, you rely less and less on your technical skills and more on your soft skills.”

The ability to communicate strategy to the lowest staff member as well as the highest-ranking board member is critical. “Boil it down in a way that you’re getting all the substance through in a way that is understandable,” he said. “There are brilliant people who talk about these really complex topics, and your head will spin as they go through it. Those aren’t the most brilliant people. The most brilliant people take those really complex topics and help you to understand it.”

Elizabeth Pittelkow, CPA/CITP, CGMA, director of accounting and compliance at logistics software company ArrowStream, touted the value of public speaking training. Early in her career, she recognised public speaking as a weakness. But she was in a role that required her to make presentations to management about controls and financials. “It was something I was very nervous about,” Pittelkow said. “I had to practise what I was going to say before meetings.”

So she joined a public speaking organisation and has continued with it for the past ten years. “It has given me more confidence,” she said. “And it’s something that set me apart from my colleagues.”

Develop data analysis skills now

A deep understanding of the relationship between financial analytics, risk analytics, and strategy is an important part of being able to grow value in any organisation. And as analytics spreads to new parts of any business, finance will play a bigger role in influencing decisions throughout the organisation.

American Express is a case in point. The company relies heavily on data to determine what its customers want, where they want it, and how they want to make transactions. “It’s really critical to our business, and it gives us the insights that we need,” Zukauckas said.

“[Data analysis is] a core competency that we look for in all of our finance professionals – that aptitude and the ability to be able to analyse results, analyse business situations, and think about them not only from a go-to-market strategy perspective, but also ‘What do we need to be mindful of from a regulatory perspective?’ in the US and in many markets around the world,” she said.

Make the connection between development and talent

Young finance professionals should take advantage of internal training at their organisations. And companies should devote resources to developing internal talent, panellists said. After all, development is an important retention tool for many employees. And the cost of replacing an employee can often exceed the cost of training and retaining existing employees.

“If you’re not in tune to the dependency on the talent of your organisation and the investment you need to make in them and the investment they need to make in themselves, I don’t think long term you have a sustainable business model,” Falzon said. “There needs to be that connection between the development and retention of talent and that way in which that translates into making you more sustainable in the marketplace.”

And it doesn’t always have to come at an enormous cost to the company. Mentoring and in-house courses may require planning time but not a lot of cash.

“You can get creative and find a way to do it that doesn’t require as much of an outlay of financial resources,” Zukauckas said. “But it’s a non-negotiable.”

Senior leadership needs to take responsibility for training if the company is not going to fund it, she said.

Pittelkow, the ArrowStream director, described an internal training programme through which an employee picks a class to teach and then develops a lesson around his or her own research. Pittelkow herself has taught courses on ethics and listening.

“It keeps our cost down,” she said. “… And it’s great because you teach about what you’re passionate for.”

Source : GCMA

Workers worldwide question companies’ development programs

Workers worldwide question companies’ development programs

Around the world, workers have a foot out the door, or at least a polished-up profile on LinkedIn.

An increasing percentage of UK employees say they are unlikely to fulfill career aspirations in their current organisation. And two-thirds of Millennials in a global survey say that they hope to join a new organisation by the end of 2020.

To some employees, a lack of development offerings is holding them back. For others, a desire to broaden skills is part of the appeal of taking on a new role. And the search for a higher-paying job remains a motivator.

The two surveys underscore the issue of employees who seem disengaged enough that they’re considering work elsewhere. A UK survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) places job satisfaction at its lowest mark since late 2013. Thirty per cent of respondents believe their organisation is not providing opportunities to learn and grow, and 24% say they’re actively looking for a new job, a percentage not seen in 2½ years.

In the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, workers who said they are likely to stay more than five years are more satisfied by their companies’ support of professional development (83%) than those likely to leave within two years (58%). This gap, 25 percentage points, is tied for the widest margin in the survey. Shorter-term workers are also far less likely to be satisfied with an organisation’s sense of purpose and personal recognition.

Additionally, 63% of Deloitte respondents say their leadership skills are not being fully developed.

The survey recommends several ways for companies to keep Millennials, in particular, in the fold, in addition to paying a competitive salary. Here are three:

  1. Encourage mentorship. Most Millennial employees with a mentor think they’re receiving good advice (94%) and believe their mentors are interested in the mentee’s personal development (91%). Mentorship programmes not only help current workers, but they also help to attract talent. Companies can point to formal mentoring as a perk that some competitors might not have.
  2. Have purpose beyond profit. Employees who are more aware of, and in alignment with, a company’s values will support that company with good work, and they are more likely to stay. Also, companies that can articulate their brand have a better chance at attracting talented employees.
  3. Provide development opportunities. Only 24% of Millennials are very satisfied with their companies’ development efforts. And, in an earlier CIPD survey, 33% were dissatisfied with their career progress.


Source  :GCMA

What you need to know before interviewing with a CFO

What you need to know before interviewing with a CFO

Scheduling your job interview for first thing in the morning may help you get hired, a survey of CFOs suggests.

Sixty-one per cent of the finance leaders polled regard the 9-to-11am slot as the most productive time for interviews.

Eleven per cent of CFOs prefer to meet candidates before 9am, and another 11% opt for between 11am and 1pm. Afternoon interviews proved less popular, with just 16% of CFOs conducting hiring interviews after 1pm.

Only 2% chose to meet after 5pm, according to the survey of 2,200 US-based CFOs commissioned by recruitment agency Accountemps.

“Midmorning is an ideal time for a job interview because it gives the interviewer time to set daily priorities and settle into his or her day before the meeting,” Bill Driscoll, district president for Accountemps, said in a news release.

John Mahtani, ACMA, CGMA, CFO of film-processing laboratory Cinelab London, said that by 11am, urgent emails have been dealt with and he can give candidates his undivided attention. He is willing to accommodate candidates who are unable to get away from their current workplace during the day with a 6pm appointment.

However, Driscoll advised candidates to “avoid scheduling an interview late in the afternoon when fatigue sets in. Late afternoon is also the time when interviewers may start shifting their focus to personal priorities.”

Taking time off work for the interview whenever possible is the best option. Not only will you be able to catch your interviewer at their preferred time, but the lack of other distractions and demands helps candidates relax and make the best impression.

Make the most of the first 15 minutes

Getting off to an assured start is vital. Sixty per cent of CFOs polled said they formed an opinion of candidates within the first 15 minutes of an interview. Just 6% take longer than 30 minutes to build their impression.

How long does it take you to form either a positive or negative opinion of a candidate during an initial interview?

 Less than five minutes 4%
 Five minutes 16%
 Six to 10 minutes 23%
 11 to 15 minutes 17%
 16 to 20 minutes 14%
 21 to 30 minutes 15%
 More than 30 minutes 6%
 Don’t know/no answer 5%

For Mahtani, it takes just 45 seconds to form an initial impression of a candidate, which is then fleshed out in the course of the conversation.To make the most of that time, and the best impression, make sure you have done the groundwork. That means not only researching your interviewer and the company and planning your route to the interview, but also preparing and practising your answer to one of the most common opening questions in recruitment: “Tell me about yourself.”

This is your opportunity to provide a brief summary of your experience and objectives, advised Driscoll.

4 ways to impress your interviewer

Here’s what Mahtani is looking for when he interviews finance candidates:

1. Ability to express yourself: “I like to employ commercially driven accountants who can articulate the numbers and the proposition,” Mahtani said. Someone who simply hands over a spreadsheet will not add value to the business. The successful candidate will need analytical skills and a persuasive manner to convey their opinion or recommendation based on the data they have gathered.

2. Engagement: Conveying interest in the opportunity is essential because a pay cheque only works as a motivator in the short term. “If the person is engaged from day one, they are more likely to be successful both within the organisation and in their career more broadly,” Mahtani said. Your level of interest in the role, the company, and its activities and the research you have done will be apparent in the answers you give in the interview.

3. Innovation: “The most important thing that I look for in the interview process is what has the candidate achieved?” Mahtani said. “What have they been involved in, and can they translate the significance of that?” If a candidate can demonstrate that they are innovative and have sought ways to put improvements in place, they mark themselves out as someone who will add value to the business.

Mahtani remembers an example he gave to win over the finance director of Warner Bros. during an interview in 1995. He described a simulation model he had created in a previous role that used data about a particular film – such as its stars, genre, and performance at the theatrical box office – to forecast what kind of figures that same title might achieve in the video market.

“It was something the finance director hadn’t thought about,” he said. “But within moments of me telling him about it, he could see it was a wonderful idea.” Mahtani got the job and spent the next 19 years at Warner Bros.

4. Follow up: “I always like candidates who call up a couple of days later to say, ‘Did you have any thoughts or feedback?’ ” Mahtani said. “Most people don’t do that, so when the first person does, you can see that they are very keen.”

Source : GCMA

Applying technical, business, leadership, and people skills

Applying technical, business, leadership, and people skills

The business landscape is changing at an increasingly rapid rate, and accounting professionals must be able to keep pace with accompanying changes. The competencies and skills used by finance professionals, particularly those working in business, industry, government, or not-for-profits, must evolve to include areas not traditionally associated with accounting.

The modern finance professional is responsible for accounting and reporting as well as performance analysis and business planning. In addition, many are asked to participate in initiatives beyond the traditional scope. The CGMA Competency Framework, focusing on technical skills, business skills, leadership skills, and people skills, encompasses the broader set of abilities that accounting professionals need in the 21st century.

Stepping back and analysing the broader business environment, before diving into examples of how the competency framework’s four skills can be integrated into day-to-day business, provides important context.

First, as nontraditional data such as sustainability and corporate governance increase in importance, the need for reporting and analysis threatens to outstrip the ability of organisations to carry out said analysis. Quantifying, ranking, and reporting on these types of qualitative information requires that management accountants move beyond traditional roles focusing exclusively on reporting and analysis. Much has been written about this dynamic, but without specific examples, turning sentiment into action can be a challenge. This links directly to the leadership and people competencies highlighted in the framework.

Second, as organisations are integrating nontraditional and qualitative data, the increasing use of analytics for business decision-making represents another opportunity for management accountants. Digitisation has revolutionised how organisations interact with one another, and how customers interact with the organisations that provide goods and services. It is increasingly apparent that the organisations most successful in the future will be the organisations – and management teams – that are best able to apply data and analytics to make decisions.

Management accountants and organisations that are able to make effective use of the information generated as a result of operations and the analytics performed on this data will be best situated for success in a global, digital economy. This is where the remaining two areas of the CGMA Competency Framework – technical and business skills – are vital.

Here are examples how each of the four competency areas can be applied:

Technical skills. From lease accounting to changes in how not-for-profit entities have to report and classify assets to the continual integration of US GAAP and IFRS standards, the need for accountants to remain on top of changing technical requirements cannot be overstated. Virtually every organisation receives updates and information from the US Financial Accounting Standards Board or other organisations; why not consolidate the relevant data for a quarterly update? Led by the controller or equivalent accounting leader, a presentation and a handout would assist in keeping accounting staff up to date, and would demonstrate to senior management the commitment to being relevant in a changing marketplace. This holds true especially for compliance, environmental, and governance reporting that continues to evolve.

Business skills. Running a business is much more than simply being up to date on changes to accounting standards and disclosure requirements; organisations need a wide variety of data in order to run effectively. As organisations, with increasing frequency, consolidate the role of COO and CFO, the trickle-down effect is palpable. Understanding management theory and analytics meshes well with the framework as well as with the emerging role of the accountant as strategic business partner. Management accountants must see the big picture to interpret how market and industry changes might affect decisions.

Leadership skills. The increasing responsibilities and duties placed on finance professionals have led to a redefinition the role. As organisations enter into partnerships, agreements, and licensing deals; launch online initiatives; and expand internationally, finance professionals must lead in assessing and communicating applicable information. Finance professionals participate in, and sometimes lead, initiatives related to information technology, corporate communication, and performance improvement. Volunteering to be a part of an IT project related to account structure and reporting, for example, is one way to exhibit leadership outside of traditional accounting. The ability to clearly articulate positions and ideas is integral to accountants developing leadership capabilities.

People skills. Interacting with other individuals, even in a digital, instant-message world, is a skill that finance professionals should continually practice and improve. While the bulk of work led by the accounting function is quantitative, finance professionals who wish to be considered for leadership roles must be able to communicate without burying the key message in jargon. Accountants who can effectively collaborate with other teams will position themselves for leadership roles. Simplify the message, focus on data that link to the business question at hand, and provide your audience with takeaway points. This helps ensure the message will be acted upon and not relegated to an amorphous to-do list.

Source : GCMA

How CFOs can adapt to disruptive forces

How CFOs can adapt to disruptive forces

CFOs, like the companies they work for, must adapt quickly to be able to stay ahead of technological changes, ever-growing risks, and increased stakeholder scrutiny and regulation.

The role change from scorekeeper to strategist has been ongoing for many years, but the pace of that change has accelerated, according to data from an EY study,The DNA of the CFO.

The CFO role is facing pressure on several fronts. More than half of finance chiefs globally say they can’t focus on strategic priorities:

  • Because of time spent on compliance, controls, and costs (56%).
  • By delegating responsibilities because of a lack of necessary skills in the finance team (52%).
  • Because of increasing operational responsibilities (51%).

The EY report used the responses of 769 finance leaders around the world to come up with four forces disrupting finance leadership. The four forces are:

Stakeholder scrutiny and regulation. Seventy-one per cent say they will increasingly be responsible for the ethics of decision-making in support of their organisation’s purpose. There is no cure-all for increased regulation, which is widely viewed as a top challenge for CFOs.

Digital. Fifty-eight per cent of finance leaders say they need to build their understanding of digital, smart technologies and sophisticated data analytics.

Robert Fowles, CPA, CGMA, the CFO at Opus One Winery in Oakville, California, said e-commerce has been a growing part of his company’s business. But with e-commerce comes the risk of fraud. If a stolen credit card is used to purchase wine, the rightful owner of the card disputes and successfully reverses the charges, then the seller must issue a refund. But the seller rarely will recover the wine it shipped.

Opus One has increased security on its website and takes more time to vet the authenticity of online purchases.

Data. Fifty-seven per cent believe that the delivery of data and advanced analytics will be a critical capability for tomorrow’s finance function. A lack of data analysis skills is regularly cited as a challenge to growing the strategic role of finance.

Risk and uncertainty. Fifty-seven per cent believe that risk management will be a critical capability in the future. This may seem obvious, but, Fowles points out, risk management formerly was viewed as a box that could be checked by having the right insurance. “It’s become much more sophisticated,” he said.

At Opus One, Fowles has worked with the company’s board and other stakeholders to plot risks based on the likelihood of their occurrence and their effect on the company. Those that are seen as high likelihood and high impact are prioritised, and the company is developing plans to further mitigate those risks.

“With risk management, the most important message is that the one thing you can’t do is nothing,” Fowles said.

Escaping the comfort zone

Developing a risk heat map was something yesterday’s finance leaders weren’t often guiding. CFOs also weren’t counted on for strategic leadership the way they are now. That change in role comes more easily for some than for others. The EY report mentions two skills that can help finance chiefs grow: big-picture guidance, and relationship and influencing skills.

Getting out of finance and learning about all segments of the business is important, Fowles said.

“Broaden your perspective as much as possible so that you can be your CEO’s most trusted counsel on running the business, and add value to the sales, marketing, and operations functions,” he said.

How to accomplish that isn’t easy. A mentor to Fowles told him that when he became a CFO, he did all the accounting work at the end of the day, when most other employees had gone home. The mentor spent most of the day meeting with other departments and talking about strategic issues.

Fowles has tried to take that approach at Opus One, where he has been the CFO nearly ten years.

“A good CFO has to be a great communicator. You need to get out and talk to the sales, marketing, and operations people to find out the challenges they are facing and find a way to help,” he said. “If you sit in your office and wait for them to come to you, it will never happen. But if you can find out what they’re working on and then help and provide value, they will always come to you. You want to be the guy that people go to, not the one people avoid. It’s hard to add value when the problem’s already occurred and you’re the last to find out.”

Source : GCMA