This article was updated on July 2, 2018.
Expectations for CFOs and finance departments evolve as reporting requirements change. CFOs can work with human resources to train employees and ensure finance teams provide accurate, relevant financial information inside and outside their organizations. HR departments ensure there are enough employees available to do the work, they're placed in the right jobs and that teams have the necessarily skills to develop.
The big question is what skills are needed in training your financial talent?
CFO teams must have strong technical skills in accounting, reporting, financial analysis and compliance. Finance employees need to keep current on the impact of new accounting and reporting requirements on their business. "Many accounting students are current with accounting literature until they pass the CPA exam, but then they don't keep up and continue to follow the Financial Accounting Standards," says Linnae Latessa, Corporate Controller and CAO at USI Insurance Services. It's important for them to stay up-to-date on the latest and emerging accounting trends.
Organizations should support their professionals in meeting continuing education requirements by having them attend approved courses as well as watch webinars as a group, for example, quarterly accounting and reporting updates. Be sure group discussions about the affects on their organization are included in the training.
Information Technology Knowledge
Finance teams must be current in automated reporting and financial systems, as well. CFOs, boards, owners, investors and regulators all require a constant stream of unique information. Employees must know how to work with IT departments to design and build data platforms, automated dashboards and reports that permit finance to provide new information on demand, spend more time on analysis and less time on data gathering and checking numbers.
Training your talent in financial and management reporting systems is essential. "Finance people need to let go of their traditional reports and spreadsheets, embrace new tools, and step up and identify alternative solutions," Latessa says. "They also need to be able to educate IT on what they want to accomplish, automate manual functions and use information in databases more effectively."
As communications are increasingly digital and texts have replaced face-to-face discussions and phone calls in the workplace, social and communication skills are increasingly important training areas. Latessa suggests, "Many students and interns I've worked with are not prepared for personal interaction and how to integrate when they join the workforce."
Organizations can teach personal communications and the value of relationship building. HR can play a valuable role in designing training in basic concepts of effective workforce communications and raising awareness in that area.
CFOs and their teams can identify areas where they need or would like more training, and HR can help by bringing in outside trainers or developing courses in house. In smaller organizations, it may not be feasible or cost effective for HR to design training on technical topics. But in larger organizations, HR can work with Finance and can leverage interested CFOs and employees to design and deliver targeted training themselves or with the help of outside trainers. Training can be short and informal, for example, breakfasts or lunches in a conference room, or it can be more structured. This approach is cost effective, encourages employees to interact and exchange ideas, and provides opportunity for the workforce to develop public speaking and communications skills.
HR can design and deliver soft-skills training, such as effective listening, time management, handling conflict and coaching, which can be offered to employees throughout the organization. These areas are often a lower training priority due to lack of time and/or budgets. HR-sponsored programs on coaching and mentoring can also be a valuable form of training.
On-the-job training and planned job rotations are effective ways for CFOs and HR to work together to develop finance employees. Within USI, Latessa's team is encouraged to explain to others within the group what they are working on and why it is important, to reduce functional silos. "By discussing how calculations are done and why they are important, in common complex accounting areas like intangibles and debt and leases, employees can help each other learn and grow as professionals," she says.
While training is essential, it can be costly. Luckily, there are tax credits available that can offset employment and training costs. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit available to businesses who hire and retain employees from eligible groups that have historically experienced employment barriers. There are also other federal and state tax credits and incentives available for hiring and training that can help offset costs for job retraining as workforce requirements shift.
Finance and HR can bring their different talents and creativity together to develop trainings to help finance employees be more effective, not only in their technical responsibilities but also in their workplace interactions.