Fill Finance’s Skill Gaps

Acquiring the most in-demand skills is an important part of finance transformation. Here’s how to do it.

Gartner asked finance leaders which skills are most important but hardest to find in their talent pool. The results showed four broad categories of critical competencies that corporate finance teams need as they pursue finance transformation.

  1. Financial data analytics: Handling complex data proficiently to draw out key insights. 
  2. Technology innovation and management: Particularly, the pursuit of full process automation with RPA and intelligent automation. 
  3. Business partnership: Contextualize insights for the business and lead them toward more financially informed decision making.
  4. Collaboration and flexibility: Working effectively across functions in a rapidly changing environment.

“The best strategy for obtaining these skills depends on their degree of trainability,” says Markus Hofbauer, Director, Gartner. “You’ll get a higher ROI on talent investments if you acquire untrainable or more innate skills through hiring rather than training. But first you need to understand which skills are trainable and which are not.”

When finance leaders identified the most in-demand skills, Gartner experts also asked them how much their teams had improved in these skills in the last two years. From this information, Gartner experts inferred the level of trainability of the top skills.

Train on hard-to-train skills

Finance leaders should begin by targeting competencies that are most critical to their organization’s success. Financial data analytics, business partnership and technology management skills are all hard to train using the one-size-fits-all approach that is typical of most classroom training. 

Instead, Gartner research shows that experiential learning improves employee performance as much as three times more than formal training such as lectures and instructional handouts. So give employees the opportunity to engage with the relevant learning tasks as part of their work.

“Financial data analytics, business partnership skills and technology management require more than just knowledge of a set of facts,” says Hofbauer. “To be competent in these areas, you need to constantly reinforce them by applying them regularly and as needed for day-to-day tasks and get real-time feedback to make adjustments.”

In short, employees require on-the-job learning and real-time coaching to master these kinds of skills.

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Hire or borrow untrainable skills

Gartner research suggests that finance leaders believe that flexibility and collaboration skills are prohibitively difficult to train. Acquire these skills by repositioning and borrowing existing talent from within the organization where possible. It’s preferable to use existing talent rather than hire new employees because it reduces onboarding and institutional knowledge ramp-up time. 

Finance leaders should create a talent pool, shared with other functions. For instance, if finance employees are struggling to collaborate effectively when producing reports, staff from communications who possess exceptional collaboration skills can move into finance for two to three weeks to help. As part of the arrangement, finance employees can move into communications for two to three weeks to help develop the next year’s budget.

Assess the current talent pool via informal discussions with individual employees. Use questions that screen external candidates for innate skills like flexibility, change management or collaboration such as, “When did you last change your processes?” or “How would you redeploy the team’s resources?”

Learn more: Finance of the Future

Gartner for Finance Leaders clients can read more in Close Emerging Skill Gaps in Finance.

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