Business growth, talent management and stress are key challenges for finance execs

Fri, 03/18/2016

Businesses need finance executives to play a lead role in developing company strategy, but new independent research from specialist recruiter Robert Half shows that finance executives today are struggling to keep abreast of wide-ranging challenges that often come from outside the traditional, technical finance roles. 

Delivering efficiencies and growth is cited by more than half (55%) of the surveyed finance leaders as being one of the main challenges facing the finance function, followed by managing workloads (40%).

In addition, technical matters, such as developing audit, risk and compliance initiatives (15%), financial reporting (12%) and accounting processes (7%) can also cause challenges for the accounting and finance function.

Megan Alexander, General Manager of Robert Half New Zealand says: “Expectations are high for finance leaders as they aim at delivering greater efficiencies and business growth in today’s competitive environment. Making sure workloads are properly managed and having the necessary expertise are key factors related to achieving those goals.”

However, talent management is also a major business concern with 34% of New Zealand CFOs and finance directors saying that retaining finance employees is the greatest pressure facing their accounting and finance function; another 22% point to sourcing and recruiting skilled financial talent.

“Talent management can be challenging. But in a highly competitive market, finance executives must respond to sector trends and ensure that they recruit, retain and manage their top talent effectively,” Megan Alexander says.

In general, what is the greatest pressure facing your accounting and finance function?

Source: independent survey commissioned by Robert Half in June 2015 among 100 New Zealand CFOs and finance directors – multiple answers allowed

Over the years, finance has come to assume an increasing role within a company, and as a result, there must be more intensive cooperation with other company departments, but this is not without challenges.

Three in ten finance leaders cite prioritising conflicting deadlines as being the greatest challenge when working with colleagues in different departments, followed by 27% that refer to managing stress arising from crisis situations.

Megan Alexander says: "Overworked employees are more likely to experience higher stress levels which can lead to burnouts and resignations. Successful managers will head this off by sharing work around better or bringing on board temporary employees to ensure business continuity is guaranteed.”

Another 18% identify the interaction with different personalities as the main difficulty and 14% say conveying financial information in non-financial terms is the main challenge when working with colleagues in other departments.

“With the increasing shift to more collaborative workplaces finance managers have to be able to convey financial information effectively to people who do not have a strong financial background. This is now a crucial skill when recruiting financial professionals since strong communication skills are vital to successful working relationships.”

“Businesses are paying more attention to the soft skills during the recruitment process and are also pushing to embed these skills into any future career development or company training programs,” Megan Alexander says.

Which one of the following do you think is the greatest challenge for accounting and finance professionals when working with colleagues in other departments?

Source: independent survey commissioned by Robert Half in June 2015 among 100 New Zealand CFOs and finance directors

Robert Half has developed four recommendations designed to optimise workload management 

  1. Do not take on all assignments - The incessant influx of tasks, demands and projects is common practice in many business departments. Still, it's in your team’s advantage not to take on additional projects if they are not a priority for achieving business goals. Make sure you and your team always tick the box first for your (main) priorities.
  2. Assess your team right - It is crucial to have a clear understanding of each team member’s potential so you can delegate tasks based on their skillset. If certain skills are missing, consider bringing on board a temporary worker at junior or senior level. 
  3. Ensure the development of your team - To tackle the many projects on the business agenda, it is vital that your employees possess the right skillset. Help your team members to develop their skills by offering additional training programs or other professional development opportunities. As a result, your team is in an advantageous position to manage (extra) projects more efficiently, plus you are investing in your employees’ career growth.
  4. Provide support - By relying on temporary and contract workers you’re not only well-placed to take on the most urgent projects and day-to-day tasks, you also prevent permanent workers from getting overloaded with work. This approach gives you the necessary flexibility to continuously manage the workload efficiently. 

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About the research

The annual study is developed by Robert Half and was conducted in June 2015 by an independent research firm, surveying 100 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) and finance directors in New Zealand. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace.

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