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How to build a high-performing FP&A team

Rear view of business team near blackboard with colorful light bulb and startup sketch drawn on it, representing concept of ways to build a high-performing FP&A team.

The talent crunch has hit the FP&A field, and many CFOs are worried that recruitment woes will make it harder to reach strategic goals. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. CFOs report that they’re offering new employees higher starting salaries compared with two years ago, in an effort to woo top talent through the door, according to a survey by global staffing firm Robert Half. The average pay increase was 10%, CFOs said. But throwing money at a tight talent market won’t always solve the problem.

“Today’s changing world demands that we change our strategy,” Craig Rucker, VP of finance at Active Interest Media, told the Adaptive Insights audience at a recent live webinar. “We have to look beyond the obvious.” To keep your FP&A department well-staffed with a rock star team, consider these less-expected strategies.

1. Seek out “intrapreneurs”
Strong accounting chops may have been enough to get the job done in years past, but the finance function of the future will require a more diverse mix of talent. “We’re looking for those candidates who have the stomach for risk and who’ve worked in project-based environments, particularly at the business unit level,” Rucker said. He encourages CFOs to partner with talent acquisition teams to consider candidates from startups or from nontraditional backgrounds with a strong cross-functional skill set. “Looking for people who may have production or sales or marketing experience, as well as core finance, broadens the universe on sourcing talent,” he said. And finding those flexible, cross-functional risk-takers—aka intrapreneurs—can benefit your team long after the hire’s been made.

2. Grow next-gen FP&A skills
Modern finance teams are more than number crunchers; they’re key partners in support of a company’s strategic vision. But not every new hire (or, frankly, finance team member) is going to have strong strategic acumen from the start. That’s OK, said Rucker, as long as CFOs and finance leaders are willing to nurture those skills with hands-on coaching. “It’s one thing to hire someone and then give them a list of functions they’re responsible for,” he said. “It’s another to really check in on them, give them guidance, help them avoid certain potholes, and really help them bridge any gaps.” Starting early with leadership training, having team members give presentations to strengthen their communication skills, and emphasizing one-on-one coaching sessions over classroom trainings can all be effective ways to build up skills that stretch beyond classic FP&A duties.

3. Empower your people
“We spend a lot of time, effort, and energy sourcing talent,” said Rucker. “And it can be highly de-motivating when they come in eager to deploy their skills and instead they’re doing manual processes.” Roughly half of a finance team’s time is spent handling transactional work, according to APQC. And at some companies, Rucker said, the ratio of mindless to mindful tasks can be even higher, with 80% of the time spent moving numbers around and just 20% devoted to analysis. “We have to flip that metric around, so we’re spending 80% on analysis,” he said. “We as senior management have to fight to really give them the finance tools of the 21st century to really do their job effectively.”

Cloud-based corporate performance management tools, for instance, can streamline financial reporting and forecasting so it’s more accurate and less labor-intensive. That means you can maximize the ROI of each new hire. But it can also mean your team is better engaged and less likely to seek out the exit shortly after they’re brought on board.

And that’s a difference that can be measured in a company’s bottom line: Turnover costs can reach as high as 60% of an employee’s annual salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. And when you factor in indirect costs, like lower morale and the financial strain of an open position, the costs can hit as high as 200% of an annual salary. That’s a clear and costly motivator to get the best tools in place to keep workers engaged—and empowered to do the job you’ve hired them to do.

Watch the webcast, “The DNA of High Performing Finance Organizations.”

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