Finance Skill Sets & the Future of Finance Talent

The expectation of personalization means employers can’t expect to continue one-size-fit-all policies and procedures of the past.


With generation Y, known as the “millennials,” streaming into corporate workforces, finance leaders are adjusting their talent management and recruitment strategies to address this generation’s preferences and work style.

For instance, said executive coach and leadership consultant Michael S. Seaver, rapid technological and social changes in the 20th century and early part of the 21st century led to shifts including the concept of mass customization, and this expectation of personalization means employers can’t expect to continue one-size-fit-all policies and procedures of the past.

Seaver, author of Creating a Leadership Pipeline: Developing the Millennial Generation into Finance Leaders, discussed the evolving finance skill set and the future of finance talent at a recent meeting of FEI’s Committee on Finance & IT (CFIT).

“To this generation, the organization’s mission, value proposition and culture often matter more than wage compensation,” Seaver said. “Mass customization may mean creating an a la carte menu of employee engagement tactics that your team members choose from to best fit their lifestyle.”

Forbes noted that by the year 2025, the millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce. While that statistic may alarm some, the key to understanding a generation is recognizing the time in history it occupies and ongoing societal shifts.

For instance, according to a 2016 EY study, The DNA of the CFO, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of finance leaders indicated improving partnering between finance and the business is a major priority. This seems logical given the evolving role of the finance function from the backward looking, report what happen mindset to a more forward looking, tell us what it means for the business’ future mindset.

The DNA of the CFO study also noted nearly two thirds (65 percent) of finance leaders reported standardizing and automating processes, and building agility and quality into their processes, will be a significant priority.

As part of this shift, roles are evolving. Financial executives are automating their finance function’s lower-skilled, manual roles and redirecting investment dollars into next-generation centers of excellence. These centers are more focused on financial analytics and forecasting, strategic risk and resilience, smart compliance and control, and better overall financial management through data.

To help create higher-level business partners, Seaver referenced the need for teams who have visionary skill sets combining hard and soft skills including ethnographic research, human-centered design, rapid prototyping, agile development, digital technologies, emotional intelligence, probability and statistics, and technical skills such as cloud computing. He encouraged financial executives to tailor their message to individuals on their teams to establish trust rapidly.

“Trust truly is the currency of the 21st century,” Seaver said. “As industries evolve more rapidly, relationships convened between seemingly disparate ecosystem partners will create more permeable organizational borders. This will drive competitive advantage.”

Millennials have been cast by some as anxious, narcissistic, nonconformists with overly high expectations who demand personalized careers. This description may or may not be accurate but in reality millennials share several common traits with all generations; they dislike change, they seek respect, they desire to be trusted and want to continuously learn.

To attract them into your organization, Seaver suggested, make targeted “anchor hires”, reimagine your recruitment process or, in some instances, acquire startups and their talent.

Rather than focus on the way things have always been done and the traditional year-end review, provide more frequent weekly, or even daily, feedback.

Financial executives would be wise to use the growth mindset of millennials to create mentorship, and even reverse mentorship, programs that drive their finance functions and organizations into the future.