A strong economy brings a breadth of opportunities for growing businesses, and there is no doubt that Boston has been enjoying an upward trajectory for some time. Indeed, the labor market in our region has far outpaced the country’s average year over year employment growth, and is among the top metropolitan areas when it comes to recent gains.
It is an exciting environment, but one that presents unique challenges for financial executives who are feeling the strains of the high demand for skilled talent as they struggle to manage mission-critical and competing priorities. That trend looks to continue: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor projections indicate that employment of accountants and auditors will grow 10% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.
AAFCPAs’ CFO Survey Report underscored that the pressures at hand are compounding the issues. “The formula for a successful organization is more fragile today, and impacted by nuances of industry, people (talent), leadership, technology, and agility,” our team notes in the Report.
With this in mind, consider that 60 percent of CFOs responding to the survey reported difficulty in meeting the expectations of their CEO, and 33 percent reported that human resource limitations and team bandwidth were the primary challenges in meeting those expectations.
The “up” economy means that competition for the best candidates persists, efficiently recruiting the right team members is more difficult, and retaining talent is more complex and cost-intensive than in other markets.
Adapting often comes down to right-sizing
In order to adapt, finance departments must undergo a transformation that includes identifying areas of improvement and addressing fluctuating needs and priorities with proactive anticipation and thoughtful planning.
At AAFCPAs, we know that deploying the best people, processes, and IT systems allows businesses to operate with precision and achieve optimal productivity. Without those pillars in place, challenges multiply and lead to lost resources, unhappy staff, and a strategy that goes astray.
Deploy the Best People
Finding, recruiting, and engaging ‘the right’ talent in our market is daunting. Unfortunately, we sometimes see CFOs adapt to expanded expectations of the finance function by asking employees with special skillsets to flex into other roles or, just as troubling, deploy generalists to produce specialized work. Junior employees miss out on the training they need, and senior staff are pulled into detail work. These situations eventually lead to disengaged or dissatisfied employees who may otherwise be major contributors.
In order to secure the best talent, CFOs need to change the way they think about employment by asking:
- Do we have team members stretched too far across roles, or sitting idle during quiet times?
- Have we added too much to the workload of our permanent employees, putting them at risk for burnout or diminished work quality?
- Can we benefit from a talent assortment of full-time and outsourced workers to maximize efficiencies and cut costs?
Outsourcing for specific needs can help with rightsizing. Companies that put their resources and energy into truly engaging their core staff can supplement the team with qualified professionals as needed. This grants access to the right skills at the right time without raising the stakes for long-term retention.
Deploy the Best Processes
Companies change in size and complexity, and must evolve over time. Processes, however, do not necessarily keep pace, which leads to both inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. When a company is right-sizing its processes, questions to ask include:
- Are our people bogged down with highly manual, time-consuming processes?
- Are processes as efficient as they possibly can be?
- Are our systems’ capabilities fully utilized?
- Have users embraced our new system(s)?
- Is the level of internal control risks acceptable?
Deploy the Best IT Systems
Having the right technology helps CFOs keep a finger on the pulse of the company and streamline operations. Using a strong cloud application and software for accounts payable are common examples that provide real-time visibility across the business, allow companies to achieve scalability, and free up some degree of time for the finance department. A basic wellness check includes the following questions:
- Has our growth outpaced our business systems?
- Can our system support process design changes?
- Are we able to get the necessary information from our systems to provide metrics and measurement?
- And again, are people bogged down with highly manual, time-consuming tasks that could be solved with technology?
AAFCPAs advises clients to regularly assess people, processes, and systems. CFOs should map out the best path to right-sizing. Looking at these pillars as a complete ecosystem is crucial, and will help companies identify, optimize and achieve the highest level of efficiency.