As accounting is a highly specialized and niche area of business, the talent management function is rather clueless about how to enhance the skills of existing talent
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and People Matters discussion on ‘Talent management in a shared services world’ on February 6, 2014, brought together talent management leaders from many industries to discuss the unique challenges that organizations face with regard to managing the highly specialized talent line of accountants. Organizations face several of the following talent management challenges while managing the accounting function, which is an essential and integral part of business operations.
Building a globalized talent mindset among accounting professionals: As business operations grow more complex and expand beyond national boundaries, training accounting professionals to become effective global professionals is a key area of concern.
Attracting top talent: Talent management teams continue to struggle with means to make their accounting service function look attractive for bright talent.
Bridging qualification-expectation gaps: As accounting professionals become more experienced, they develop several expectations from an employer, starting from salaries to job opportunities. Talent management teams, however, find it difficult to match those expectations with employment experiences.
Enhancing skills of existing talent: Considering this is a highly specialized and niche role of business operations, the talent management function is rather clueless about how to enhance the skills of existing talent.
Creating a talent pool: Creating a talent pool that can take up crucial and critical positions in the organization with minimum disruptions within the company continues to be a key challenge for accounting companies.
Leadership development: Owing to the nature and specificity of accounting jobs, talent management teams do not have defined plans of developing accounting talent for leadership roles. As a result, there are very few instances of accounting professionals taking up leadership roles such as CFO.
Defining a clear career path: Most companies do not have a defined career path for accounting talent. Many talent management teams are clueless about alternative or parallel careers that will allow accounting talent in the company to stay engaged and be loyal to the organization.
For Indian organizations, three key questions are of substantive importance for managing accounting talent:
What are the capabilities required in new finance delivery models?
What are the interventions required to sustain engagement among accounting talent in these emerging finance delivery models?
What are the implications of the evolutions in the accounting space for finance leadership?
While organizations realize immense cost efficiencies through finance shared service organizations, which are occupied mostly by accounting talent, most are clueless about the talent management programs in their shared service groups. According to a recent study conducted by the world body, Shared Service Organisation (SSO) and the Hackett Group, 72 per cent of organizations globally do not know about the existence of talent management programs in their shared services organizations. Companies miss out on substantial opportunities to tap the potential of shared services talent because of their inability to define clear horizontal and vertical career paths for accounting talent.
Some of the key practices that organizations do to tap the potential of their shared service finance talent include the following.
Global rotations: One of the largest software services company in India has a very clear horizontal path for its shared service talent. When an individual has hit the roof of vertical movement, the organization provides opportunities for shared service talent to move to other geographies. These rotations enable the individual to develop global leadership skills as well as get exposure to global accounting practices.
Technology and communication skill development: Many leaders agree that accounting professionals do not consider it important to learn a diversified set of skills owing to the fact that their skills are niche and specialized. Organizations, however, do understand that there exists a huge gap between the evolution of accounting technology and the skills that accountants in India have. Many companies are addressing this gap through specialized skilling sessions. In addition to technology skills, companies are also providing opportunities for accounting talent to develop their soft skills which can enable their ascent through alternative career paths.
Alternative career paths: While there is a lack of precedence of accounting talent making their way through to more senior positions, such as CFOs, some examples from progressive companies indicate that accounting talent hold potential to become great CFOs. Companies, therefore, are thinking hard about creating alternative career paths for accounting talent. Succession planning processes, therefore, are evolving to accommodate the possibility of accounting professionals making their way to leadership positions.
It is no secret that there exists gaps between the skills that accounting talent acquire and the skills that multi-national corporations need. There is a big need for professional accounting bodies to address the issue both from the demand, as well as the supply side. Organizations need to realize that owing to several talent management gaps that exist in the present day accounting world, they are utilizing only a small percentage of the potential gains from their accounting talent. It is, therefore, necessary for the industry and professional bodies to partner and close this gap between potential and actuals.