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For CFOs, Overcoming The Talent Imbalance Means Focusing On Emerging Potential

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at October 13, 2021

Every time you hire an employee for your finance team, you take a leap of faith. No matter how illustrious the person’s career has been, there’s no guarantee that success will continue when they join your company.

So, why, in an economy experiencing a severe talent imbalance — with more jobs available than skilled candidates to take them on — are many CFOs choosing to hold out for professionals with proven performance instead of snapping up high-potential candidates with less experience?

One reason finance leaders may be hesitant to bet on emerging talent is the desire for stability. After so many months of disruption and uncertainty, CFOs want to feel fully confident that they have an A-team they can count on to help the company grow and stay competitive in the future. But betting on emerging talent might not be as risky as you think. And dismissing promising candidates because they don’t tick all the boxes could be the riskiest move of all.

The Upside of Emerging Potential

When you invest in high-potential talent, it provides your organization with an opportunity to:

  • Increase resiliency and agility. Professionals who are less experienced or just starting to build their career are typically more adaptable to change. They’re often willing to take on more responsibility because they seek chances to grow, demonstrate their abilities, and earn the confidence and respect of their colleagues. Your business can benefit from hiring professionals who can step up and pivot when needed.
  • Grow talent from within. High-potential professionals are often open to exploring different paths, especially early in their career, and they are ideal candidates for learning new skills. For example, a staff accountant with a degree in economics who is a strategic thinker and a pro at statistics could, through targeted training, job shadowing and other apprenticeship-like opportunities, evolve into a standout financial analyst for your firm.
  • Build a deep bench. Recruiting only the most experienced and road-tested talent is not risk-free. These professionals may not remain long in the roles you hire them for — either because they advance quickly, a competitor hires them away, they decide to retire, or they opt to take an entirely new direction in their career. By bringing new talent into your succession planning process early on, and providing them with the resources and support to prepare for the next step, means you’ll have layers of talent at-the-ready when other valued employees move on.

In order to attract talent in this competitive labor market, organizations should hire for potential, not just experience and consider what skills the larger organization needs to succeed in the future.

Offering More Than Table Stakes

As you likely already know, attracting professionals with proven experience requires not only a competitive salary but compelling perks, benefits and growth opportunities. This is also true if you decide to hire candidates who are on their way up. In fact, increased salaries have become merely table stakes for employers that want to hire and retain workers with in-demand skills and attributes such as these:

  • Solid technical skills: The candidate has the right foundation to handle current job duties and learn other technical skills in finance.
  • Outstanding interpersonal abilities: They work well with anyone — in the office or remotely.
  • Promotability: They exhibit leadership qualities that could help them advance at your firm.

“Up and down the wage scale, companies are becoming more willing to pay a little more to train workers, to take chances on people without traditional qualifications, and to show greater flexibility in where and how people work,” wrote economics correspondent Neil Irwin in a recent article for The New York Times. He also said employers are “thinking more expansively about who is qualified for a job in the first place” and quoted Obed Louissaint, senior vice president for transformation and culture at IBM, who said companies like his are rediscovering the value of investing in workers to build talent versus buying it. A recent Robert Half survey of top financial executives reflects this trend: 72% of CFOs say they plan to increase their budget for professional development and training by year end.

The time is ripe for firms to hire early-career professionals, many of whom are now showing a strong desire for more professional development opportunities. That could mean that selecting less experienced candidates is not as big of a risk as it may seem because most of them are very eager to learn. This is a huge plus for managers keen on upskilling their team, especially in technology, to complement traditional financial skill sets.


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