Building a Finance Team: 5 Tips on Hiring Your Ideal CFO Team

Whether you’re a brand-new CFO or a time-tested veteran, perhaps the most important factor in your successis having the right high-performing team behind you. Yet, securing high-performing talent — and keeping them engaged and motivated — may be one of the most challenging aspects of a CFO’s job, especially in today’s competitive hiring environment.

It may be difficult, but it’s necessary given the increasing pressure to “add value.” Finance has evolved from simple bean counting to become a function that contributes to day-to-day operations and drives critical business decisions.

While it’s essential to recruit top-notch talent who fit the long-term needs and culture of the organization, there are no easy answers for strategic decision-makers. However, there are several fundamental strategies to help you navigate those decisions and build the team you need to achieve your objectives.

What’s working, and what’s not

To build a high-performance team, CFOs need to have a clear picture of what’s working within their function and what (or who) may be falling short — and then take action. “Getting the right people in the right seats” is a mandate the most successful CFOs pursue. Identifying the wrong people in certain positions — who may be costing your organization time, productivity and even credibility — is equally important.

Begin by assessing the capabilities of your direct reports and other critical talent with the ultimate goal of deciding whether to improve individual competencies or recruit new talent. One of the fastest ways to derail your efforts in building a successful team is overlooking or not moving quickly enough on performance issues.

If you need new talent, fight for it

Many CFOs find it difficult to ask for or fight for additional headcount, largely because they may be the ones pressuringother operational groups to do more with fewer hires. However, the finance function is just like any other — to grow the department, you need top talent. And you can’t recruit and retain top talent without the proper resources.

One effective way to get the resources you need is to build a business case. Start by comparing your function to other companies. Do you have less headcount or expertise compared to your peers? How much more efficient or effective could you be with greater headcount? How would that impact the business’s bottom line?

Demonstrate the additional value you believe the new talent would bring to the organization, or identify the gaps that can be filled by bringing on a new resource. While doing so, you may even identify opportunities to take work off other teams to increase overall organizational effectiveness.

Keep top talent engaged

Once you’ve identified the top performers within your function, you need to make sure they continue to be engaged. One of the fastest ways to disengage talent is to allocate the bulk of their responsibilities to mundane, time-consuming and repetitive or manual tasks. Seek out technologies or automation tools that can take those tasks away from your team or — at the very least — make them easier and less taxing. At the same time, shift workers’ priorities to providing analysis, guidance or innovative ideas that may boost operational performance.

Also, provide your finance staff with training and development opportunities that allow them to grow their skills and career, while also boosting performance. As Kevin Ingram, CFO of insurance giant FM Global recently pointed out on CFO.com:

“The share of workers 55 and older is projected to rise by 36 percent from 2012 to 2022.
Smart companies should be working hard to fill the growing knowledge void. Those who
don’t may fall behind.”

Given this seismic shift — and the rapid adoption of technology and automation tools within finance and accounting functions — upskilling and re-skilling workers is a savvy investment.

To help your staff meet their personal and professional goals, CFOs should collaborate directly with each employee to define what success looks like for them and to align those objectives to departmental success. Everyone on your team should be working toward clearly defined goals, and they should know how they are individually contributing to help achieve the goals of the team.

Reward successes and innovation

The key to motivating employees is to reward success and acknowledge a job well done. But just saying “Great job!" isn’t enough. You’ve got to tie your team’s wins to the specific tasks or initiatives that led to success. Ensuring that your team understands the connection between hard work in the weeks and months before and the success they enjoy now will help keep them motivated.

Rely on and expect your team to find innovative ways to improve processes or solve problems, highlighting their important role in improving operational performance. Encourage and be open to innovation, and recognize when a team member identifies a good idea or solution.

Lead by example

Strong CFO leadership is a common theme among high-performing finance and accounting functions. And since CFOs’ view extends across the enterprise, they’re uniquely positioned to spot trends and drive a culture of performance. Indeed, leading CFOs understand that shaping corporate culture is an integral part of their role.

Be a team player, communicate frequently and get your staff excited about moving their career paths (and the business) forward. Spend time with finance leaders and staff to co-develop a vision for the department, and engage them in the process of creating the culture. Encourage team members to see themselves as change agents and co-leaders in business performance.

A smart investment

A high-performance finance team is absolutely required in today’s challenging business environment. CFOs who embrace the challenge of optimizing the performance of their teams will not only deliver a best-in-class finance function, they’ll build a sustainable competitive advantage for their organization.