In today’s constantly changing world, business leaders have to make faster decisions—and are looking to finance for relevant information to help guide them. Advances in technology are creating new opportunities to do this, boosting efficiencies and giving finance greater access to more timely and meaningful insights.
But while these new capabilities can enable finance to deliver more value, this only becomes possible with the right team in place. Having the right skill sets and backgrounds is important. However, I believe that even more fundamental to success is having a finance team culture that embraces change and is focused on innovation. I’ve worked to develop this mindset with my team in multiple ways.
Show the Value
First, it’s important that the team sees value in the improvements they’re driving. For example, when our team early adopted ASC 606, we demonstrated the value of this accomplishment by not only publicly sharing our story, but by acting as strategic advisors to our customers as they went through their own adoption projects. Our ability to help our customers and share our experience was a huge source of pride for the team.
Additionally, we need to be open about how technology changes impact the team. Some finance professionals may be concerned automation will make them replaceable. CFOs should drive strategies that clearly communicate to team members that by automating administrative parts of their jobs, they will not eliminate their roles, but instead will be given new and more interesting work that will help them develop and stay challenged. This can take the form of involvement in a strategic project, or the expansion of the person’s role within the company.
While classroom training is helpful, I focus more on on-the-job training, and that includes having people try out new roles and explore different areas of the business. The key is to develop versatile people who are utility players in the organization.
Having a mindset that encourages employees to gain different experiences within the organization pushes them to grow and learn new things.
For example, a leader on our global accounts payable team at Workday was ready for a new challenge after several years in the role. Given his proven track record, we offered him an opportunity in payroll—an unusual job transition to make. The move has been very successful—he has brought his strong process skills and a different perspective to payroll, and it has been a great experience for him and the rest of the team.
We’ve also had key members of our accounting team transfer to areas of the business outside of finance, including product and customer success. This may be somewhat unique to Workday—given we use our own financial management product, and that knowledge is helpful in other parts of the business—but having a mindset that encourages employees to gain different experiences within the organization pushes them to grow and learn new things.
Hire for Qualities Over Background
When hiring finance talent today, for me the most important criteria is finding people who are going to be collaborative, embrace change, and be passionate about our company and our products. While having accounting and analytical skills is important, I care more about finding the right personal qualities. You can teach people new skills.
In particular, I look at a person’s career path for examples of how they approach and deal with change. Do they have a variety of career experiences, either across different companies or within the same organization? I want to know about times they’ve driven significant change.
Through these efforts—whether showing the value of change or encouraging diverse experiences—we are building a finance team that is versatile and adaptable to change, and that is going to help us be better partners to the business.