By Tim Payne, partner, KPMG Europe
In the ACCA 2012 study Talent Management in a Shared Services World, the messages were loud and clear. The vast majority of senior finance people surveyed believed that, as finance functions evolve, managing talent will become increasingly important. However, only 28% of respondents said they had a talent programme in place and of these only 34% felt these were effective. So where do talent programmes go wrong, and what can senior finance managers do differently to make them a success?
In our experience, many talent programmes fail because someone decides to implement a best HR practice approach to talent management, without genuinely considering the specific, unique needs of their finance function. This often results in a classic nine-box process, where managers spend many hours putting their staff into boxes, fitting the numbers to distribution curves, and identifying top talent, yet failing to use this information in any meaningful way.
The exercise becomes a compliance exercise. Typically few conversations about individuals or teams have taken place, and even fewer actions agreed. Our advice to finance executives charged with crafting an approach to talent management is to step back and consider four questions:
- Do you understand what mix and location of skills and capabilities you will need in the medium term? A strategic workforce plan for finance starts with identifying those skills, and the future mix required. Workforce modelling makes it possible to role-forward your current workforce and, under various scenarios and using assumptions about hiring, attrition and promotion, uncover the likely gaps between what you will need and what you will have. This is a vital piece of context – talent management can’t work unless it’s grounded in future business requirements.
- Do you understand what your younger members of the workforce, and by association next generation of workers, think about their careers, and what they expect from an employer? Do you have robust data that helps you plan and tailor an approach to talent management that will be valued by these people? Have you analysed the return on investment of previous attempts of talent management? What have you learned about which talent approaches work in your function and culture, and which don’t?
- Do you have the basic infrastructure and governance required to manage talent, particularly if you are operating an international finance function? Do you have a robust talent system in which to record data and analyse it? Do you have clarity of job families, grades and associated career paths? Are these transparent? Is there a governance mechanism that will enable challenge, for example when a high potential controller needs an international move as part of a succession plan, but their local manager is reluctant to let the move happen?
In our experience, giving consideration to these questions helps prepare a finance leadership team for the task of creating a genuinely useful approach to talent management; one which will be championed by finance, not by HR; and one which will result in engaged, developed and high performing people, rather than process compliance.
This case study appeared in an ACCA report on Talent and capability in global finance functions. As part of ACCA’s qualitative research leading organisations shared their approaches.