Archives For talent and capability

By Arvind Shankar, managing director, Accenture Business Services, and Julie Spillane, EMEA director and Ireland director, Accenture Business Services

When evolving to a global business services (GBS) model, a key challenge is how to quickly grow, at scale, in an offshore environment with the depth of capability and tacit knowledge typically held in the onshore environment, which has been developed over many years.

Immediately, from a sourcing talent perspective, the question becomes how you seed the operation with the right mix of capabilities, and whether you buy some of that talent in externally, borrow it from the onshore environment or build the skills locally. This is particularly important when you recognise the breadth of management and business capabilities you need in a GBS environment typically extends beyond traditional functional boundaries. The approach to sourcing and developing talent and the ‘build, buy, borrow’ question will not be addressed fully by looking at talent recruitment and development solely through a Global Business Services or solely through a functional finance lens. An integrated approach is needed that views talent through both lenses.

As GBS itself is cross-functional in nature, GBS organisations often find it easier to cultivate an ‘integrated’ approach internally; for example, providing opportunities for employees through programmes such as rotational assignments in and out of different areas to grow individual capabilities and skills. The demarcation between technical, business and functional knowledge also starts to disappear in GBS where roles are created in areas such as programme management, service management and quality management. In short, there are more opportunities for employees to grow and enhance their skills given GBS multi-function structure.

As the GBS organisation continues to grow its reputation and its mandate increases, it is more able to push the talent agenda. There are, of course, challenges in the GBS environment; while in some senses the talent base and pool in more cost-effective locations may be much broader, the turnover is also higher. Robust succession plans, training programmes, and knowledge transfer processes become critical in these environments.

In contrast, traditional functional finance organisations often find talent management challenging, and that’s a reflection of historic practices and functional structures. It is also a reflection of the impact transformation has had particularly on the retained finance function, the re-articulation of its role, its capacity in the future in terms of career opportunities and the engagement levels of staff. Those in the retained organisation that have embraced the shift towards global business services are better placed to capitalise on the opportunities. This is particularly true if they have experience on both sides of the ‘fence’. This puts them in a strong position from their own career point of view. From an organisational perspective we have to be very mindful of these challenges and differences in the two organisational models when developing an integrated approach to talent.

Solutions – creating a global integrated approach to talent development

  1. The development of integrated approaches to talent is essential. In a global, matrixed business such as Accenture, it is essential to adopt an integrated approach to talent which provides both a GBS view and a finance function view of middle-senior management talent. This gives business leaders much greater clarity to where their talent sits, how it cuts across geographies, functions or role levels, and how it may be deployed across the entirety of finance and GBS roles to best meet the needs of the entity as a whole. It’s a much more holistic view which helps drive an effective succession planning process as well as identifying capability gaps. It also helps GBS become more integrated in developing the broader finance leadership.
  2. Create ‘finance’ roles as part of the finance leadership team that bridge GBS and the retained finance function. A number of senior level roles within the Accenture organisation have evolved which have both GBS and finance functional responsibilities. This helps drive synergies between these different entities and gives a view from both sides of the fence so that challenges and opportunities that may arise as part of the broader transformation journey can be anticipated. It also brings informed insights to cross fertilise talent between GBS and the finance function.
  3. Deliver learning interventions that drive a more global outlook and help strengthen GBS – retained finance relationships. To ensure parity of understanding and knowledge of our finance teams within GBS compared to the retained/in-country finance teams, we have supported colleagues through the ACCA qualification in our centres. This has significantly raised capabilities across GBS and brought strong reputational benefits. It helps develop a global perspective across GBS as well as providing individuals with greater career opportunities. In addition, we have invested in building coaching skills and have also introduced a career counselling programme which is independent of line management. For the senior management team in GBS, their career counsellors are actually based in the functional organisation, which helps strengthen relationships.

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.


By Katie O’Neill, director of HR, EMC Corporation

EMC moved to a global business services (GBS) model over four years ago, incorporating transactional finance processes such as accounts payable, revenue accounting, credit and collection, licensing and general accounting on a global basis. This step was part of an evolutionary process to increase scalability and efficiency; at implementation of the GBS model, the finance organisations’ shared services operations were aligned regionally and by business units, reporting to a host of management structures, which resulted in redundant operations.

The governing principal for our approach to talent management is simple – to convince our employees that GBS is a good place to grow a career by staying close to the business and continuously evolving our programmes as both the team and business needs change. As our organisation is global, and both insourced (operations in North and South America, China, Ireland and Costa Rica) and outsourced (operations in Dalian, Manila and Bangalore), that is a significant challenge. EMC’s GBS is fully aware of its talent ‘pain points’ and implements programmes accordingly. The organisation has found that the largest category of talent at risk is comprised of subject matter experts. In a GBS context, subject matter experts often do not have the management skills necessary to advance their careers, and find that the path to progression is not obvious. Similarly, GBS has identified first line managerial and supervisory talent bench strength also as an issue. Though significant progress is being made, we recognise effective finance talent management remains a work in progress

Solutions – know where you are at, build from within and create visibility in career options

  1. Measuring the effectiveness of talent management approaches. There are several proof points that EMC monitors to ascertain whether talent management approaches are effective. For example, we use annual attrition percentages as a top-level indicator. Over the last few years, gross attrition across GBS has averaged 10%, with voluntary attrition maintained at 8%.
  2. Building from within. The organisation believes that building, as opposed to buying strategic skills and capabilities, is a plus for existing staff, but also ensures that projects and programmes have a better success rate. Take, as an example, the company’s recent implementation of SAP across its finance processes. We determined that a deep understanding of the way in which the companies’ culture and processes operate was more important than specialist SAP skills, so there was a concerted effort to upskill staff that understood current business rules rather than bringing in new team members or contracting for a large number of consultants.
  3. An emphasis on individual responsibility. Individuals are empowered to take responsibility for their own career progression. Programmes such as GBS ‘Rising Star’ list are designed with the sole purpose of surfacing good talent and making them free agents within the organisation. GBS also has a rotation programme, designed on the same principles as EMC’s college hire rotational programme.
  4. Recognise that more can be done. With stability in its employment base, GBS is now looking at better linkage into the business. End-to-end career paths have been designed for, and implemented, linking GBS finance roles to that of the business, but the organisation is just now stepping back to determine how to path careers back from the business through GBS. As yet, there is no rotation programme moving business talent through GBS as a recommended career progression but it is something we are looking at.

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. 

By Madelein Smit, vice president Corporate IS & S Ceva Logistics

At CEVA several years ago we embarked on a finance transformation programme which included outsourcing of certain finance processes, and we viewed this as a critical lever for change, not only transforming the finance cost base, but also helping us evolve the skill-sets of the organisation so that we had the right capabilities and talent in place across the embedded finance teams, the retained finance organisation and our outsourced relationships. There is always a balance to be struck between driving out cost across the finance organisation and ensuring you are well placed to develop and keep the appropriate talent and knowledge inside the organisation.

These developments have given a new purpose for the retained organisation and its focus is now on new capabilities such as business partnering, financial insight and ensuring appropriate management of our outsourced finance service operations – so strong relationship management is key. It’s also about being prepared for the finance organisation to ‘let go’ of previous responsibilities that have transferred to the outsourced partner. We fully recognise that the retained finance team is being asked to develop new skills because their role is re-articulated, and we also recognise their engagement is vital in driving the finance organisation of the future.

  1. Solutions – driving engagement in the retained finance team. Recognise the changed role of the retained finance team and plan for the development of new capabilities. We’ve implemented a talent management process, a mentoring process and a wide range of learning opportunities to ensure we develop the new capabilities and skills needed by the retained team. Don’t forget developing the right behaviours is key too, and proactively plan for this.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. The finance transformation journey is difficult, particularly for the retained finance team which typically reduces in size and is impacted most. Having a clear communication strategy to keep retained finance staff engaged and motivated is critically important; celebrate successes publicly and make sure you have communication channels in place to acknowledge exceptional performers.
  3. Embed a culture of personal responsibility for careers too. Our people have a wide range of tools and interventions at their disposal, but we also want individuals to take their own responsibility too. One of the areas we are investigating is the encouragement of cross-border and cross-country movement, but of course as the number of roles reduces, this becomes more challenging so we have to think innovatively of how we do this and carve out opportunities for ambitious people.

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. 

By Anna Tumidajewicz, finance and accounting practice delivery manager, Infosys

Infosys delivers an innovative approach to talent management challenges. One of the key challenges that we successfully responded to was the transition from a shared service centre to a business process outsourcing enterprise for one of our key clients. In this project we had to shift our focus from the transactional processes provided for the client to offering higher-level finance and accounting services (such as audit, controlling, financial planning and analysis), as well as having increased our services portfolio, and streamlining and improving finance processes to offer higher quality solutions. It was an upward development curve opportunity for our employees, and for us, remains a requirement of a real blend of financial, management and business capability we need to deliver services of higher value. Outsourcing is a fast-moving, changing environment so on top of strong domain knowledge we need to develop project management, change management abilities as well as specialist skills, such as language competency, are also highly useful.

Solutions – the development curve in mature operations

The described challenge required from us strong and focused solutions that had already been part of the overall employee development approach. We find the following practices a successful way of staff development:

  1. Tailor learning processes to ensure their efficiency – We have established a dedicated leverage on F&A Centre of Excellence and global training programs to develop our specialist finance capability, but we recognised that it must be complemented by more targeted interventions at a personal level. We conducted extensively more than 150 training programmes based on the company’s strategic plans, as well as the needs of particular finance and accounting units and individuals. We also conduct an individual development needs analysis for our employees, which are a part of bi-annual employee evaluation. Our training function is enhanced by the pool of over 100 internal process and domain trainers separately developed as experts in particular areas. Additionally, we have created ‘The Practice Ambassadors Program’ giving access to coaching and mentoring, as well as more tailored development plans based on performance reviews. Ten per cent of our employees are covered by a higher education policy that relies on financial contribution to support their external educational activities. Our finance and accounting ‘high potentials’, leaders and managers are a part of the Leadership and Management Academy and our ‘Diamond Mind’ programme.
  2. Recognise the importance of experiential learning – In developing the required broader business and management capabilities, we have systematically established a secondment and rotation programme, supported by a formalised workforce planning strategy, which is connected up to personalised career paths, giving individuals a wider perspective on career and learning options.
  3. Proactively manage staff engagement in a change environment – We recognise the constantly changing environment in which we operate, so on-going engagement interventions are key; we use a wide range of development activities, reward and recognitions aspects, an open-door policy, as well as satisfaction surveys to gauge engagement. Crowdsourcing opportunities and staff workshops also allow us to continually receive employee input. The organisation is very focused on on-going employee social interaction through regular meetings, social events, diversity programmes, and corporate social responsibility activities. Engagement practices are reviewed on an annual basis and benchmarked.

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.

Jamie Lyon
By Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector, ACCA
What will the future career path of a CFO look like? It is common knowledge that the role has been evolving for some time. However, much less discussed is what the implication might be for ‘where’ the future talent pipeline of finance leaders would come from?

There are a number of huge issues likely to shape the debate. In some quarters, we have seen more CFOs come from non-traditional finance and accounting backgrounds, particularly those with banking and deal-making in their career history.

Then there are regional trends as to the likely backgrounds of CFOs. One could also ask if the changing footprint and focus of business operations (more on emerging markets / less on western mature markets) might raise the longer term possibility of an increase in Asia-based CFOs leading western organisations in the future.

There are also other significant factors shaping the talent equation. For instance, the growth in shared services, outsourcing and the increasing trend towards global business services may significantly change the geographic footprint of future finance talent pools.

Another question is whether technological changes would lead to exponential changes in the face of finance operations rendering traditional CFO / finance skills less relevant? One could also mull over whether finance functions are likely to reduce their headcount more generally and the finance talent pool shrinks as a result (the more for less idea)?

All of these things are quite possible, but I am bound to say that I still think there is a bright future for traditional finance and accounting training in the face of all these developments.

A core grounding in finance essentials is always likely to be beneficial, but also other attributes that can be gained through training towards a professional accounting qualification – a critical mind-set, being able to exercise professional judgement, and above all else the “independence” that finance professionals can bring to decision making that is enshrined in their training.

From me, these qualities should always stand the test of time. Do you agree/disagree?

This blogpost first appeared in CFO World, April 2013