Mobile

New Hires: A Skills-and-Demand Balancing Act

A CFO.com survey reveals CFOs and other senior finance and accounting execs are often at odds with Generation Y staffers' expectations on the job. ...
Kathy HoffelderMay 7, 2013

This is the second of three articles in a special report on accounting and finance skills. The other articles look at what qualities are most needed among accounting and finance staff in the U.S. and abroad: Accountants Need to Show Their Softer Side and Non-U.S. CFOs Donning Green Eyeshades.


Generation Y staffers don’t typically see eye to eye with their older, more experienced corporate managers. And with a field as technical as finance and accounting, those differences can be detrimental to a firm if left unchecked.   

Drive Business Strategy and Growth

Drive Business Strategy and Growth

Learn how NetSuite Financial Management allows you to quickly and easily model what-if scenarios and generate reports.

Often management’s need to have staff stay in an accounting position for at least a year until a role is mastered clashes with new recruits’ desire to move into different positions quickly. New recruits who have just come out of school may want to switch positions at a quicker pace than what management would like or what the culture is used to, explains Brian Valentine, CFO and corporate vice president of the Lubrizol Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway that manufactures specialty chemicals.

A CFO.com survey of 422 CFOs, controllers, finance directors and chief accountants working for companies with sales in the range of $50 million to over $1 billion taken in March backs up that sentiment, revealing that young hires are often at odds with experienced managers when it comes to how long they stay in a role.

As one controller at a mid-sized employee consultancy said in response to a survey question, “the students need to stop thinking they will come in and be a controller or CFO. They seem to whine about the grunt work they have to do and how narrow or specific their job may be. They need to understand you have to work your way up and you learn as you go.”

Another survey respondent who is a senior vice president at a $1 billion technology-parts firm would agree with that commentary. He finds that young recruits are “too eager to move to the next thing when they really haven’t mastered the current role.”    

Rotating out of staff positions at a faster clip, however, is difficult since new hires’ core financial skills may need some polishing. More than 70 percent of those surveyed said new hires were either “mostly unprepared” or “largely unprepared” for core finance and accounting tasks, requiring training from a few weeks to a few months.  That compares with 23 percent who said they only needed basic training and 7 percent who said they were already prepared. (See Figure 1.)

Training new hires in finance and accounting also involves some rethinking on the communication front too, adds Lubrizol’s Valentine. “With younger people, there’s so much text messaging and e-mailing going back and forth, that we want to ensure people still get out of their offices and get to know and build relationships with the people they are working with.”

And hiring those candidates involves extra effort on the part of management. When CFOs and other finance executives look to hire young recruits in accounting and finance, they not only have to search high and low for the right skills. They also have to make sure the job is appealing to the candidates themselves, says Mike McNamara, regional director for Accounting Principals, an accounting and finance staffing firm.

Such an appeal must extend beyond the job itself. “In trying to appeal to a Generation Y candidate, you can’t just have a job description. It has to include some technology talk, community activity, and a work/life balance,” says McNamara.

After they are hired, it’s also necessary for CFOs and their staffs to make sure the recruits are motivated enough to stay in their jobs. The motivation can often start with how well the workspace is equipped. Since Generation Y staffers typically grew up with mobile technology at their fingertips, they may often crave the latest software installed on their computers or be provided with a portable laptop, he says.

Helping younger hires adapt to a particular corporate business culture can be a challenge for firms as well as the new hires. Ehud Sadan, associate managing partner at accounting advisory Anchin, Block & Anchin, for one, notes that his firm routinely teaches new accounting and finance staff how to speak with their peers, give good feedback to clients, and prepare reports. And for some, he even goes further: “we teach our people how to eat.”  


This is the second of three articles in a special report on accounting and finance skills. The other articles look at what qualities are most needed among accounting and finance staff in the U.S. and abroad: Accountants Need to Show Their Softer Side and Non-U.S. CFOs Donning Green Eyeshades.

4 Powerful Communication Strategies for Your Next Board Meeting