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CFO One-on-One: Paul McDonald of Robert Half

Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, gives us his take on how the current job market affects talent management for both CFOs an...
Ed ZwirnMay 6, 2013


Below is an excerpt from Volume 1, Issue 1 of our editorial newsletter, CFO 360: Taking on Talent Management, one of CFO’s new, topic-driven newsletters. This subscription-based monthly newsletter provides even more insights, exclusive interviews, and knowledge for senior finance professionals looking to take their human capital skills to the next level. Each month, CFO 360: Taking on Talent Management will feature:

  • CFO One-on-One: An exclusive interview with an executive about human-capital-focused topics;
  • CFO Radar: Finance-driven insights into human capital and talent management;
  • Academic Outlook: Learn the latest data and research on compensation, incentives, training, and education;
  • Expert Opinion: Get an exclusive look at what an expert thinks on different human-capital topics that will help you to achieve the best ROI on your talent and training investments.
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CFO: Is the current economic environment making it easier or harder for companies to recruit and retain CFOs? How is the current job market impacting the efforts of CFOs to find and retain qualified finance professionals to work under them?

McDonald: It is more difficult to recruit and retain in this environment. While the national unemployment figure is at 7.9 percent, the rates for highly specialized, highly skilled professionals are much lower. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for CFOs is 1.8 percent, and for accountants it’s 4.6 percent. The demand for specialized talent continues to grow, and some candidate shortages persist. Because of the recruiting challenges firms now face, they are focused heavily on retention. Losing great people is costly to an organization and damaging to internal morale.

CFO: Are finance professionals in a good position when it comes to either moving up to CFO or moving up within the CFO world?

McDonald: It depends a bit on the company. If it’s a small organization that is not growing, a finance professional might need to make a jump in order to move up the ladder. The hiring environment is positive for CFOs and senior finance professionals; those who may have been hesitant to switch roles over the last few years are feeling more confident about making a move.

The learning environment has been a positive one as well: Enormous and continuous changes in business (in the form of compliance and regulatory issues, mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, divestitures and bankruptcies, for example) have helped people expand their skill sets and gain more valuable experience, so they have more to offer potential employers.

CFO: How do the job markets for CFOs and other finance professionals vary by sector? Are there bright (or bleak) spots?

McDonald: Financial services, healthcare and manufacturing are solid in many geographies.

CFO: What about geography? Is there more demand/higher pay to be had by moving across the country or overseas, for that matter?

McDonald: There can be more demand and higher pay, and job seekers who are flexible in terms of geography are more marketable and have greater opportunities than those who are restricted to one city or region. CFOs with multi-national experience and foreign language skills are in high demand.

CFO: What are the top things CFOs can do to retain talented staff and get the most out of them?

McDonald: Know that every employee is different and will value different things. Move away from a one-size-fits-all approach for rewards and recognition. Study up on trends in managing multi-generational workforces.

Put compensation in perspective. According to our research, it’s not the main reason why good people leave their jobs. Unhappiness with management, limited advancement potential and lack of recognition all factor ahead of salary. To retain and inspire staff, CFOs and their management teams should look carefully at these areas. As we mentioned earlier, it’s a hot market for great talent and your competition might be reaching out to your staff with tempting opportunities.

Open up communication lines. You might meet regularly with your staff but make it a point to talk more frequently on an impromptu basis. Share feedback, offer your thanks and get ideas from them. Take the initiative to reach out to them, and acknowledge their calls and emails as quickly as possible. Make sure your best people know they are valued.

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