Shagun is an ex-Fortune 100 auditor, process consultant and CEO of SkyStem who designed ART, a month-end close solution for accountants.
Gone are the days when finance teams only focused on bookkeeping, payroll management and cost accounting. Nowadays, they leverage automation tools, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to effectively process, analyze and report financial data, ultimately helping their organizations make more informed decisions. If your accounting department hasn’t embraced these practices yet, it’s time to take action.
As the founder of an accounting software company with extensive experience, I can say that creating the next-gen finance team doesn’t necessarily involve new hires. Instead, organizations can build a stronger team by empowering their existing employees to evolve in alignment with the top skills shaping the future of work. Here’s how to make it happen.
According to the World Economic Forum, employers believe critical thinking and problem-solving skills will become more important in the next few years, which holds relevance for finance teams as well.
The main reason is that critical thinking helps accounting professionals identify and assess potential financial risks and minimize potential negative impacts on the company’s financial health. Moreover, it allows finance teams to analyze expenses, identify areas of waste and discover solutions that can lead to cost savings, ultimately contributing to the company’s profitability.
To foster critical thinking skills within finance teams, companies should take an important initial step: encouraging team members to volunteer for internal projects.
Bear in mind that these opportunities don’t need to be limited to roles directly within their current responsibilities. In fact, engaging in broader companywide initiatives and seeking additional support can be especially beneficial. After all, working on various projects encourages them to approach problems from different angles, enhancing their ability to analyze complex financial scenarios.
Does creativity generate business value? According to a McKinsey study, the answer is yes.
Creative teams can innovate, adapt, solve complex problems and collaborate effectively. Therefore, companies that foster creativity in their finance teams are better positioned to adjust to ever-changing market conditions and seize opportunities as they arise.
A highly effective method for enhancing this skill involves cultivating your curiosity by engaging in the act of questioning. Questions that begin with “how” often yield valuable insights. For instance, “How do you validate that assumption?” and “How did you arrive at that conclusion?” or other open-ended questions like “What are your thoughts?” can stimulate richer discussions.
When finance departments embark on the journey of generating innovative ideas, it’s crucial to acknowledge that failure is a natural part of experimenting with the new. However, to mitigate risks, teams can employ strategies such as launching pilot projects, utilizing simulation and modeling and conducting scenario analyses. These approaches enable the systematic testing of creative concepts with minimal financial exposure, ensuring that only the most promising and value-driven ideas are taken further.
The ability to endure stress, sustain resilience and exhibit adaptability is paramount for long-term work performance. But I want to emphasize that building up resilience isn’t about being able to take on an excessive workload: It’s about ensuring effective contributions to the organization without compromising work quality and preventing employee burnout.
One effective strategy is establishing a company culture that empowers finance teams to say “no” while proposing an alternative solution, which can be particularly valuable during demanding periods like the first quarter of the year. For instance, when faced with a request, one can respond, “I’m unable to assist you with this today, but if you can wait until next week, I can allocate dedicated time on my calendar.”
Another approach involves saying “yes” to work requests but with the condition of identifying tasks that accounting professionals can deprioritize. While acknowledging the challenge of outright refusal, this approach seeks to make the trade-offs explicit, ensuring that efforts align with the organization’s overarching goals.
Three of the top 10 essential skills of the World Economic Forum include proficiency in technology monitoring and control, as well as programming. It’s fair to assume that a majority of accountants don’t have backgrounds in programming or design. However, there are alternative ways to enhance technical skills within finance teams.
For example, whether it’s the core enterprise resource planning (ERP) software or something as commonplace as Excel, gaining a deeper understanding of the functionalities of the systems they use can help accounting departments sharpen their skills.
Given that accounting software tools are updated regularly due to technological changes or even regulations, companies should consider encouraging self-exploration. Here, finance experts can experiment and become familiar with the new features through hands-on experience. This not only helps them adapt to changes but also empowers them to contribute more effectively to their organizations.
To sum up, the accounting landscape is constantly evolving due to new market demands and technological advancements. Therefore, building the next-gen finance teams is key to ensuring success in new territories. To do that, businesses must support accounting professionals in unlocking their full potential by enhancing their critical thinking abilities, creativity, resilience and technological proficiency.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.