As is true in many other professions, finance staffers climb the corporate ladder by excelling at skills that don’t exactly match what they’ll need when they reach the top. A case in point is talent management. Although this skill has value at rungs along the way, it becomes ever more crucial as the CFO’s desk comes into view.
Hiring and managing finance staff was the theme of a panel discussion at a recent conference for CFOs hosted by Argyle Executive Forum. Topics discussed by the panel, which included three finance chiefs, included the four “I’s” of talent management, the influence of the fluctuating economy on talent development, and how to cope with a new generation of workers that has far different expectations for career advancement than those of previous generations.
An edited version of the discussion follows.
Moderator Bruce Nolop, retired CFO: What are your overall philosophies for talent management?
Cliff Lange, CFO, Boston Mutual Life Insurance: I tell my junior people that they should treat every day as an interview for the rest of their career. It amazes me, at age 53, how many stories I still hear about things people said and did in business back in the 1970s or 1980s that stick with them for the rest of their career.
In hiring, I tell my team to satisfy the four “I’s.” In reverse order, the fourth “I” is intellectual skills. We all want to hire the best and brightest, but that’s just a starting place, similar to learning how to skate for a hockey player. The third “I” is intensity. I look for people with fire in their belly. At age 32, I saw a fellow come into the company I worked for then who was 52, and he had more energy than most people do at 22. I made a vow to never let myself be bored with work and to always find it exciting.
The second most important ["I"] is interpersonal skills. Everyone has met bright stars with sharp elbows who could be fired if they didn’t improve in that area. I hate to see talent wasted, so I really help people develop those skills. And the first “I” on the list is integrity. Someone could be very intense, hard working, and have great people skills, but if they’re not trusted they’ll ultimately hurt the business.
Carim Khouzami, CFO, Baltimore Gas and Electric: We constantly challenge younger employees by rotating them around to new positions, often pushing them outside their comfort zone. We take accountants and put them in investor relations. We take tax professionals and put them in treasury. Such nontraditional paths ultimately result in well-rounded employees with opportunity and experiences that keep them excited about work.
Mark LeClair, senior vice president, Volt Consulting Group: My talent-management strategy is about investing a significant amount of time to determine what you need from a skill-set perspective. A lot of people have knee-jerk reactions to a gaping hole in their team or look to replace the skills lost when a position turns over. They’re not focusing on exactly what they would want that person to do from a long-term perspective.