The Talent Behind the Tech: How Skills-Based Hiring Supports Technology Innovation

Staying relevant with technology in today’s finance industry is no easy task. According to CLO Magazine, skills related to specific tech tools, platforms, programming languages, or vendors have a shelf life of less than three years. Broader skills based on field-specific knowledge are relevant longer, but they are still likely to see significant change within 5 years.

As technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed and companies increasingly invest in innovation and transformation, the question facing founder-led companies is this:

How can you prepare your workforce to leverage new technology effectively?

The Talent Differentiator

The success of any company rises and falls on its people, not its technology. At the same time, however, the people you hire must be able to adapt to new technology innovations. That’s why hiring and retaining skilled, tech-enabled talent is just as urgent for small businesses as it is for larger companies. Unfortunately, skilled tech talent is hard to find.  Harvard Business Review recently reported that  only 13% of employers say they are able to find and hire the tech talent they need. 

In finance, successful teams are built of innovative, strategic thinkers who have the right domain expertise as well as good functional knowledge of finance technology. If you are going to build value into your business, you need to deploy the right team as well as the right tools.

That starts with cultivating a technology and automation mindset that looks for ways to put technology innovations to work for your company. For example, Marie Myers of HP, Inc. told the Wall Street Journal that HP is actively looking for ways to harness the power of AI to improve and streamline the company’s  finance function. AI will soon be a standard part of finance processes, and organizations will need people on their teams with the technical skills to manage it. 

How Tech and Talent Intersect: Addressing the Skills Gap

While the talent squeeze is very real, it doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Many businesses also struggle with lack of skills-based differentiation when it comes to hiring the right candidates. In fact, more companies are now hiring based on demonstrated skills and competencies rather than degree completion. One of the reasons for this shift is that knowledge gained in a classroom may be outdated within a year or two of graduation. Degrees are no longer reliable indicators of a person’s readiness for a specific role. 

Hiring the wrong people can have huge impacts on your company, both financially and in terms of opportunity losses. From C-suite leaders to entry-level accountants, it’s critical to hire people who have the right skills as well as the right cultural fit.

How do you find these unicorns? The best way to start is to evaluate which skills can be trained and which ones are essential to the vision of your organization. Here’s what to look for: 

  • Digital Skills – Look for tech skills and competencies that are widely applicable rather than platform specific. According to Digital Skills Global, a company that works with organizations to build tech skills in the workforce, the top ten digital skills needed today are:
    • Programming and Development
    • Digital Business Analysis
    • Digital Design and Data Visualization
    • Digital Project Management
    • Digital Product Management
    • Digital Marketing
    • Social Media
    • Data Science and Analytics
    • Leadership Decision Making
    • Emerging Technology

In finance, emerging technology may include things like automation, AI, block chain, cloud computing, and other relevant fintech applications. These skills are shaping the financial landscape, and companies that have them on their team will quickly gain competitive advantage.

  • Field-Relevant Skills – As we mentioned earlier, tech skills related to specific tools, processes, or programming languages will likely be outdated in just a few years. That’s why it’s critical to look not just at the technical skills a person has, but also at their broader knowledge and understanding of financial processes. Look for skills like:
    • Design thinking – Successful innovation requires companies to find the right balance between analytical thinking and exploratory thinking. Design thinking practices can and should be applied to financial modules as well as to product development. For example, rather than operating in silos, companies can look for ways to collaborate across the finance function, incorporate new tools rather than relying on old stand-by (but less efficient) processes, and look for ways to automate repeatable tasks.
    • Data Analysis – Analytical skills should work in tandem with design thinking. Team members need to clearly understand financial modeling processes, reporting, and financial KPIs so they can apply that knowledge to the decision-making process. As emerging technologies like AI, block chain and cloud computing begin to revolutionize systems and processes, companies still need to stay grounded in quality, accurate data.
    • Project Management – Even the best and most exciting technology innovations will fail to make measurable differences if they are not implemented correctly. Look for candidates with the technical experience to manage a project from a scheduling and efficiency perspective as well as the financial acumen to keep the project on budget.
    • Agility – The ability to adapt quickly in the face of changing technology will differentiate leading-edge companies from those that lag. But it’s not only companies that can be left behind. People can also fail to grow in their roles, leaving them with outdated skills and knowledge. Successful team members should be able to pivot quickly as tools and processes change.
  • Human Skills – Tech skills can be learned, but it’s much harder to master human skills like communication, leadership, and emotional intelligence.  These skills haven’t always been highly valued in technology or finance roles, but as technology infuses every part of work, they will become increasingly relevant across all disciplines. Look for:

What’s Next?

Let’s bring all of this together. How can you balance the urgency to fill tech talent roles with skills-based hiring needs? Ask these questions as you build your talent strategy:

For Your Current Workforce:

  • Do we currently have these skills on our team? 
  • Can we train our current team members in the skills we don’t have?
  • How durable and transferable are the skills?
  • Where are our skills gaps?

For Candidates:

  • Does this person have broadly relevant skills as well as specific tech competencies?
  • Can they adapt to changing technology and business needs?
  • Do they have a good understanding of emerging technology?
  • Can they think strategically about how to leverage new tech tools to add value? 
  • Do they have the human skills that we’re looking for?

If you don’t have the skills you need on your team and you don’t have much wiggle room in your budget for hiring, all is not lost. At CFO Alliance, we step into your financial gaps with the team, tech, and tools you need to achieve your goals. As an immersed extension of your team, we make the impossible possible. 

Call us today to start the conversation!