The pace of change in modern finance departments means that most employees are unlikely to have the experience for the full range of skills needed to be an effective member of a full stack finance team.
CFOs should build their teams with a combination of individuals who have deep expertise, alongside more junior malleable employees, who have the desire to learn and develop beyond what is included in their job description.
To get up to speed with the skills needed, employees should undertake formal training, be given first-hand on the job experience and learn from one another for peer support.
It’s crucial to hire the right team members in order for a full stack finance department to meet the needs of a growing company.
In the current environment, retaining staff is particularly important due to what is being termed “the Great Resignation”, with a recent survey of UK workers showing that 29% are considering changing companies in 2022.
Finance departments should be staffed by a combination of experienced employees with deep expertise, as well as those starting out in their career who can demonstrate strong competence and the motivation to learn.
Craig Foster, CFO at Picstart, spoke on The CFO Playbook podcast about how he has found that hiring finance team members who are more experienced than him in specific areas has helped him develop as a leader, due to these individuals being able to fill gaps where he is lacking.
Team members can also help develop more junior employees by imparting their knowledge when appropriate:
“I need to hire subject matter experts who can help complement me and my team. Everybody who works for me, I’m hoping, is making my life easier by filling in areas where I don’t have 20 years of training to perform those disciplines,” says Foster.
In fast-growing companies, it’s particularly important to hire people who are self-starters, so they have the desire and attitude to take on responsibilities above the initial remit of the jobs that they are hired for. Dynshaw Italia, CFO at Soldo shared that:
“You want people to accept continuous change. So it starts with the recruitment process. You’re looking for people with the right attitude. You’re looking for people who will take on responsibility and not shy away from it.”
Team members can undertake training, be assigned on the job tasks or become involved in a combination of both to develop the necessary skills to be part of a modern full stack finance team.
Whichever approach you use, it’s critical for CFOs to take an active interest in the development of team members and to encourage them to take on new skills and move up the value chain. This will benefit their own careers and company success.
Technology integrations are a relatively new area for any finance team, so all team members should be encouraged to seek out the most effective way of completing their workflows by evaluating the new solutions on the market. Finance teams should have the opportunity to make a strong and well-researched business case to take on new tech tools.
New integrations don’t always go smoothly, so finance leaders should also treat mistakes as learning experiences. Dynshaw Italia thinks,
“If you fail, fail fast and move on.”
Presentation skills can be improved by holding weekly all- hands for the finance team, with colleagues taking it in turns to present findings related to their own work, as well as the overall function. As team members become more confident they should be encouraged to present during company town halls.
To build up the breadth of knowledge required by full stack finance teams, CFOs should encourage employees to be in a constant state of learning.
An effective way to build knowledge sharing across the team is by organising monthly “lunch and learn” sessions that are delivered by experts in a specific area. These can be external or internal speakers, and delivery of these sessions by any finance team member can also be a great way to develop presentational skills for better communication across the business.
Raxita Kapashi, the CFO of Dawn Capital, organises sessions once a month and has found this to be an effective way to spread critical knowledge amongst her team.
Finance teams should remember that there are formal training materials that can be accessed from the major accounting trade bodies and accounting software vendors that may be valuable.
Additionally, leading accounting and ERP vendors, including Xero and NetSuite, offer educational resources to help finance professionals learn about how best to integrate third-party tools and automate their company processes.
Raxita Kapashi, on an episode of the podcast, mentioned that she has found it beneficial to record training, for compliance reasons (her company is FCA regulated) as well as to help develop employees:
“We keep a training log, and everyone has to put in what they have been trained on during every quarter.”
This can also help fulfill any annual Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements that need to be completed for employees who are members of professional bodies.
The fast-paced nature of change finance departments requires team members to constantly add to their array of skills to meet the needs of their companies, so it’s probably a good idea to include development goals within annual reviews.
CFOs shouldn’t be scared to hire finance employees who have the expertise they lack, as it isn’t possible for one team member to know everything, and this shared knowledge can help the function become generalists.