Talent is 'the great connector' for finance and HR, summit hears

Attendees heard how talent is the key differentiator between surviving and thriving in the era of disruption.

The first CHRO summit in 2020 was hosted in collaboration with brother company CFO South Africa and saw finance and HR leaders come together to share insights on how to make a valuable impact this year by overcoming some of the frustrations they have with one another. CFOs, CHROs, FDs and HRDs gathered on 18 February at The Equinox Leadership and Innovation Centre in Sandton, for the HR and Finance are #StrongerTogether summit. The invite-only event kept attendees fully engaged and keen to gain insights from exceptional speakers about how to create more synergy between the finance and HR functions, setting the tone for the fruitful and collaborative year.

The event was made possible by partners principal partner Workday and associate partners Skillogical, SAP Concur, Sanlam, ClarkHouse Human Capital, Momentum Consultants and Actuaries and Compliance Online.

Markus Gschwari, managing director at Accenture Strategy, discussed why the chief people officer's role has evolved to one that "must orchestrate the right people to create the right skills to support the capabilities that drive enterprise performance and value creation." 

“Disruption has become epic. We are no longer talking about exponential disruption, we are now in an era where disruption is just a way of life. About 80 percent of CEOs responding in a recent global survey that we have done reported that the traditional talent profile needs to evolve. This means we are not getting the talent that we require based on traditional talent acquisition,” said Marcus, adding that 65 percent of the children that are alive today will be working in a job that does not yet exist. 

“Ten years ago, nobody was talking about data scientists and human experience designers. I attended a talk by a very prominent banking CEO recently and he said, 'well, we've got enough actuaries, lawyers, chartered accountants, and engineers. We need people with BA degrees. Philosophers, historians and other types of skills that can help us put the human being at the centre of everything that we do'. That is a completely new paradigm as far as the role of the HR function is concerned.”

The sentiments were shared Marcus’s colleague Luis Rodriguez, who is also a managing director at Accenture Strategy and spoke about the manner in which finance talent profiles need to evolve. 

He said finance functions and organisations were full of people that have specialised skills but they don't have enough people that have range. And by having range, he was referring to people that can look across the whole organisation. 

Said Luis: “Talking about the future requires a certain amount of imagination, which is difficult for most people that strictly come from a finance background. Changing the culture of finance organisations is very difficult.  In fact, culture is something that people speak about frequently but very few organisations know how to manage it, especially when we're looking at it from a finance perspective.”

Three easy fixes

To address this challenge, Luis suggested that heads of finance hire at least one person whose role is to be a connector. In other words, someone who connects the dots between the finance team and all other functions within the business. 

Secondly, ensure that some of the key talent in your within your function to different parts of the organisation. Lastly, evolve your training curriculum to include the things that you do not usually have, like storytelling and design thinking,” said Luis. 

After these opening remarks, finance and HR leaders butted heads over pet-peeves and common areas of conflict when engaging with one another. This group discussion saw HR leaders share their true thoughts about what finance does that they do not find helpful and vice versa. 

At the end of the evening, everyone’s eyes had been opened to the other’s frustrations with the intention that finance and HR will indeed become more collaborative for the sake of their organisations and society at large. 

Workday country leader Zuko Mdwaaba said: “The conversations that are happening in the boardroom should be about getting the best out of people; not the technology shift. We, as Workday strongly believe that the people agenda has to be driven by the CEO so that there is more alignment between HR and finance. That shift in mindset is exactly what is required to move the needle in terms of making companies more agile, resilient and continuously relevant in the world that we live in.”