Danish CFOs in the past have had less need to focus on talent attraction, retention and capability building compared to their international CFO counterparts. But that might be about to change, according to Kim Hendil Tegner, Partner and CFO Programme Leader.
Easy recruiting, easy retention, traditional capability building, and stability over time. For many finance functions, this reality has been the name of the game for many years – and for many Danish CFOs, there has been little reason to worry about talent shortages or retention problems.
For some companies, this is still the reality. In Deloitte’s 2023 CFO Survey, roughly a third of Danish CFOs say that it is still easy to attract and retain the right talent in the finance function, while a similar number say it is neither easy nor difficult. However, one-third of Danish CFOs see things differently. For them, attracting and retaining the right talent is difficult. Kim Hendil Tegner is not surprised:
“Over the past many years, Danish companies have had a stable senior finance employee base. However, this will change over time. Danish finance functions will also need to convince the younger generations to take a career in finance as today’s employees retire. That may not be as easy as it has been in the past. We know that the younger generations have greater demands for flexibility, work-life balance, non-linear career opportunities and a personal sense of purpose. In our experience, very few finance functions and CFOs in Denmark have a clear answer for how to provide this.”
We can learn a lot from the experiences from CFOs outside Denmark. According to Kim Hendil Tegner:
“In recent years, companies in the largest countries, especially the US, have faced a much bigger talent crunch than we have experienced in Denmark. In the US 2-3 years ago, this was called the ‘the Great Resignation’, and is still a top concern for American CFOs. In our work with the CFOs and finance functions in the US, we have seen a significant shift in focus from other agendas to talent attraction, talent retention and capability building, with the younger generation in mind. CFOs have increased their time allocation to this issue and include it as a key element in their functional strategies.”
The change in the finance workforce from the old to the younger generation, however, is not the only factor to be mindful of. Kim Hendil Tegner explains:
“One thing is finding talent within the traditional finance areas such as accounting, controlling and FP&A, but it is a completely different game when you look at data scientists, AI experts, sustainability specialists, and so on. In many cases, these will be the people that take the finance function to the next level, especially in large companies that have the scale and complexity for these specialists to add value. However, to attract these talents, many companies will have to do much more when it comes to presenting a compelling employer value proposition for Finance as these talent groups in general are difficult to attract. Many of them might not even look at Finance for a career.”
While the scope of the finance function is expanding, CFOs are also expected to recruit and develop talent for the traditional finance areas. Kim Hendil Tegner points out:
“The pressure to improve Finance will always be there. Many companies have invested in changes to their operating model, new technologies and process improvements, but they have neglected investing in capability building as part of their transformation. Capability requirements often come in waves: once you bring in new technology or processes, you need to follow up with people development to make sure that your team has the right capabilities to act in the new operating model, use the new technology and execute the new processes. In many cases, the people that need most development to succeed after big changes have been implemented are the teams in the traditional finance areas. That is often neglected, and it ends up with a drop-off in performance and less employee engagement.”
A broader role for CFOs
According to Kim Hendil Tegner, the talent agenda has implications not only for the organisation as a whole, but also for CFOs who are now taking on a much broader responsibility for the business than before:
“The role of the CFO is becoming broader. CFOs are expected to be fully involved in wider aspects of the business. More CFOs now have IT, Operations, Procurement, Communications, Strategy, M&A and ESG reporting to them. Many of these functions are also facing specific challenges with talent attraction, retention and capability building. This will likely contribute significantly to the talent agenda, taking up more time in the schedules of Danish CFOs going forward”.
From financial steering to value-steering
Kim Hendil Tegner believes that many CFOs should already be considering a more active role in talent management. It can be combined with doubling down on other important agendas, like taking a broader responsibility for the business and ESG:
“COWI’s CFO Natalie Shaverdian Riise-Knudsen and Salling Group’s CFO Anders Hagh – both of whom we interviewed for this year’s survey – are great examples of CFOs that have made a strong impact within the talent agenda. Natalie Shaverdian Riise-Knudsen is currently taking her entire finance organisation from financial steering to value steering through an ambitious sustainability strategy. And Salling Group recently announced a DKK 2.5 billion investment in green solutions, largely driven by Anders Hagh and his team in Finance.”
Besides the ESG agenda, what characterises CFOs like Natalie Shaverdian Riise-Knudsen and Anders Hagh is that they are both taking a wider responsibility for their organisations and thereby broadening the scope of Finance. According to Kim Hendil Tegner:
“When the CFO takes a holistic approach to value creation, what happens is that you are also opening up the playing field for your talented individuals in the finance organisation. People become more curious and engaged when you make room for more diverse thinking. At a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to get young people to take up a career in finance, it’s inspiring to see CFOs who show the way and work hard to make Finance an inspiring and appealing workplace for the younger and future generations.”
Three pieces of advice from Kim Hendil Tegner
- Broaden your finance strategy from the traditional focus on control, efficiency, financial performance and execution, to also include new areas such as employee engagement, diversity, ESG and sustainable value creation.
- Define a role for Finance that is meaningful to the new generation of talent. Be a pioneer of collaboration, and be clear about your own values and purpose.
- Be accessible, curious and attentive, not just to the people reporting directly to you, but also to the wider organisation. Coach your team members, and give them opportunities to develop and build their careers.
Kim Hendil Tegner
Partner and CFO Programme Leader
+45 30 93 64 46