When a business undergoes significant change, accounting and finance functions feel the impact more intensely than perhaps any other departments in the organization. Mergers and acquisitions, new compliance mandates and fast growth are just some of the major change events that can dramatically increase workloads for these functions with little or no warning. They also often demand team expansion, at least temporarily.

However, in today’s dynamic business landscape, CFOs often find these types of events are happening either simultaneously or in rapid succession. In their efforts to manage change, these financial leaders must constantly refine or even completely rethink their staffing strategies. Another challenge many CFOs must help their teams to navigate: Digital transformation initiatives that fuel innovation, create new business models and require the implementation of new technology, including financial systems.

Digital transformation is highly disruptive — and it’s changing the nature of work for many accounting and finance organizations, in many ways for the better. The latest Benchmarking Accounting and Finance Functions report from Robert Half and Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF) explains that the reduction of manual processes and the addition of new capabilities through automation, cloud computing and digital transformation are helping teams to become more efficient and productive. Those teams are, as a result, capable of devoting more time to projects that add value to the business.

CFOs confronting tough talent management questions

The challenge for finance leaders, though, is finding skilled talent to work with new technologies like advanced data analytics, cloud computing and robotic process automation (RPA), and help the company identify and pursue new business opportunities related to ongoing digital change.

CFOs also need workers to manage essential processes that their accounting and finance organizations have yet to automate — or may not automate, at least in the near term. According to the Benchmarking report, those processes often include financial planning, financial decision making and financial forecasting — activities that require strategic thinking capabilities.

To create that mix of talent, CFOs at many leading firms are now embracing a new labour model for finance that is made for the digital age. They are relying more on a flexible labour force that includes full-time employees who are focused on critical initiatives; interim and project-based professionals who help to support them, usually for a finite period; and other specialized resources that can provide additional capabilities and perform high-value work on an as-needed basis.

Robert Half and global consulting firm, Protiviti, a Robert Half subsidiary, teamed up to create a white paper that explores how more CFOs are turning to this new model to address difficult talent management questions, including: “How do we align the right resources to achieve business process improvements and other key objectives that we’re planning?” and “How do we hire and groom new expertise at a time when the competition for in-demand talent has never been more intense?”

This model, supported by the right tools and technology, also allows CFOs to scale their teams up or down quickly in response to new opportunities as well as potential risks.

Many firms seek support in managing a flexible labour force

Findings from the latest Benchmarking report suggest that flexible teams are becoming increasingly important to the everyday operations of accounting and finance functions at organizations of all sizes throughout North America. In the United States, one-third of finance executives (33 per cent) report that their businesses use interim staff, up from 28 per cent in the previous survey. And in Canada, 41 per cent of respondents say their firms rely on project or temporary professionals, up nine points from 2017.

A related trend, discussed in Robert Half and Protiviti’s white paper, is how more companies are turning to external providers to help them recruit, develop and manage their talent, including full-time and interim staff. These businesses “need partners who possess deeper knowledge of their strategies, risks and opportunities.” That knowledge is critical in the digital age because “it helps ensure that rapidly changing talent needs can be met quickly and effectively enough to exploit new opportunities.”

Managed services providers can offer that support. For example, Managed Business Services teams from Robert Half and Protiviti operate like this: A senior Protiviti consultant leads a combined Protiviti and Robert Half team of consultants, assembled according to a company’s needs, and handles all planning, onboarding, scheduling, training and quality control duties related to the assignment. The team can also employ technologies such as RPA and other best practices to help accounting and finance teams improve their operational efficiency.

You can learn more about our Managed Business Services offering here.

A flexible labour force can help address current staffing challenges. Consider that 91 per cent of CFOs are currently experiencing recruiting challenges, according to research from Robert Half. And, regardless of the talent shortage, your business must still align the people, processes and technologies it needs to adapt to emerging challenges and opportunities in the digital age.

Through the strategic use of comprehensive staffing arrangements, you can better position your organization to not only keep pace with change but also drive it.

Read our white paper

Responding to business disruptions requires a finance labour model that relies on a broader portfolio of staffing arrangements and technology solutions. Download the free white paper, The Labour Model for Finance in the Digital Age, from Robert Half and Protiviti for more insights on the benefits of using this approach to source in-demand talent for accounting and finance teams.