By Tim Hird, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Optimization, Robert Half and Protiviti The “people, process, technology” framework has been around for more than a half-century. But its value as a tool to help company leaders, including chief financial officers (CFOs), drive organizational effectiveness and efficiency has perhaps never been more valuable than in today’s complex, dynamic and uncertain business environment. That’s especially true when two powerful and closely linked elements are included to the traditional lineup: data and artificial intelligence (AI). Many leading organizations are already thinking this way, and turning an “old” framework into a key that can help them open the door to future transformation, innovation and accelerated growth. They recognize that the effective alignment of people, process, technology, data and AI can help them to realize, among many other positive outcomes. Greater agility and adaptability Businesses can anticipate and adapt to changing market conditions and other trends with speed and precision when they strategically apply enhanced data analytics — which often incorporates machine learning algorithms and AI technologies to analyze large and complex datasets — and processes like scenario planning. They can also more readily identify unmet customer needs and uncover opportunities for market disruption. Increased productivity and accuracy in the finance function This function is, in many ways, the heart of a business, so it must operate optimally — and AI can help. Future-forward finance and accounting teams were quick to adopt robotic process automation (RPA) years ago to manage mundane, repetitive tasks like data entry and routine financial reporting. Many now embrace intelligent process automation (IPA) — RPA amplified with AI — to streamline and improve more complex work, from tax and compliance reporting to financial statement reconciliation Enhanced risk management By analyzing data about risks — from safety incidents to compliance violations to cybersecurity threats — companies can identify potential vulnerabilities and implement appropriate controls and other preventive measures to minimize their exposure. They can also implement effective plans to ensure business continuity. And with purpose-built tools like AI-powered fraud detection systems, businesses can analyze data in real time to identify red flags and reduce risk. Better customer experiences and journeys By using AI algorithms to analyze customer data, companies can gain deep insights into their customers’ behavior, preferences and needs, so they can optimize customer-facing processes to deliver more seamless and personalized experiences and overall journeys. That, in turn, helps them to build stronger customer relationships, foster customer loyalty and drive revenue growth. An empowered workforce of innovative thinkers By equipping employees with access to relevant data, tools and training, businesses can enable their workers to build new skills faster, make more informed decisions and help drive performance improvements. When companies make it a priority for their workforce to engage in continuous learning — and get hands-on with new tools like AI to build their confidence and inspire innovative thinking — they can unleash the full potential of their employees to help position the company for future success. They can also be  more effective at attracting in-demand talent and retaining valued staff.
All of the outcomes outlined above can help to strengthen a business inside and out, increasing its competitive edge and potential longevity in the marketplace. But few companies, if any, have yet to “crack the code” when it comes to harmonizing these elements — people, process, technology, data and AI — in a way that allows them to say with confidence that they are indeed future-ready. Companies that struggle with the “people” component of the framework, in particular, often have underlying issues that prevent them from making effective and strategic decisions in all aspects of the talent management process. That includes hiring, training, leadership development and succession planning. Those underlying issues are poor data, poor processes and poor technology. It’s easy to point to bad hiring decisions as a root cause for a company’s talent management challenges, and to blame those decisions on factors like the persistent shortage of skilled talent available for hire. But if hiring managers don’t have high-quality data to help them recruit and hire the right people, how can they not make missteps? Of course, they can’t even access this data if the company isn’t using the right technology, AI or otherwise, to bring together relevant information for analysis and insights. Behind it all is the greatest obstacle: ineffective and outmoded processes that don’t support data-driven talent strategies.
CFOs and other finance leaders have a critical role to play in helping their organizations overcome these issues and transform their talent management approach. In fact, those who aren’t yet embracing this role are not in step with their peers. The latest Global Finance Trends Survey report from global consulting firm and Robert Half subsidiary, Protiviti, highlights how many CFOs are becoming more active in talent management, not just within the finance group but also at the organizational level. The report also emphasizes that “the ability to recruit qualified candidates is a concern for the majority of CFOs.” It outlines the clear opportunity that CFOs have to collaborate with human resources (HR) leadership to develop “data-driven talent strategies that include redesigned job roles, enterprisewide skills inventories, rolling talent forecasts, skills modeling, training, change management, and plans for quickly adapting work and jobs to new technologies (e.g., GenAI), and other innovations.” Of note, Protiviti’s 2023 Global Finance Trends Survey report underscores that with support from CFOs and HR leaders “leading companies are overhauling their traditional workforce planning and talent forecasting processes to gain more accurate, detailed and real-time views of all the skills” in the organization. They are using these “comprehensive skills inventories” that they generate to drive more precise talent forecasting, scenario planning and more. The report also notes that “AI-driven talent intelligence” is a hallmark of talent management transformation. All of this means that leading firms are working to align AI, data, technology and process to create a holistic, people-centric and future-forward talent management approach. This approach will allow them to make better talent decisions so the workers they need to compete now and for the long term. It can give them edge in a hiring market where, according to Robert Half’s Demand for Skilled Talent report, 90% of employers say they are challenged in finding skilled talent. Ultimately, these businesses, by aligning AI, data, technology, process and people into a new framework for driving continuous improvement, they can create an organization where employees not only feel valued and productive, but truly are. When that happens, they will have cracked the code and enabled their future-ready workforce. Follow Tim Hird on LinkedIn.