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09 May, 2017

Special Report: Win the 'People' challenge

The greatest challenge finance will face in the GCC? People, a company’s greatest and yet most fragile asset

Special Report: Win the 'People' challenge
9 May 2017

Digitalisation, VAT implementation, the switch to IFRS standards, adoption of the Cloud etc. - challenges abound for organisations in the GCC. The need to attract and nurture top finance talent to go through these changes has never been so pressing. Only the most agile and skilled individuals and businesses will successfully navigate the region's rough seas ahead.

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Attracting and nurturing finance talent

"Employees are a company's greatest asset - they're your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company's mission," once said former Xerox CEO Anne M. Mulcahy, an influential business leader who spent years working in HR before taking on the reins of the company.

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To build a top finance team, every aspect of the human talent chain should be carefully considered.

Difficulties start at the recruitment phase amid a scarcity of skills and experience in the region: a recent survey by accounting, finance and technology recruitment agency Robert Half found that 40 per cent of HR directors think the top challenge is the war for talent, closely followed by talent management at 39 per cent. Undoubtedly once hired, the need to retain the finance professionals who will help local businesses deal with upcoming tax and regulatory regimes changes is of utmost importance.

Changing times

The 'people' challenges Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) businesses face arise mainly from the fact that the region is going through the greatest period of economic mutation in a generation.

The impending launch of VAT in the region, need to conform to international standards and Expo2020 is exerting even more pressure in a part of the world where the fall in oil prices has created the need to diversify the economy and fully embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

So what does it mean to be a CFO today in the GCC amid this context of a war for talent and the need to digitise the finance function?

It means to have to change too and become an agent of transformation. It means the businesses you work for must do more to hire finance talent from the huge pool of Millennials joining the employment market. It means businesses must tap into their technology mastery and use the youth to teach other generations to use technology to their advantage. However, this also implies a deeper look at corporate culture since younger generations expect a more flexible and collaborative work environment.

Technology to enhance manpower

It also means the need for CFOs to enhance technology skills, amid an urgent need in the region to tackle the financial competency gap, which is harming its overall economic development.

Better knowledge of IT or technology actually finds itself on the growing list of qualities and responsibilities CFOs now have to take on in a digital world. So is the need to take a leading and visionary role to modernise finance and adopt new ways of doing things.

Empowered by innovative technologies like the cloud, the CFO will see his or her role grow in significance, and way beyond the traditional remits of financial reporting, audit and compliance, planning, treasury and capital structure. Finance leaders will have more time and opportunity to focus on what increasingly matters in today's competitive world: strategic decision-making and value creation.

People are key to the success of a business in an increasingly competitive and changing economic environment. To win the 'people challenge' preparation is key.

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