What skills should corporate finance functions look for? AI understanding, yes, but a human touch, too.
Today and certainly in the not-too-distant future, success will come to finance leaders who find the right balance between digital savvy and human self-awareness to solve problems and perform at a high level; and do this with a diverse set of people across the enterprise.
- Digital savvy and will to learn. HR finance leads who joined our treasury peer group members at a recent meeting noted how experienced finance professionals need to show a willingness to become digital savvy. Learning from digitally native millennials and Gen Zers is a good place to start.
- Mentor and mentee. The give-to-get is to mentor the digitally savvy on finance specialty skills and show how finance supports the business (all while absorbing a little digital savviness).
This will transition us to an AI future where machines do the heavy lift of processing transactions, accounting, auditing, pulling data and doing logical analysis based on learned technical procedures. Humans will then tell the stories that motivate action, adhere to culture and judge whether machine-made decisions are appropriate for us as human stakeholders.
Accordingly, human skills will become increasingly important with time.
- EQ and self-awareness. Perhaps the most important part of the skill wheel is a high emotional quotient, in order to be aware of your own emotions and those around you. It’s important to be socially aware and able to read people in order to best share and learn from them and manage them as a team.
- Read the culture. A big part of this is being able to read and play your role in line with the organizational culture. There’s a lot of emphasis these days on diversity and inclusion, which also means people with different skill sets, specialist and generalist finance experiences, as well as those intimately familiar with the business. Each may look at a problem differently.
- Dance when invited. As one member put it, “Our organization goes out of its way to invite everyone to the dance, but people still have be willing to dance.”
But what do you do when the super specialists and digital savvy don’t know that they have to dance? Can EQ, self-awareness and becoming more human be learned in a leadership development program or elsewhere on the job?
This is where mentoring and coaching are important. Future finance leaders, like today’s, will need to learn how to speak to people on the phone, make eye contact and understand how they “show up” in meetings. To be relevant in the future, however, those that can will also need to be digitally savvy enough to interface with the apps and intelligent machines that will be processing the data to support and make key finance-related decisions in order to make them human.