News  & Insights

What it takes to “fix” talent

By Greg McKenzie

A common trap many CFOs fall into is a “rescue fantasy”, which sees a CFO trying to save the role of a direct report that isn’t building the team. Typically these play out in two common scenarios. The first is with a very congenial and well-liked individual who is not performing at the required level. Conversely, you may have a talented individual who is good at his or her specialty or execution of projects, but does so in a manner inconsistent with the culture, team, and other norms you wish to establish.

What it takes to fix talent

Talent is usually a top-five agenda item for newly appointed CFOs. On average, it will generally take about one day per week in the first six months to review staff, recruit critical talent, and build a sustainable finance team.

Even the best intentional rescue effort can be fraught with hurdles. Some don’t always succeed resulting in lost revenue and time. Before you decide to invest in a rescue effort, determine the likelihood of success. Consider the trade-off of individual rescue efforts vs. recruiting staff with the requisite skills and temperament to succeed in the role.

Rescue efforts with direct reports should maintain an established timeline that helps resolutions occur in the first year. Also consider the opportunity cost of your time in a failed rescue. Using third-party resources such as external coaches, training programs, or internal and external networks to help individuals develop the skills they lack, give you leverage in these efforts.

Buy-in from HR

Finally, replacing or reassigning staff or remediating performance will require partnership with human resources (HR) across multiple dimensions. Depending on existing performance management systems, it can take time to build a case for dismissal.

Furthermore, existing compensation systems may need to be renegotiated to recruit critical talent. Reassigning staff to roles they are best suited and providing coaching and training programs to staff are likely to require HR support. Thus, it’s important to get HR on board quickly to assist with your talent agenda.

Act swiftly, with no regrets

When we ask CFOs about their biggest regret after their first year in a new role, we often hear they didn’t move quick enough on talent performance issues. Getting the right people in the right seats as quickly as possible frees up your time to attend to the important issues.

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