Future-Proofing Finance: Building An Award-Winning Talent Management Program

Richard McLean

As the role of finance undergoes transformation, the concept of future-proofing your career has become a hot topic. More and more finance functions are becoming automated, standardized, and migrated to shared services. As that happens, finance personnel are increasingly focused on what new jobs are available to ensure that they remain relevant. Fail to show them, and you risk losing the hearts, minds, and talent of your most valuable resources.

It is my belief that keeping up with the changing demands of finance means constantly updating the talent agenda for my team. This means building a set of talent assessment, recruitment, and development processes that align with the career aspirations of my team and the changing needs of the business. For this effort, I was recently nominated and subsequently received a CFO Innovation Asia Award, which recognizes Asia’s leaders in all aspects of financial management. The category for this honor was Excellence in Talent Management. This recognition has given me an opportunity to document the efforts we make to invest in our people and build a learning and development culture which I’ll share with you in this post.

Creating a learning culture

Continuous education and the development of a learning culture are key to maintaining motivation, sustaining organizational growth, and influencing improved business performance. To support that effort, we have embarked on a committed education program for all levels in the CFO line of business. Working with HR and global teams, we deployed a talent management plan to enhance core professional skills for finance employees that is aimed at endowing the team with judgment-based decision-making capabilities. The goal is to develop a commercially savvy, customer-centric function with advanced business partnering skills to better collaborate and support the organization.

Specific initiatives we engage in the global finance and administration (GFA) function at SAP include programs such as Amazing People@GFA, ASPIRE@GFA, the Transformation Agent Program, and the APJ GFA Job Catalogue.

Developing amazing people

Amazing People’s vision for GFA is to be a first-class learning architecture that enables continuous change and sustainable business impact. I serve as a member of the global executive steering committee for this program. Amazing People@GFA aims to enrich the classical and proven learning approach at GFA with people-centric work streams. Through direct encouragement and endorsement, the GFA staff in our offices across Asia-Pacific and Japan (APJ) have benefited greatly from this program through formal learning and training opportunities developed by the GFA Academy and participation in long-term exchange programs, shorter-term fellowships of up to six months, job rotations, job shadowing, leadership development, and on-site and virtual formal training courses.

Aspiring to achieve more

Our ASPIRE@GFA program builds our leadership bench and aligns with the Amazing People@GFA initiative by providing a proactive approach to the development of finance talent. It is a leadership development program tailored for individual contributors who aspire to be the future leaders. It embodies a belief that everyone is a talent, everyone is a learner, and everyone is a teacher.

Training transformation agents

If you think about a transformed finance organization, you need people who are armed with information and data from your technology – can then influence better decision making. Therefore, the ability to communicate strongly and influence others in the business, whether it’s through deep insights of what’s going on or very strong business acumen, is a valuable skill.

My company believes that the evolution of the finance function has a new horizon, something we call transformation agents. Our Transformation Agent program introduces finance employees to new methodologies and techniques to drive growth and to identify solutions to real business challenges. We encourage our people to challenge the status quo, test hypotheses, and propose and gain buy-in for new, nontraditional solutions. The program was rolled out in workshops in five countries in the APJ region with over 160 finance employees attending various sessions.

Part of the program involves finance team members spending time shadowing members of the business to learn about their job functions and their customers’ expectations. Not only does this approach foster an understanding and empathy towards internal customers, but it also engenders a sense of partnering with the business colleagues they support.

Developing a regional job catalogue

Effective succession planning is important in sustaining the organization’s long-term health. To strengthen this process, the APJ GFA Job Catalogue was created to increase visibility to all jobs within GFA through a dedicated online collaboration platform. It helps finance teams understand what their senior colleagues do and the skills they use to perform their day-to-day responsibilities. Individuals can use these insights in their development planning and in building meaningful and targeted learning plans that help bridge the skills gap to these senior roles.

When we look at the talent pool from which we draw our successors, it includes more than finance people. Often, we go out into broader areas of the business to find our future leaders within finance. That’s why it’s so important to invest in the talent of the people within finance: to open new opportunities for them and to ensure that we have a strong talent pool to lead the organization.

CFO Research surveyed 1,500+ finance professionals to find out how their careers are changing in the digital economy. Read the report, Thriving in the Digital Economy: The Innovative Finance Function,  to understand the nine trends shaping the future of the finance profession, and the five actions finance professionals can take to be ready.




Richard McLean

About Richard McLean

Richard McLean, regional CFO for SAP Asia Pacific Japan, oversees all key finance and administrative functions for field and regional headquarters, supporting more than 18,000 employees. He has more than 20 years of experience in senior finance roles with leading global companies across a range of industries, including financial services, investment banking, automotive, and IT. He joined SAP in 2008.