In the War for Finance Talent, Here’s Why CFOs Are Turning to the Gig Economy

March 7, 2019 Leah Hoffmann

finance talent - hand on calculator

Sourcing finance talent has been a top concern of CFOs for some time. Perhaps not surprisingly, according to new Deloitte research, these efficiency-minded execs are now turning to a uniquely economical resource: the gig economy.

Independent finance consultants and executives currently make up an average of 8.3% of a typical big company’s finance workforce. A Deloitte survey of CFOs at 132 of North America’s largest organizations found they expect that number to grow by 88% in the next three years. They also anticipate that the percentage of the finance workforce that operates in real or virtual shared services will increase from 19.3% to 31.9%, an uptick of 65%.

Finding talent for the evolving finance function

According to KellyOCG, organizations that are “Innovators” in their strategic use of freelancers are nearly 3x more likely to save over 30% on labor costs. But the factors underpinning the segment’s growth go beyond cost-efficiency. Like other business functions, finance is evolving rapidly, and it can be challenging for companies to source the skills they need to keep up with the change. Writes Deloitte’s Sandy Cockrell:

CFOs expect the responsibilities of the finance function to shift beyond accounting, reporting and compliance, to attract and develop finance staff who are more adept at analysis, prediction, and decision support.

The independent marketplace is a great place to find cutting-edge, hard-to-hire skills, as Business Talent Group’s internal research has long shown. This is especially true in the red-hot digital space—think data management and analysis, process management, and automation, which, as Deloitte confirms, are rightly at the top of most CFOs’ wish lists. Independent workers also update their skills more frequently: 70% of full-time freelancers participated in training in the past six months, according to Upwork research, compared to 49% of full-time non-freelancers. All this makes them well-suited to serving tomorrow’s finance functions.

Finally, independent workers help finance functions (and the companies they serve) achieve greater organizational agility, adding critical skills as priorities and projects change to fit new business moments.

Putting independents to work for finance

But how get the most from this fluid, growing workforce? Here are some tips for getting started:

1. Rethink talent strategies

Most companies have already moved toward more modular hiring practices. But many still lack a formal talent strategy for attracting and managing both internal and external resources. According to Deloitte, 53% of companies report weakness in handling external resources, ranging from haphazard onboarding policies to preferred vendor programs that leave a ‘long tail’ of spend unaccounted for. Make sure your company can drive the results it needs by defining strategies that treat independents as the extension of your workforce that they are—then crafting policies to support that idea.

2. Clarify your goals

It can be overwhelming to confront the breadth and depth of what’s available on the independent marketplace. To avoid undermining your efforts, be clear about your business goals before you start looking for talent, whether it’s sourcing additional support in advance of a deadline or finding niche skills that will keep your business competitive.

3. Create a program

The most innovative companies have taken a systematic approach to capturing the benefits of independent talent, deploying enterprise-wide solutions through which freelance talent can be easily sourced, contracted, and integrated into the team. The benefits of being innovative are real, according to KellyOCG: innovators are 25 times more likely to experience significantly higher performance, and 11 times more likely to achieve a significantly higher competitive advantage.

For finance execs who are grappling with increasingly complex challenges—from shareholder activism to merger integration—those are benefits to take to the bank.

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About the Author

Leah Hoffmann

Leah Hoffmann is a former journalist who has worked for and The Economist. She is passionate about clear thinking, sharp writing, and strong points of view.

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