CFOs crave soft skills, but aren’t providing training

I caught the following tweet recently, and it reminded me of my most recent blog post on a survey that found finance people lacking in “value creation” skills:

The tweet links to a story that is based on a survey conducted by Robert Half. Here’s the actual survey release.

The first thing you notice is three out of ten say a lack of soft skills is the biggest factor holding back finance professionals from advancement. Okay, that makes sense.

Strangely the next question asks where training is planned, but apparently only allowed one answer. It really should’ve allowed more, because companies can provide training in multiple areas. Respondents probably picked the area receiving the most attention, which might explain why soft skills garnered only 19% of the vote.

I had several paragraphs written where I speculated on why soft skills weren’t getting training dollars when clearly there is a need, and now that I analyze the poll questions themselves, I can’t use them!

However, I do wonder if “poor interpersonal skills” is code for something else? Maybe a culture fit issue? Maybe some other career-limiting move? Sometimes it might be the other person who lacks people skills, and is projecting!


Survey says: IA feeling the squeeze

A survey conducted at the recent Institute of Internal Auditors annual conference by Protiviti has revealed that ⅔ of IA professionals believe their department is under-resourced and therefore unable to adequately carry out their duties.

Protiviti’s take is that due to increased expectations of the assurance Internal Audit can provide on an ever-widening spectrum of enterprise risks, auditors feel under-resourced. Sukhdev Bal, Director of Protiviti says:

This survey is a clear indication that internal auditors themselves believe that prior to the recession, they were not fit for purpose in terms of focus, skills and capabilities. Audit committees, Internal Audit leaders and management need to work more closely and collectively to agree the role of audit, objectives, criteria for audit and the overall approach of the internal audit function required to meet current and future evolving needs. Importantly, having agreed these, they need to ensure that the function is staffed with the right skills, capabilities and experience to meet these objectives.

There is evidence that spending on governance, risk and compliance didn’t decrease in 2009 compared to 2008, so I think Protiviti is correct with its assessment. IA is being asked to expand their risk coverage beyond traditional areas of expertise. It’s only natural to feel a little overwhelmed by the expectations. The key to adapting in my opinion (and experience) will be support for training in non-traditional areas.

The survey is available on Protiviti’s website (if you give them some personal information first).

Risk Management

Survey says: ERM implementations maturing

A survey conducted in July and August of 2009 by Aon has revealed that companies are moving beyond “basic” ERM implementations:

62% of the survey respondents in the Global Enterprise Risk Management Survey 2010 reported going beyond basic ERM, compared with only 38% in Aon’s inaugural ERM survey in 2007.

I wonder what happened between now and 2007 that would’ve affected companies’ willingness to ramp up their risk management practices…

The survey asked respondents (of which there were 201) to rate the maturity of their ERM implementation, from “initial/lacking” through “basic”, “defined”, “operational” and “advanced”.

My take is that respondents are more likely to overestimate the maturity of their implementation and generally more likely to respond the more advanced they (feel they) are in the process. Still, the survey is a welcome indicator that ERM efforts are on the rise.

I also think the fact that ratings firms are taking ERM into account when they determine their grading is helping executives point to a tangible financial benefit and obtain buy-in from all stakeholders, which is critical. In my mind the primary indicator of maturity in a company’s risk management program is how comprehensive it is across all departments and divisions, as the “initial/lacking” stage is exhibited by a rigid, siloed approach.

The survey is available on Aon’s website (if you give them some personal information first).


EditGrid User Survey response

EditGrid, the online spreadsheet app that mimics Excel in format and functionality, sent me a survey a week ago through email. The survey sought my thoughts on the following questions:

  1. Use Cases: What are you using EditGrid for?
  2. Features: What new features do you desire the most?
  3. Usability: How can we present our features better to you and help you work more efficiently? We welcome your suggestions, from small refinements to major improvements.

I wanted to keep my answers concise, since I figured they were going to get a lot of responses. I wrote back:

  1. I’m testing out EditGrid with personal spreadsheets and blogging about it (
  2. Just make it more responsive and more like Excel
  3. Present the features as in Excel – I guess this entails copying their new format (Office 2007)

Responsiveness would be at the top of the list, as I found it to be lagging a bit compared to Google Spreadsheets. Some specific features I use in Excel (reflexively) are still missing and I do miss them when I notice, but it’s the lag that kills the experience.

Reading over my response now, a few days later, I’m wondering whether point #3 is really all that helpful. Office 2007 doesn’t have that ubiquity just yet that 2003 enjoys, and the difference in interface is shocking. Copying the ribbon at this point may not be the best plan.

That being said, they’re on the right track.

Sending out a survey to existing customers is a great way to solicit feedback. Smart, proactive accounting firms are probably already doing this with their client base, and using the comments and suggestions to adjust their service offerings accordingly.


Most Chartered Accountants want interesting work above all

A recent CICA members survey has revealed what matters most to the Canadian Chartered Accountants who answer member surveys, and the August issue of CA Magazine highlights those findings:

Chartered accountants want work that is interesting and challenging, but only if it leaves them enough time to have a life.

Those are the results of a recent CICA member’s survey on workplace priorities, with 86% of CAs rating interesting work as “very important” and all respondents rating it as at least somewhat important. In addition, 20% ranked it as their top priority.

Retention of talented young CAs is a pressing issue facing all firms, as the demand for our services increases and opportunities outside the audit profession abound as the Canadian economy rolls along. Firms should make sure they are consistently challenging the brightest and best staff they have.