Watch for these signs to spot your rising stars

June 7, 2019

By Hannah Pitstick at Financial Management on May 31, 2019

As finance and accounting teams experience talent shortages, due in part to the retirement of Baby Boomers, limited applicant pools, and a rising demand for new technology skills, many are finding it more difficult than ever to spot and nurture the next crop of leaders.

"There's a war for talent on a global basis," said Gareth El Mettouri, associate director at Robert Half UAE, a human resource consulting organisation.

In order to compete, an increasing number of companies are setting up "talent factories", which Doug Ready, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, defines as pipelines of high-potential employees that "marry functionality, or rigorous talent processes that support strategic and cultural objectives, and vitality, meaning emotional commitment from management that is reflected in daily actions".

These pipelines can help ensure a steady supply of talented individuals are ready to fill leadership roles, but even when the talent you are looking for is already in-house, you still have to know how to spot them. That can be challenging because the most desirable qualities of future leaders are constantly shifting and becoming increasingly elusive.

As Claudio Fernández-Aráoz wrote in a 2014 Harvard Business Review article, "21st-Century Talent Spotting", organisations and their leaders must transition to a new era in the hunt for stars, "one in which our evaluations of one another are based not on brawn, brains, experience, or competencies, but on potential", which he defined as the ability to adapt to and grow into increasingly complex roles and environments. It's not all about hard skills anymore — those skills must be paired with experience, soft skills, and fresh perspectives.

Finding the finance leaders of the future early has never been more important. A wise finance leader will build an effective team around them and constantly be spotting potential talent. Often, that talent is already working for you. Here are four things to look out for to identify the rising stars on your finance team:

Catalytic learning capabilities

Rising stars are always learning, and because business models are changing all the time and new competition is always lurking around the corner, up-and-coming leaders must be comfortable operating in a continuous learning mode.

When assessing team members for potential leadership possibilities, look for employees who voluntarily take on additional courses, attend conferences, and acquire valuable certificates in key areas.

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