NEW YORK — Hire people based on their thirst for learning new things rather than for their hard skills, Fairleigh Dickinson University accounting professor Jonathan Schiff said at CFO Live last week.
CFOs hire tech-savvy accounting and finance software experts and people with tax accounting expertise, but technology and rules on taxes and revenue recognition are constantly in flux. In the long-term, you're better off bringing in lifetime learners and outside-the-box thinkers. “The technical is the easier stuff,” he said.
Skills become obsolete particularly quickly in technology; some skills have just an 18-month shelf life, he said.
He pointed to McKinsey&Company consultants, 75% of whom have a mathematics or science degree rather than a business degree.
Music majors are another interesting choice, due to their innate sense of mathematics.
To get and keep the best people, create an environment that lets them work outside silos — IT, HR, finance — and keep them focused on forward-looking activities. “People doing historical reporting are not future leaders,” he said.
He encouraged CFOs to talk with CEOs about rethinking your hiring approach while business is strong. That’s when it’s best to create a team of forward-looking thinkers; trying to do so during more difficult stages is too late.