According to the results of a new Robert Half Management Resources survey, more than eight in 10 (86 percent) of polled CFOs said that strategic-thinking skills are important (either "mandatory" or "nice to have") for accounting and finance professionals. However, nearly half (46 percent) of those polled claimed their organizations do not provide the appropriate development opportunities for said skills.

"Businesses want financial professionals who can formulate and execute new ideas, but firms could be doing more to help their teams develop these abilities," said Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, per a statement. "These are not easy skills to train on, but managers should identify ways, such as giving employees project-management responsibilities and stretch assignments, to support staff members' growth."

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"Professionals who can craft and communicate effective strategies are in high demand and ahead of the pack for career opportunities," Hird added. "To advance, they need to strengthen their business acumen and learn new problem-solving approaches."

CFOs were asked, "How important are strategic-thinking skills for accounting and finance professionals?" Their responses were:

Mandatory

30%

Nice to have

56%

Not necessary

14%

 

100%

CFOs were also asked, "Does your company provide professional development opportunities to help accounting and finance professionals build their strategic-thinking skills?" Their responses were thusly:

Yes

54%

No

46%

 

100%

Robert Half Management Resources offers the following tips for professionals in order to better enhance their strategic-thinking skills:
  • Speak up: If your employer hasn't offered training in this area, ask for it. Look for additional professional development options, too, such as working with a mentor.
  • Participate in external events: Attend industry conferences, and take advantage of programs offered by professional and business organizations. Your employer may even reimburse you for the costs.
  • Collaborate across functions: Working with colleagues in other departments will broaden your organizational view and provide new approaches for addressing problems.
  • Volunteer to lead a project team: Your viewpoint and interactions with colleagues will enhance your business acumen and help you identify additional ways to support the firm.
  • Move into a new role: Job rotation provides exposure to different challenges, processes and business units. Along the way, you can learn new best practices and problem-solving techniques.
  • Build big data expertise: Knowing how to work with business intelligence will enable you to identify strategic recommendations for the organization. Big data skills gaps are severe within accounting and finance, giving you the chance to jump ahead in the field.
  • Pursue consulting opportunities. By working as a consultant, you see best practices at a range of firms. You'll also be able to share your insights with and learn from others.
  • Don't neglect soft skills. Coming up with ideas is just one part of the equation - You'll need to be able to communicate them effectively and cultivate influence to secure buy-in."

For more on Robert Half Management Resources, head to their site here.