Digital technology is currently changing the workplace in fundamental ways reminiscent to the introduction of the steam engine. But while automation will undoubtedly take over many daily tasks, the role of the future Financial Director is anything but mundane. The Financial Director of the future is expected to need as much financial acumen as developed soft skills, according to the CEOs who hire them.
Best explained by the National Soft Skills Association, soft skills “refer to a group of personal qualities that make up a good student or employee, personal qualities such as a positive attitude, communication, planning and organizing, critical thinking, interpersonal skills and more.”
We highlight four soft skills that FDs will want to acquire by 2030.
One of the most important (future) soft skills you can learn is adaptability. The willingness to compromise and change according to the needs of a situation are sometimes mistakenly identified as a lack of conviction.
The fact is that the workplace is changing fast. FDs agree that artificial intelligence (AI) and big data will be at the basis of many financial decisions in 2030. This means that the Director’s tasks will fundamentally change between now and then.
Successful FDs of the future are open to alternative solutions and willing to take on a very different role than currently expected of them. Being adaptable is therefore a core skill for future FDs.
Persuasion is not about manipulation, it is the art of finding common ground and mutual agreement on important work goals and objectives. The workplace in 2030 asks for more collaboration than ever before. Factual knowledge is a declining requirement with AI taking over large portions of the decision-making process. With arguably more time on their hands, FDs can focus on implementing new ideas and get the team and the company to work on a common goal.
The persuasive Financial Director gains a genuine commitment from his or her people, that is necessary for a successful, collaborative team and positive financial growth.
Although creativity is more associated with the right brain and finance with the left, certain techniques can be learned. Creativity can bring new perspectives to innovation, problem-solving and managing change.
This skill is intertwined with all the other soft skills in this article in more than one way. New ideas and inspiring employees to collaborate to implement these ideas require creativity. In 2030, automation of financial processes is ubiquitous, but there will always be ways to drive the business forward and deliver against CEO and stakeholder expectations.
The creative Financial Director in the 2030s is committed to employ unique solutions for creating financial latitude, together with the finance team and supported by the available automation.
Having an understanding and appreciation of the feelings of others makes a huge difference in problem-solving and influence management. The Financial Director who dismisses the significance of empathy won’t fully grasp the viewpoints and perspectives of the team.
Empathy increases the effectiveness of our critical thinking and recognizing the importance of this soft skill already puts you at the top of the class. It might very well be the softest of the soft skills, but by 2030, empathy will be a common requirement for strong FDs who understand that at the basis of outstanding teamwork is trust and understanding.
Back to the future of finance
A report by recruitment agency Hays concluded that by 2030 soft skills are more important that number-crunching capabilities (in Dutch). Forty percent of the 400 finance professionals who took part in the research even predict that their jobs won’t exist anymore. An extraordinary 94% believe that in order to be able to continue working in the financial sector, structural training is a precondition.
Change is a constant force, lingering in “the good old days” is not advised. But this shouldn’t be a problem for the soft skilled Financial Director.