Who's in Charge of Professional Development for Finance?

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Professional development has never been more important than it is today. Many companies struggle with a skills gap, leaving them hiring employees who may not possess all the desired skills for a particular position, so they use professional development to make up that gap. But every company needs some form of professional development if only to keep up with the ever-changing technological advances in today's world. 

Maybe that's why 55% of finance leaders surveyed by the CFO Alliance reported that they are now involved in the professional development of their employees. With more than $70 billion being spent annually on corporate training, it only makes sense that leaders take a more active role in professional development for their employees. But that isn't always the case. 

Often human resources is responsible for professional development for all employees, which can be problematic. HR doesn't always know what kind of training is needed for employees across departments. Many companies are discovering that the finance department, in particular, suffers when their leaders aren't involved in the professional development process. 

One of the reasons HR seems to miss the mark on professional development for the finance department is that they don't seem to understand what skills finance needs. A recent study found that 63% of finance managers believe that their HR department didn't understand the roles the finance department was trying to fill, and it isn't a jump to infer that HR doesn't understand most of the finance roles in general. If they don't understand the position and what skills and competencies an employee needs, how can they adequately manage those employees' professional development needs?

Of course, HR shouldn't be so focused on new hires and younger employees that they neglect more seasoned finance professionals. Professional development and continuing education are just as important to the finance leaders in your organization. Ben Mulling, CMA, CPA, CITP, has been a CFO since age 28 and fully believes in the power of continuing education, telling Forbes,  "Continuing education doesn’t stop at the age of 35 because you have 15 years of experience – it continues. So whether you’ve been in the profession for five years or 35 years you have to continue to push yourself to learn new things."

While it's encouraging that so many finance leaders are getting involved in professional development of their employees, leaving that responsibility entirely up to them may not be the best choice either. Finance leaders already have a lot on their plate, and may not have the time and knowledge needed to find the right training programs or platforms. 

Some companies solve the problem by creating a Chief Learning Officer or Head of Learning, who will take the lead on all professional development in the company. But when that isn't possible, HR and departments like finance need to work together to offer the most topical and effective professional development available.