Extra Points: 5 Hiring Lessons from the NFL Draft

Football Team having huddle

With the much-anticipated NFL draft fast approaching, the growing hype, speculation, and analysis offers a reminder that building a consistently competitive NFL team is much more complex than it used to be.

CFOs and finance leaders can surely relate. Quickly disappearing are the days of finance teams consisting solely of cube-bound staffers crunching spreadsheets and working formulas. More and more, finance is looked to as a key strategic partner to help drive improved results. With these increased demands and expectations, hiring and developing the right talent is critical.

To that end, here are five takeaways from the NFL draft that can help you build a winning team.

1. Build a strong foundation

Quick, name your top three favorite offensive tackles of all time. Not easy, right? Offensive linemen don’t make splashy headlines like quarterbacks and wide receivers, but that won’t stop teams like the Baltimore Ravens from likely selecting a lineman for their first pick in this year’s draft. They know that building a solid foundation of linemen is the only way that the quarterback and the rest of the team can thrive. It’s essential to take a similar approach when developing a finance team. Make sure your staff includes consistent performers who have the technical skills and positive attitude to get the work done right—day in and day out. These are the folks who can protect your blind side when challenges arise.

2. Hire team players

Those massive NFL offensive tackles require more than merely brawn and technical skill—they need to be able to work in concert with the offensive line, and the team as a whole. That’s why NFL teams spend so much time interviewing, testing, and conducting character assessments with potential picks. Similarly, when developing a high-performing finance team, look for people who show the capacity to work well with others to get the best results. In a recent CFO Indicator Report, more than 70% of respondents cited collaborating with other parts of the organization as their top priority in 2016.

Key players on your finance team not only need technical prowess, but also the vision to position finance as an essential strategic partner to senior leadership and the rest of the organization. Look for candidates who display strategic insight, strong communication skills, and the ability to lead and collaborate to gain consensus.

3. Have a forward view

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre was on the top of his game when his team drafted another quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, in the first round of the 2005 draft. It would be another three years until Rodgers started for the Packers, yet since then, he has set several career-passing records and won a Super Bowl. While critics initially balked at the Packers’ decision to draft a quarterback while Favre was still at the top of the game, management was looking ahead and assuring they were prepared for the future.

The fast-changing future of finance demands a similar approach. With the amount of data that finance needs to manage exploding, CFOs cite a lack of analytical expertise as their biggest staffing challenge. So when making hiring decisions this year, think about the type of talent you will need on your team three, five, or ten years from now. For instance, a recent CFO Indicator report found that while only 14% of CFOs have a data scientist on their team today, by 2020 they expect that number to more than double to 35%.

4. Become a destination for talent

There’s no doubt that the New England Patriots have become a love ‘em or hate ‘em type team for NFL fans. Yet, chances are, you would never hear any grumbling from a player who gets drafted by the team. Why? Because the Patriots have developed a culture of winning that brings out the best in each player and delivers tremendous results year after year. The key aspects of that culture are highlighted in a recently released book by former player Troy Brown.

“When building a team culture, you set the tone for how things are done,” Brown recently told Forbes Magazine.

Indeed, one of the best ways to attract and retain the best talent is to hire smart people and create a culture in which they have the autonomy to do their jobs and leverage their abilities to the fullest. Key to that is an environment that embraces new technologies to move toward creating a culture of analytics. A culture of analytics doesn’t only make your team and organization more agile, it also can attract talent. After all, the best and brightest don’t envision a career that consists solely of working in Excel spreadsheets. They also expect automated processes that offer intuitive planning, forecasting, and reporting that visualize performance.

Bring on top finance professionals, and you’ll set the foundation for a winning team—but your work doesn’t end there. Your talented professionals need the tools to collaborate, plan, and model for the future in order to drive your organization’s strategy forward, learn how to overcome hurdles, and exceed your business goals. Even the best quarterback won’t score a touchdown without a clear playbook for success; likewise, your finance team needs a sophisticated, data-driven plan for making the most of their natural talents.

Sign up for the Adaptive Insights weekly live demo to learn how data-driven technology can turn your team into all-stars.

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