As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the workplace and require new models of hiring and retention, organizations and their finance departments are focused more than ever on talent acquisition and succession planning. Yet, at the same time, new challenges are arising when it comes to finding and keeping early-in-career talent. The tight job market shows no signs of loosening amidst the “quarter-life crisis,” and the finance function’s talent gap was only worsened by the “Great Resignation.”
While the quest to attract and retain top talent may seem bleak, the challenge also invites companies to find creative solutions and encourage growth for existing employees. Organizations have an opportunity to better invest in continuing education for employees, which closes the skills gap and encourages retention. The CMA (Certified Management Accountant) certification, which is offered by IMA (Institute of Management Accountants), positions employees to bring value to their organizations both inside and outside of finance, from honing their strategic thinking skills to providing expertise in emerging areas such as data analysis and technology, and to pursue a commitment to continual learning. If organizations create a path for employees to pursue certifications like this, it opens two possibilities:
- It allows them to reap better direct business results by investing more fully in the growth and potential of employees, since CMAs are valued business partners who can guide important organizational and financial decisions.
- A commitment to upskilling also showcases employer loyalty toward and investment in their people, which further bolsters recruitment, acquisition, and retention efforts.
To come out stronger in this war for talent, organizations that provide a deeper connection between staff and leadership, and to the business more fundamentally, ultimately will win over and keep more employees. With employee turnover being very expensive for organizations, leadership training and certification programs are important steps to acquiring, retaining, and growing employees, but they must be agile to meet the evolving needs of the rapidly changing, uncertain, and disruptive business environment. This requires a sense of deeper personal meaning and belonging within an organization than these skills-focused programs are meant to achieve.
J&J’s Finance Leadership Development Program
Johnson & Johnson (J&J) accomplishes this through its early-in-career finance career program, called the Finance Leadership Development Program (FLDP), which offers professional development opportunities such as work training, job rotation, mentorship, continuing education, and certification. To better support the professional development of future finance business leaders, J&J began the FLDP program in 1997 and saw its first graduating class in 1999. The program affords recently graduated students in many fields of study—such as accounting, finance, economics, data analysis, technology, and other business-related majors—an opportunity to experience various assignments, completing two rotations over the course of two-and-a-half years.
J&J established this program with many of its offices around the globe to offer members an opportunity to work closely with different areas of the business and gain experiences across different financial disciplines, including accounting, financial reporting, internal auditing, operations, research and development finance, and sales and marketing finance. It provides these employees—brand new members of the workforce—an opportunity to experience many areas of the business and learn their interests and strengths. But more importantly, the program emphasizes the development of skills needed to become a leader. It incorporates five weeks of classroom and eLearning activities designed to enhance these skills and competencies, along with building a network of peers, mentors, and business leaders.
IMA and J&J Partnership
A key component of the FLDP is strongly encouraging participants to obtain a certification. IMA had an established and successful working relationship with J&J to encourage its employees to earn the CMA when they collaborated together to inspire FLDP participants to earn the certification during their time in the program. This union of leadership development and training is only enhanced when employees are afforded the opportunity to pursue a certification that increases their skill set and equips them with critical knowledge to tackle many challenges of a profession that’s constantly changing and evolving. IMA presents information about the CMA at finance training sessions to participants to highlight the benefits of the certification.
The FLDP supports candidates through their journey to becoming a CMA, including financially covering costs associated with earning the CMA (e.g., study materials, exam fees, membership dues). J&J provides a monetary recognition award to any employee, including those in the FLDP, who earns the CMA designation as the individual’s initial certification, highlighting its value to the organization. It also encourages its FLDP members to earn their CMAs because it values what the certification teaches, and the impact CMAs can have on the business. IMA also offers guided self-study cohorts to J&J employees around the world. These provide support and structure that self-study candidates often need with a defined schedule. Many current and past CFOs (vice presidents of finance), and corporate controllers have earned the CMA, and it is a qualification that is considered in the succession planning process at the company.
This program and partnership have yielded strong results for J&J for more than two decades, including:
- 15 percent of active J&J employees who currently are in the FLDP or graduated from the program hold a CMA.
- 73 percent of active J&J employees who graduated from the FLDP and hold a CMA have been promoted at least once outside of the program, compared to 55 percent who do not hold a CMA.
- Of those FLDP graduates who hold a CMA, more than 60 percent have remained with J&J.
This program is an example of an offering J&J created many years ago but was willing to invest in continuously, so that it constantly evolved with changing business and market needs.
Because of this, it only became more valuable amidst the Great Resignation and challenges of the pandemic. Organizations that have professional development and training programs should regularly evaluate and improve them so employees are always obtaining skills they need to success in today’s environment.
Supporting current and future employees’ professional development is essential not only to attracting top talent, but to building a pipeline of future leaders. The financial investment in professional development is one that is worthwhile, demonstrably improving employee retention and promotions. Certified professionals possess the skills necessary to guide their organizations toward success both now and in the future. With a program and partnership like that of J&J and IMA, organizations across all industries can build a talented and loyal workforce that remains through the long term.