Employee issues worry CFOs

Professional development is seen as key to DOD financial-management reforms

ASMC survey of Defense financial management executives

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Employee issues were far and away the No. 1 concern of financial managers in a study released June 1 by the American Society of Military Comptrollers (ASMC) and Grant Thornton, the global accounting and business consulting company. DOD financial executives surveyed for the study listed workload pressures from the global war on terrorism and an aging workforce as overarching challenges.

Specifically, executives identified a wide range of employee problems at three
levels:
  • Entry-level staffers (GS-5 to GS-7) suffer from low salaries, limited advancement potential and hiring delays at agencies that don’t have direct-hire authority, all of which make government jobs less attractive. In addition, qualifications for entry-level employees don’t always align with future, higher-level positions. On the plus side, internship programs have demonstrated substantial results in recruiting qualified entry-level personnel.
  • Middle managers (GS-9 to GS-13) often lack the management and leadership skills necessary for their positions. Job rotation and mobility would help prepare middle managers for higher positions, executives said.
  • Senior managers (GS-14 and GS-15) and Senior Executive Service members need better succession planning. Moreover, some executives in this category lack leadership skills and broad experience in the defense sector when they arrive on the job.
The lack of leadership skills at the senior level isn’t surprising, said retired Vice Adm. Lou Crenshaw, executive director of defense practice at Grant Thornton and former deputy chief of naval operations for resources, requirements and assessments.

“They lack leadership skills because we didn’t develop the leadership skills when they were middle managers,” Crenshaw said.

Professional development and leadership training for financial professionals were seen as leading elements in building effective financial management at DOD. “You can have the best processes and systems in place, but you will ultimately fail without properly trained personnel,” said a deputy assistant secretary who participated in the survey.

Crenshaw cited the Defense Financial and Accounting Service’s Leaders in Motion program as a “pocket of brilliance” on an otherwise lackluster professional development front. DFAS officials “have done a marvelous job of identifying people early and tracking them along,” he said. “When the opportunity presents itself, they have a nice pool of people to select for SES. The question is, ‘Why don’t we have this all across the community and who should drive that train to make sure all of our financial professionals have those same types of opportunities?’ ”

The survey results are based on in-person interviews with 41 executives and online interviews with 606 ASMC members.
6 skills CFOs will needA study from the American Society of Military Comptrollers and Grant Thornton identified six skills that chief financial officers will need in the next five to 10 years. The study stated that futures CFOs will need:
  1. Integration skills. Managers need to understand how to blend systems and functional requirements.
  2. Database skills. Audits in the future will be paperless. Managers need to understand how to use a database, extract and analyze critical information and build reports from that data.
  3. Project management skills. Most daily activities will require some level of project management know-how.
  4. Leadership and interpersonal skills. Increasing collaboration across the Defense Department will create a need for leaders that can bring together people from different backgrounds and various parts of DOD.
  5. Analytical skills. As number-crunching becomes more automated, financial managers will need skills to analyze and report programmatic results in ways that DOD officials can easily understand.
  6. Understanding -the-big-picture skills. Managers will need to see beyond their own narrow perspectives and develop a departmentwide view of the consequences of the work they do.

— Richard W. Walker

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