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By Gill Kelly, Associate Director, CIPFA Recruitment Services.
The public sector is in a state of enormous upheaval. We are experiencing the deepest cuts to public spending in living memory and as a result, the public sector continues to make redundancies. People now need to have a broader understanding of the roles in their workplace in order to survive; many public sector workers need to have an understanding of finance even if they are not accountants. Here at CIPFA Recruitment Services, we are seeing how the finance professional needs to be a different type of candidate in 2013 and must embrace the change or risk being left behind.
Although flexibility is important in any job, it becomes even more important in a crowded job space. With more people applying for each job, candidates need to be able to demonstrate that they can adapt to change, can manage responsibility and quickly become a vital part of any team from day one.
As further budget cuts can’t be ruled out for the foreseeable future, the prospect of more streamlined environments brings with it the need to have better managed information in order to help monitor the use of public resources and improve decision-making. With efficiency and value for money becoming top priorities in the public sector, it is important for non-finance staff to have an understanding of the finance function of their organisation, especially those staff in managerial roles.
The next necessary skill is the ability to communicate. Public sector candidates will need to have a more commercial mind-set and become more customer focused. In the finance function especially, accountants need to be seen not just as accountants but also as business advisors.
In this vein, candidates will need to be able to present information in a way that is understandable outside of the finance department and throughout the organisation. Demonstrating business acumen means that this information needs to be presented in a way that will allow it to be used for business purposes rather than just the simple regurgitation of figures. Used properly, it should be able to inform better management information and decision-making, adding value and insight for decision makers.
Enhanced leadership skills are also required, as increasingly projects are not managed ‘in house’ but between different agencies or organisations. Leadership will need to be innovative too in order to respond to further budget cuts and to ensure that services are maintained and delivered as effectively and efficiently as possible.
At a more senior level, candidates need to have a good track record on delivery. When moving in to a new organisation employers are keen to ensure that there will be as little disruption as possible to day-to-day operations and that the appointed individual will hit the ground running. Candidates can no longer afford to have a ‘settling in period’ and need to demonstrate value from the start.
In both preparing for a new position and in becoming better at a current job, there are a number of key actions that people should be putting into practice. Candidates should maintain an awareness of emerging trends and legislation affecting key fields, flick through trade publications and keep an eye on websites – this means individuals will stay abreast of key issues and have a good awareness of how they will affect their organisations.
This is not a set in stone guide and with the pace of change, especially in public services, there is no doubt that the skills candidates require will continue to change. However, these points can be applied across the public sector, private sector and beyond and can better equip all candidates to take advantage of whatever opportunities arise in 2013.