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A change of leadership in the Finance department often means an opportunity to do things differently, implement new ideas, processes and systems to improve performance.

New leaders will need to assess existing skills and future requirements to identify and fill gaps in skills, knowledge and experience.

In some cases, a restructure is necessary to leverage existing talents and bring in new expertise to support the implementation of a new strategy.

This case study outlines how Boston Hale’s specialist non-profit finance recruitment team created and delivered a recruitment strategy to support the CFO of a leading UK university, undergoing a major finance department restructure.

University finance department restructure – background

After joining the university, this new CFO wanted to enable the finance department to spend more time on added value work, such as business partnering, and less time on routine tasks like month end accounts.

A review of systems and processes led to the creation of more efficient ways of working, such as the introduction of a new ERP system. Alongside this, the CFO took the opportunity to review the structure and capabilities of the team, conducting individual reviews, changing responsibilities around to match skills and looking closely at job descriptions.

The objective was to free up more time for the team to build relationships with stakeholders and deliver finance projects that would add value across the university.

A recommendation for our finance recruitment team

We were approached by the CFO after being recommended by fellow accountants in their network. It’s a source of pride for the team that a large proportion of work comes from positive recommendations received from people we’ve worked with successfully before.

Because the departmental restructuring was a strategic, long-term project, the CFO invited a number of recruitment consultancies to pitch: they were looking for a preferred partner for the duration rather than the additional complexity of working with multiple agencies.

Implementing the recruitment strategy

After winning the pitch, we worked with the university’s CFO to put in place a strategy centered around the deployment of interims, followed by permanent recruitment. This was for two main reasons:

  • The CFO, fairly new in post, wanted to ensure they made the right decisions on the new structure before hiring any permanent staff.
  • Short term deadlines still needed to be hit. Getting interims on board quickly allowed the CFO to address immediate priorities and provided some breathing space before the need to make long-term hiring decisions.

It was important for the CFO to take the time to benchmark the current skills within the workforce, evaluate the future needs of the organization and restructure accordingly, rather than make snappy hires under pressure.

Restructures can be unsettling and stressful for incumbent teams. The CFO wanted to minimize the impact on the current team whilst ensuring that the needs of the department, and overall goals of the university, were not compromised.

A quick, seamless process

Our non-profit Accountancy & Finance recruitment practice has a comprehensive network of interims with experience of working within universities and other non-profit organisations. The network spans the UK and covers all mid-senior level roles within a university finance department.

Because of this, we were able to put together shortlists of available, qualified and experienced interims very quickly. At the same time, we conducted a market search to ensure maximum coverage of available interim talent.

Our recruitment process is designed to be efficient and effective – we have run hundreds of them! We worked closely with the CFO to schedule interviews around their busy schedule whilst conducting routine compliance checks in the background.

After the initial interims had been secured, the CFO was able to look at hiring some key permanent roles. This time, the recruitment process also included a deeper dive of the market, identifying key talent within the sector. We introduced a head-hunting element to the permanent searches to cover passive as well as active talent.

The results

Within the past year, we have successfully introduced three interims to the organization:

  • Financial Accountant
  • Finance Business Partner
  • Accounts Assistant

And, have supported the university with two strategically important permanent hires:

  • Deputy Director of Finance
  • Finance Business Partner

We are working on further hires for the organistion, which at time of publishing included:

  • Accounts Assistant
  • Finance Manager
  • Finance Business Partner

The outcome

By putting in place a recruitment strategy focusing firstly on interims to fill immediate needs, we enabled the CFO to take time to carefully consider and test the impact of different ways of organizing the department.

Proven interims can hit the ground running, inject new ideas and ways of working and boost output and capabilities instantly. Using interims helps reduce risk and cost of a bad hire made in haste.

With a strong interim team in place, the CFO was able to focus on the future needs of the department and bring in permanent hires to support the long-term ambitions and goals of the university.

Creating efficiencies through improved processes and the implementation of better systems meant that the university's finance team could move towards a business partnering model. The new hires have enabled the CFO to make progress on the strategic objectives of the university and the finance department.

We have a great relationship with the university's CFO and wider finance team, and look forward to continuing our recruitment support for additional interim and permanent hires when needed.

For more information on interim and permanent hiring with Boston Hale for non-profit organisations including universities, charities, housing associations and membership bodies, contact Catherine.

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