Editor’s note: This article is part of the “Top Finance Skills” series featuring insights from finance leaders across industries on skills finance professionals need to have to be competitive in the future. To receive weekly updates on this series, sign up for our CGMA Advantage newsletter.
When adding finance team members, Magdalena Wereda-Kolasińska, FCMA, CGMA, finance director at Unilever Poland AS, looks for finance professionals with fluid skillsets who can reflect and respond to the highly dynamic nature of the FMCG sector.
Wereda-Kolasińska, also a member of the Supervisory Board at Unilever, described what she typically looks for in potential new team members — as well as what she asks candidates who are interviewing for a Unilever finance vacancy.
FM interviewed Wereda-Kolasińska to find out the most important skills she looks for in new talent, and to succeed within the organisation.
Can you describe the hiring outlook within your finance team for 2021?
Wereda-Kolasińska: This year will be challenging for my team and Unilever, as it has been almost one year of working entirely in the virtual world (during which we have not physically seen each other).
Regarding our hiring outlook within finance, this will depend on our needs and budget possibilities. As our business environment is constantly changing, we need to adjust continually to current demands — always making sure that we have the right talent to meet the business needs.
For the moment, we have a full team, but as we are operating in FMCG, our structure always needs to reflect business needs … which might change within a few months. For instance, if a new distribution channel appears, then we would either require new human resources or look at changing the current resource allocation.
Are there any unique finance skills, qualities, or specialisations currently in demand at the organisation?
Wereda-Kolasińska: We need qualified people with at least a few exams passed in CIMA, preferably, as we are a business-oriented team which needs such competencies to deliver value to our stakeholders. These key competencies include efficient big data analysis and the ability to verify if business cases are feasible or not.
What are some of the specific “hard skills” that you are looking for in new hires?
Wereda-Kolasińska: I am interested in having team members with advanced knowledge of management accounting, Excel, BI tools; and an open-minded approach with the ability to “connect the dots”, which are usually not very obvious.
What are some of the most important “soft skills” you are looking for?
Wereda-Kolasińska: I think that especially in today’s circumstances — in which we are working virtually — we need to adapt to this new world as fast as possible. We need people with a mature approach to responsibilities, good “people skills” (such as having empathy and listening attentively), the ability to support other team members, and a focus on personal development.
How is digitisation and the increasing automation of certain finance functions going to affect the hiring outlook at Unilever in the next several years?
Wereda-Kolasińska: I believe that not only in Unilever but in other companies, automation will change our way of working.
We will need people who are skilled in accurate financial analysis and in providing recommendations (in addition to having the technical skills to prepare datasets and/or reports).
Which skills drive promotions within the finance function at your organisation?
Wereda-Kolasińska: Promotions within Unilever are highly correlated with achievements in finance areas, and they depend on having sets of skills such as leadership, personal mastery, working well with others, and having a challenging and curious mindset.
If we are going to promote someone to a managerial position, we try to give them appropriate responsibilities in order to check if the person is ready for a new step in her/his career. These responsibilities could include the delegation and management of tasks and small projects to deliver on expected outputs.
How does Unilever support finance team members in their professional growth?
Wereda-Kolasińska: At Unilever, we have plenty of internal resources for developing skills and enhancing knowledge. For instance, some of our team members have mentors who support them in their development journey. We also provide e-learning opportunities across any topics which might be interesting for our people.
If you were just starting out in your management accounting career, which skills or aspects of finance would you be focusing on to get a competitive edge?
Wereda-Kolasińska: First of all, basic management accounting rules and financial accounting basics. Financial analysis skills are also crucial for establishing a common language with the business. In addition, the ability to review business cases and knowledge of financial tools to assess and make decisions around whether to invest or not … these are all very helpful in starting a career in finance.
How can applicants best showcase their skills and finance experience in a job interview, particularly if it is virtual?
Wereda-Kolasińska: The best proof that candidates have the required knowledge and are able to join us is by giving concrete examples of financial analysis work and also examples of lessons which they learned from previous roles/projects.
What qualities and values does Unilever look for in new hires?
Wereda-Kolasińska: We are interested in finding people who understand our values, like caring about the environment and supporting inclusivity and diversity within society.
Visit the Global Career Hub from AICPA & CIMA for help with finding a job or recruiting.
— Jessica Hubbard is a freelance writer based in the UK. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.