Ep. 140: Dana Pascarella - Staff Development Strategies
Dana Pascarella, VP of Finance at WESCO International, joins Count Me In to talk about staff development. WESCO International, Inc., a publicly traded FORTUNE 500® company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a leading provider of electrical business-to-business distribution, logistics services and supply chain solutions. Dana is a finance executive with extensive accounting, finance and treasury experience, and has expertise in various areas including mergers and acquisitions, debt financings, tax reorganizations, business growth strategy and technology upgrades. For the past year and a half she has been involved in the due diligence, financing and integration of a transformative acquisition, and now the development and execution of strategic initiatives. In this episode, she explains key areas to focus on in developing finance staff, methods and types of trainings for upskilling, and how to create a timeline and map out a plan for successful staff development. Download and listen now!
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
Welcome back to count me in, IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. I'm your host, Adam Larson. And this is episode 140 of our series and today's conversation. You will hear from Dana Pascarella, VP of finance at Wesco International. As she talks about staff development. Dana is a finance executive with extensive accounting experience at a global publicly held fortune 500 organization. She is particularly skilled in mergers and acquisitions, debt, financings, business growth strategies and technology upgrades, among other areas, but she is especially passionate about developing our finance staff to ensure organizational success. Let's head over to the conversation and hear more about it now.
So Dana, from a finance perspective to kick things off here, what are some of the key areas you focus on when it comes to staff development?
Yeah, so ultimately I'm focused on providing my staff, you know, a foundation that will allow them to deliver solutions in the future. So, obviously that's, teaching them the skills to become an expert in their area. Right. I want them to become an expert. I need them to have the basics, the fundamentals, the technical skills, but also I think it's so important, especially with the younger staff that they really start to understand and learn those softer skills. So organization, adoptability, communication, you know, those soft skills are so important and can truly take years to learn and you want them to be able to really be able to draw upon that, that total foundation so that the technical skill plus the soft skill will really provide them something, to draw upon as they move forward in their career.
Yeah. You know, it's interesting at IMA obviously we focus on management accounting, you know, accounting and finance and the technical skills, the emerging skills are obviously highly important, but we also really try to make sure that the foundation, you know, the, the leadership skills and the ethics, all of that is equally emphasized, I would say, and a lot of the things that we do and now granted it's for members as opposed to staff, but I think the focus is really there. And, it's all about developing that pipeline. Right. And I think that's kind of what you were touching on. So from your experience, from again finance and staff, when it comes to developing your staff, what kind of methods or types of trainings have you attempted, implemented? You know, what kind of training has been the most effective for you and your staff?
Yeah, so definitely every year always focus on goal setting with a couple of stretch goals, right? I want to, I want to challenge them, pull them out of their comfort zone a little bit. But you know, something as simple as regular communication, having one-on-ones and being clear and providing constructive criticism to really help them, you know, improve if you're not providing constant and regular feedback, I don't think individuals know where to begin or what to improve on. So I really think that communication is super important, cross training, getting folks into, maybe areas that aren't their area of expertise, but, allowing that cross training to really build out their, their expertise, involving folks in a new project or a responsibility for a short period of time, if something comes along again, that's part of, kind of pulling them out of their comfort zone, but also seeing how they do with these new projects and give them that role, you know, obviously guide them, but let them be the decision-maker to an extent, obviously, you know, the leader I'd have to provide guidance, but let them participate to understand the different perspectives and see how they would answer the questions. And let them feel kind of part of that process. I also think anytime you can provide a staff an offsite experience, I think that, especially in finance right, we're just the behind the scenes books and numbers. So when you can give an employee an opportunity to kind of better understand the business, the operational side of what's going on, you know, be it visit a branch, an office, accompany an internal audit to a site visit, visit a customer, a vendor. I think that really helps, especially some of the newer staff really put the full picture together. So not only understanding the numbers, but also understanding the why, the how, and how the businesses is running. I just think it helps to put that full picture together and is just so much more valuable as they move forward in their career.
Yeah, I totally agree. And a lot of great practices there from my own personal experiences, I can say, you know, a lot of what you've shared that I've been through, it certainly works, and it really helps with that stickiness and makes everything kind of make sense, big picture, like you were saying, but I do want to kind of just follow up on what we're talking about here. You've mentioned a few different skills, but when it comes specifically to finance, what are some of the skills you see that are most important? You know, when it comes to staff development, we talk a lot about upskilling or reskilling. Where is the focus today?
I mean, clearly you have to have that mathematical analytical skill set, right. I think, you know, today also having pretty strong IT skills are pretty important and that's all part of kind of that technical skill. But I also think persuasiveness, decisiveness, interpersonal communication skills are, it's all part of, of finance, right? It's more than just that technical skill. It's how do you, how do you deliver that technical answer? How do you, how do you provide that with confidence? Right. It's one thing just to give a number, but if you provide it with confidence and decisiveness, then your audience is, they have comfort in you and what you're delivering. So it's, again, it goes back to, you know, not only those technical skills, but, but having strong, soft skills.
That's great. And, again, I can really see how everything you're sharing comes together. I can relate personally to some of my experiences. So, like I said, a lot of great ideas, perspective here. I'm curious when it comes to thinking about these ideas and trying to put a plan together, how do you go about mapping out these needs? How do you go about picking these different practices to implement? Is it an individual basis? Is it by department? You know, how do you go about planning your staff development?
Yeah, so I think it is important to kind of first understand the individual's career aspiration, their personality. You know, you want to make sure you're stretching and challenging the right person and the person that you're giving them challenges that fit their personality. Right, so you want to align project and work with those desires because if there's a mismatch, it won't be effective. Right. But it is about understanding that person, their career goals, their personality, and providing challenges and, and stretch goals to kind of push them outside of their comfort zone and see how they perform. You know, some people they're just, you know, you're steady Eddie, but, but some people have a desire to continue to move up in their career. And so you would align projects and responsibilities accordingly. So for me, it's always been understanding that individual person and their desires and their personalities, and then aligning the working accordingly.
So I will wrap this conversation up in just a minute, but, you know, I want to tie everything together first, before we get to our last question. Obviously so much has changed in the last year and a half that the whole, you know, global business environment. But as far as, you know, your experience in finance over multiple years, how have you seen the skills, the training methods, the different staff development plans change over time?
Yeah, well, I think, I think last year was an interesting example of some of that change, right? We had a, we saw a macro economic environment that could quickly became unstable. There was a tremendous amount of uncertainty globally. Companies' goals and plans changed pretty quickly. We in finance had to be flexible in our, in our approach. I think the basic skills were still important, but we quickly saw an emphasis placed on IT skills and the reliance on technology to stay connected and be successful in our day to day challenges. So, I mean, to some extent we have to change our approach. We had to figure out how to use our apply kind of those historical methods, but in a virtual environment. So I really think the skills are kind of always the fundamental skills necessary for finance, but I think last year was a great example of how we kind of had to change our approach to teach those skills and to stay connected in a day to day virtual environment.
This will be my last question, I promise. But, as far as the different skills that you've mentioned, the different methods that you've, again, implemented, plans you've put in place for individuals, what are some of the benefits? What can somebody expect to, what kind of rewards can they reap from effective staff development? And what does that really do? Not just for the individual, but for the organization as well.
Well, I think when an employee feels supported, valued, cared for, they feel that the company's investing in them. I think, you know, in return, you get, you get employee engagement, you get an employee that's willing to work for a company and help to drive results. You get that loyalty, the reduction in turnover, and all of that increased employee engagement, I believe leads to improved performance. So also from a company's perspective, you have a trained up employee, if you will, that can easily be slotted within different roles in the company. So it creates not only opportunity for employees looking to kind of grow, advance in their career, but it also provides an organization, the ability to be able to look within to hire before going external. So, you know, it's beneficial for both, both the employee and the organization and it overall it's, it improves morale. It just creates a strong, healthy environment.
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