This article was originally published on Forbes.com
Inside the realm of corporate finance it’s safe to say that the year 2020 has been unlike any that preceded it, and, as more employees occupied remote work spaces, growing numbers of finance chiefs told us they are more carefully monitoring the financial and cultural levers that influence workforce behaviors. Here’s what five shared with us:
AWAITING THE RETURN TO TRAVEL
Tom Tuchscherer, CFO, TripActions, Seattle, WA
My priorities are really making sure that the company is ready when it comes out of the COVID environment. By “being ready,” I mean that the company is ready to recruit again, is ready to onboard people. We know what the priorities are in terms of where we want to expand and what we want to invest in. At the same time, on a short-term basis, the priority is making sure that the team is motivated, enjoys what they’re doing, and is safe, especially in the current environment that we’re in. There’s still strong belief in the company’s potential and in making sure that that motivation is still there. If you have a team that’s highly motivated—that works well together and believes in the company’s potential—you can accomplish anything.
ADOPTING A TALENT PHILOSOPHY
Michelle McComb, CFO, Bluecore, New York, NY
I think that a lot of times CFOs do tend to focus on capital and cash. I’m one of those CFOs who looks at people as a huge asset. I also look after the people function at Bluecore, and I think that the people strategy, especially as we come through environments like COVID, is going to be extremely important in ensuring that we retain and hire the right talent, especially when it comes to remote. What does the new office environment look like? Also, I kind of work from philosophies. For example, what is our compensation philosophy? Are we competitive? If I look at similar companies, are we paying employees fairly and competitively? Are we a merit-based company such that if you excel, you’re going to be compensated. And by the way: If you’re mediocre, then you’re not going to be. That’s where we would be establishing fundamental philosophies.
CREATING A PEOPLE FRAMEWORK
Deborah Ricci, CFO, Guidehouse, Washington, DC
We’re a management consulting practice. And I don’t think the notion that people being the most important asset has changed here. I think it’s always been that way. But I think that we’ve done a number of different things since carving out and merging. One is that we’ve developed a really good job framework so that people can understand their career path and what it takes to get to the next level as they want to progress. There’s a lot of feedback there that we’ve invested a lot in for our employees. We do surveys every year. Our survey results are very high. People want to give back, so we do a lot with our diversity groups, our inclusion groups. We just launched a pro bono consulting-type practice through which people want to give back and to donate the skills that they have as a management consulting practice. …One of our incentives, when we look at executive leadership, is managing our turnover. Some turnover is okay. A lot of turnover is not great if you want to grow your business. This is one thing that we continuously monitor.
CRACKING THE CULTURAL CODE
Ross Tennenbaum, CFO, Avalara, Seattle, WA
We’re at close to half a billion of revenue, and we’re looking to go well beyond that. So, talent has become really important, and you have to remain constantly focused on it—today, I spend around 20% of my time on it. …Beginning in my investment banking days, I’ve studied many companies and management teams. I’ve seen teams that were really high-functioning, really strong, great cultures. I’ve also seen management teams and executive teams that were not cohesive. There was a lot of distrust and backstabbing. Each of these scenarios could generate great numbers and be performing well, but I would only want to invest my money in the one that has that trust and has a cohesive team—and where this is really being driven forward in a cultural way. I don’t think that Wall Street really has a view of this. There is really no metric internally—and certainly not externally—that gives this view on culture. But I think that investors are increasingly trying to get this view into talent and culture.
COVID’S COLLABORATION LABORATORY
Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion, Westchester, IL
The opportunity for remote work and the opportunity for online collaboration have accelerated toward us. We pressed our IT team to find platforms that allowed us to continue to work as teams and drive that productivity. But what you’re seeing is that the nature of the work has changed. Will customers invite salespeople in for as many sales calls as they have in the past? Well, maybe the face-to-face was very important to securing that calendar spot, but now you may be able to do it through a videoconference. It just may be easier for everybody. … This increases the capacity of your team. Part of the opportunity of this pandemic is being agile enough to figure out new ways of working together with your customers and with your suppliers and as a team. It may provide some opportunities in terms of how you optimize your team and maybe have a little bit more headroom space to go after some opportunities. I think that this is what I’m seeing come together.