Culture sits at the top of the finance agenda

It may be a new year but many challenges brought on by the pandemic are persisting – the ‘Great Resignation’ being one of the biggest issues affecting business today. This trend, also known as the ‘Big Quit’, has seen employees voluntarily resign from their jobs en masse since early 2021. It is creating huge resourcing problems in critical functions such as finance. To combat the trend, and attract and retain the right talent, culture needs to be at the top of the CFO’s agenda. 

Below, we’ll take a look at how finance leaders can go about putting culture first to capitalise on the opportunities 2022 holds for their business. 


Reimagining culture 

Firstly, the CFO has to recognise that there’s an intrinsic link between culture and business, and fostering good relationships is not just down to human resources (HR). McKinsey’s research of over 1,000 organisations that employ more than three million individuals, shows that those with top quartile cultures (as measured by their Organisational Health Index) post a return to shareholders 60 percent higher than median companies and 200 percent higher than those in the bottom quartile, proving an undeniable link between culture and business performance. 

At the same time, the latest EY Empathy in Business Survey reveals that around half of U.S. workers have left jobs in the past because their boss wasn’t empathetic enough to their struggles at work, or at home. And Julie Sweet, CEO at Accenture, was recently recorded saying at a Fortune CFO Collaborative event that, “the future of work is really everybody’s job…and so whilst there’s a finance lens, there’s an HR lens…it really starts with our core values and how we think about our people.”

Finance leaders who want to put performance first should be prioritising investments to deliver a better employee experience and ensure culture sits at the heart of the department. To do this, CFOs need to reimagine their talent management strategies. They have to identify ways for people to be heard, and to have simpler, more personalised work experiences while also enabling them to learn and grow in their roles. 


CFOs should spot the opportunity to not only adapt to digitisation and to address the consequences of the Great Resignation, but to build a culture that celebrates employees…


Taking a people-first approach to the finance function 

Scoping out learning and reskilling opportunities is especially vital when it comes to putting people first. This is because finance, like the rest of the business, is operating in a fast-moving technology landscape. In this context, finance has new skills and priorities that need to be met if the department is to help the business reach its strategic goals. However, 17 percent of CFOs said they have misaligned resource investments according to Workday’s recent CFO Indicator report. Instead of seeing this as a challenge, CFOs should spot the opportunity to not only adapt to digitisation and to address the consequences of the Great Resignation, but to build a culture that celebrates employees, takes a holistic approach to their skills set, and provides the right opportunities for learning and growth. To do this, there are three important factors to consider and commit to in 2022.


1. Building Trust

Trust is the foundation of any company culture. If employees and leaders don’t communicate their needs effectively and allow for a two-way conversation, then organisations will fall at the first hurdle. It’s important to listen regularly to employee feedback and adjust processes as necessary. Implementing practices such as continuous feedback loops and using listening platforms such as Workday Peakon Employee Voice helps leaders sustain a trusting relationship by staying close to day-to-day employee sentiment. With a more accurate understanding of employee needs, finance leaders can mitigate cultural problems before they become bigger issues, and stop employees heading for the door. 


2. Supporting with technology

Technology underpins all aspects of organisations today and company culture is no exception. Take flexibility as an example. Prior to the pandemic, many finance teams were tied to their offices as a result of managing confidential financial information. When lockdowns hit, CFOs and their teams had to embrace technologies that enable greater flexibility such as cloud-based solutions. This has broadened people’s minds and opened the door to more possibilities for finance teams and how they operate, in line with post-pandemic employee needs.

CFOs and their teams had to embrace technologies that enable greater flexibility such as cloud-based solutions. This has broadened people’s minds and opened the door to more possibilities for finance teams and how they operate

Our client, Aon, is a prime example of how technology empowered its finance team to set up a culture of success. This multinational organisation had to change the way it operated as soon as the pandemic hit. Using cloud-based technology, Aon delivered its first ever fully remote financial close across the 120 countries in which it operates. In addition, by adopting cloud technology, the company’s CFO and financial teams can now access, view, and analyse data all in one place, no matter their location across the globe. It’s a great example of how to  use technology to strengthen team culture during a turbulent period. 



3. Embracing value-driven metrics 

Business agility is synonymous with performance. Market leaders are those that can adapt at speed and get ahead of the curve before their competitors. One critical factor driving agility is the skills base of an organisation. CFOs that take a holistic approach to their skills base are able to be more agile in their operations and also value their employees on a larger scale. Prior to the pandemic, finance leaders often viewed success through the lens of profit margin, and hard numbers. This is no longer the full picture. Instead, CFOs are looking at other value-driven metrics that determine strong employee retention, high performance, and a closing skills gap – these factors will be making or breaking businesses in 2022. 

Some examples of value-driven metrics include employee wellness as well as employee engagement, soft skills as well as hard skills, and career trajectory as well as career history. These are less direct metrics but will be integral to helping leaders retain talent, close the skills gap, and understand the full skills base of their workforce. In turn, finance leaders can adapt quicker to change and utilise their talent from a more holistic perspective. 


Thriving in 2022 

Whatever 2022 has in store, ongoing changes in resourcing remains the one certainty that finance leaders can count on. CFOs that prioritise a strong culture will be able to attract and retain top talent, and in turn, gain the biggest competitive advantage when it comes to addressing the Great Resignation. Taking a culture-first approach to the finance function will enable finance leaders to thrive, not just survive, in 2022.   

Michael Douroux, group vice president, Northern Europe and South Africa, Workday