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Creating a resilient workforce for years to come

In times of crisis, people are a business’s biggest asset. They are also its biggest expense. Having issues of cashflow front and centre forces the cost of talent into the limelight – but it does not mean putting profit before people, writes Nick Jackson, president at CIMA and finance transformation leader at Oracle

This is where the CFO and HR team need to come together, working more closely than ever before to ensure every decision is made with empathy.

The CFO, delivering change across a business, must be a trusted partner for HR teams – not least since 62% of CFOs say changes to employment and employee benefits will be among the hardest decisions they have to make. Together, the CFO and HR need to evaluate skills and resources, minimise temporary and long-term loss of staff, and look after their people. All of this will build a resilient business.

Culture of integrity

There will need to be a cultural shift, a crossing of divides in a virtual office. The CFO should make themself available to HR teams, bringing an overarching view of the organisation’s health. They should also understand that decisions involving people are the most sensitive to make – and defer to the experts on the best course of action. Together, using data to shape every discussion, is the best way to make these decisions.

Sometimes immediate action must be taken, but any change needs to take long-term strategic planning into account. Foresight can be hard to maintain, and prioritise, amid uncertainty. Working as one, the CFO and HR team need to fall back on the data: to understand where there is need, find smart ways to redeploy staff, provide them with the training to make an impact, and to make hard decisions about furloughing or reducing hours with empathy.

Being data-driven sees the right kind of change in the short and long term. Being empathetic ensures your employees remain the priority. Together, this creates a culture of integrity.

Managing change

During lockdown, many businesses have experienced a change in customer needs and buying patterns, triggering a pivot in business priorities. Those that chose to tackle the challenges head-on are reinventing their priorities. But in this transition, employees cannot be left behind.

Any change to a business’s purpose will have a direct impact on the workforce. In conjunction with HR, workforce modelling can connect headcount with new financial plans. This needs to incorporate data from across the organisation, to bring together needs with skill sets and budget.

The CFO will need to evaluate where long-term change needs to happen, be that divestment in certain areas, which departments need new investment, or how to reshape certain functions entirely. This is not an easy task, and it should not be done alone.

Decisions for the future

Beyond the here and now, the CFO and HR team need to plan what comes next. Hurdles include the cultural and financial implications of getting back to the office – or not.

To make this shift work, businesses need to understand if they have the right talent for a remote culture, and the right systems in place to support one. To do so, the CFO and HR need to access forward-looking insights into workforce trends by tapping into predictive data. This level of understanding will drive cultural change, help employees adapt and keep an eye firmly on the future.

Automation is key here. It will allow the CFO and CHRO to sift rapidly through vast amounts of data from across the organisation and make smart, information-driven decisions. Office space could be reduced, for example, if the majority of employees are in favour of more flexible work from home policies in the future.

Employees could also receive more targeted training and support while working remotely, with data insights enabling a greater understanding amongst businesses of how happy their employees are. Not only is this crucial for long-term staff retention, but also valuable for understanding where staff may be most satisfied if they need to be redeployed elsewhere in the business.

Constant communication, strong data and a maniacal focus on what may come next will ensure that changes contribute to a better future. CFOs need to make some hard decisions about their people – but they will be much harder without HR by their side. This will not only lead to better decisions now, but will be the key to a resilient workforce for years to come.


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