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Readers write to say CFOs should make HR accountable for helping drive profit; that those who are asked to "cook the books" should go undercover; and more.
CFO Readers, CFO Magazine
September 1, 2009
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Thank you for the article "Power Struggle" in the July/August issue. It was so relevant to my own work experience. I completely agree with [AES finance chief Victoria] Harker's comment about being present in the workforce. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to first work part-time and then flexible hours when I went back to work full-time and my son was 18 months old. By being "present" I was in the right place at the right time and was promoted to CFO of my company. I also enjoyed [Globus Medical CFO Wendy] DiCicco's quote ["Sometimes you think your head is going to pop off"] about the difficulty in balancing a career and a family. It is hanging in my office and I will definitely be sharing it with other working mothers. It's always nice to know that you are not the only one!
Mary Lou Ruderman
Chief Financial Officer
Online Vacation Center Inc.
Can Finance and HR Get Along?
CFOs need to stop giving the human-resources department a free ride ("The Metric System," July/August). HR is the only department that is allowed to get away with spending money without proving that it helps measurably improve profits. For years I have delivered speeches on my book Turning Your Human Resources Department into a Profit Center. HR managers in the audiences act like they never before knew anything about cost-benefit analysis and ROI. Afterwards, they excitedly line up to get my book and have me autograph it.
However, when I talk with those managers later, they overwhelmingly say my book is on their desks, but they have done nothing to help measurably improve profits. CFOs and other executives are responsible for this problem. Why? Because they should insist that HR managers play key roles in measurably improving profits and then de-employ any who fail to do so. Managers in other departments need to prove their bottom-line value. CFOs must stop exempting HR from the basic reality of business life — that companies need to increase sales and improve profits.
The Mercer Group Inc.
What has 55 years of supervision and management taught me [about workforce management]? Several things, including:
(1) Gurus and fads (Rank & Yank, Team Building, Hire 3/Fire 2, Zero Defects, and so on) and the companies that follow them have short lives.
(2) Productivity results from matching people to tasks; providing training, tools, and a plan; then checking results.
(3) Satisfied customers and profits are the real metric.
(4) If the top dog does not know the tasks and whether each manager can successfully perform step two, he seriously needs training or a different job.
(5) If a manager has unqualified workers, then the manager's boss — as well as the manager — needs training.
Arthur H. Krugler
Krugler Engineering Group Inc.
Let's face it: the pressure to deliver the numbers has never been greater. Investors, boards, and management teams all need metrics. Why? To ensure that what people say will happen does happen. Then, if it doesn't, steps can be taken to get the business back on track.
As a former management-team member and a seasoned HR executive, and today a management consultant, I agree that metrics are important. We all need a scorecard to understand what is happening on all sides of the business, but let's not lose track of the importance of having the right people processes in place.
Organizations large and small must identify the skills and competencies needed to achieve their business strategy. Management teams need to determine what type of people it will take to make their plan a reality. Once this analysis is completed, all parties must collaborate to ensure that the HR processes are in place to attract, develop, and retain the right people. HR can be the facilitator of this process, but ownership is with the entire management team.
Once the processes are in place, then metrics can be built on a strong foundation and will have a direct connection to the success of the business.
President and Founder
Human Capital Consulting Partners LLC
Crime and Punishment
Regarding Aaron Beam's experiences (" I Should Have Said No," On the Record, June): the reality is, if your organization asks you to "cook the books," it is already in trouble. And if you say no, you know you are going to be fired . At this point you have to choose between no income and no reference or an uncertain future, wondering when you will be found out and when you will have to pay the price. This is a sucker's choice. You don't have to choose one or the other. You have other options. Go to the authorities, start taping your conversations. It is about your (and your family's) survival. Don't let trash take you down with them.
I believe the best example we could make of Mr. Beam is not to parade him through the country's business schools but rather to present him from a jail cell, where he belongs. He violated the most important principle and responsibility of a financial leader: he lied. He lied to himself, his investors, and the public. Think of the thousands of people who lost billions in investments based on the lies of Mr. Beam and other unethical, unprofessional financial leaders.
Maybe now Mr. Beam will learn the value system that the majority of us possess — through the sweat of his brow, pains in his back, and calluses on his hands.
Congratulations to Aaron Beam for stepping up and doing the right thing. The true story is not about his poor judgment, errors, and loss of respect. It is about repentance, forgiveness, and newfound respect.
Vice President of Finance
Dickinson Press Inc.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The charts that gave cost-performance data for several industries in "In Pursuit of a Cutting Edge" (July/August) contained a calculation error that skewed some results. Updated charts, and the spreadsheet data used to create them, are now at www.cfo.com/costperformance.