Hiring

How CFOs Can Win the Struggle for Talent

Here are three ways CFOs can help manage the talent shortage, even if they don’t supervise the human resources department.
Tim Glowa and Sharon WhittleMarch 17, 2022
How CFOs Can Win the Struggle for Talent
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The C-suite is worried. According to Grant Thornton’s survey of nearly 250 senior finance leaders, 68% of respondents believed their organization would see a talent shortage this year. More than half (53%) expected that shortage would affect their business. 

  Tim Glowa

The concerns are valid: 2021 saw record-shattering resignations and heartburn-inducing employee turnover. And the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows there were 11.3 million job openings in January 2022 – the largest amount in the 22 years of tracking such data. 

With all that outside opportunity available to your employees, it will be harder to retain them. Management may be tempted to solve retention problems by spending more on wages; however, several surveys show that salary is not necessarily the deciding factor in sticking with an employer. Competitive wages are critical, but they’ve become table stakes.

  Sharon Whittle

It’s more effective to work on areas meaningful to employees that help you stand out compared to other companies. For example, in Grant Thornton’s “State of Work in America” survey, more than one-third (34%) of 5,000 full-time U.S. workers said they selected their new job because it offered a better work-life balance. Further, among the respondents, mental health and work-life balance were among the top stressors that their employers were not addressing. 

There are many ways CFOs can help their company win the war for talent, even if they don’t supervise the human resources department. Here are three.

Dive Into the Weeds

CFOs are uniquely positioned to analyze a key spending category for the company: employee benefits.

Consider this: Benefits — annual, recurring expenses — usually account for about 30% of an employee’s total compensation. Indeed, they are often the largest expense most organizations incur.

However, many organizations don’t truly grasp the return on investment of the benefits package they provide. The typical company wastes about $3,000 to $5,000 per year per employee providing benefits workers don’t value or appreciate. HR leaders may have the data and on-the-ground anecdotes critical to understanding employee preferences, but they seldom understand the company’s financials. A CFO does — and has the authority and wherewithal needed to take quick and decisive actions.

Once HR leaders determine the benefits people truly need or wish for, CFOs can figure out how to responsibly shift around the dollars, offering more of what employees want. Enhancing benefits packages makes people happier and potentially saves money.

What’s Your ‘Brand?’ 

Look at the employee base like a marketer would. Retaining workers requires collaboration from CFOs, marketers, and HR leaders. What are the company’s selling points to prospective and current employees? How does your value proposition differ from competitors’? Could competitors copy what makes you different? To answer those questions, find out (if you haven’t already) why people have recently left the organization — and don’t assume it was compensation. 

Workers with decades of experience bring value to every workplace, and retaining them or coaxing them out of retirement requires a targeted effort.

For example, one of the drivers of high employee “quit” rates was highly experienced workers deciding to retire a little early. Yet almost one quarter (23%) of the HR leaders Grant Thornton surveyed in 2021 did not have a retention strategy targeted at mature workers. Workers with decades of experience bring value to every workplace, and retaining them or coaxing them out of retirement requires a targeted effort.

Set the Tone

In the “State of Work in America” survey, 28% of employees said dealing with their manager is the most stressful part of their day. While some of that stress may be unavoidable, it is more important than ever to ensure the company has top-notch managers and a healthy culture.

Maintaining a toxic work culture during a war for talent is like trying to heat a house in Canada when all the windows are open. It won’t work — especially when Grant Thornton data show that “company values” and “company reputation” are two of the five primary reasons people have declined a job offer in the last year.

CFOs should model an appropriate work-life balance. If your people see you taking care of yourself, they’ll feel like they have permission to do the same.

We recommend performing regular check-ins with key leaders and supervisors to ensure they are prioritizing their peoples’ wellbeing and work-life balance. That also means working with HR leaders to ensure workers feel heard.

In addition, CFOs should model an appropriate work-life balance. If your people see you taking care of yourself, they’ll feel like they have permission to do the same. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do — for your career and your health.

There’s a personal reason all CFOs should want to win the war for talent, too: It’ll fortify their resume. If the “great resignation” further impacts the C-suite (as some surveys show), organizations will be looking for new executives — in particular, candidates that have a broader range of skills.

Imagine this: You’re interviewing for a new CFO position six months or a year from now, and the people across the table ask how you managed the talent shortage. Did you sit on the sidelines or roll up your sleeves and get to work? 

Tim Glowa and Sharon Whittle are Human Capital Services principals at Grant Thornton LLP.