Only 36% of Finance Teams Think Leaders Empathize Amid Change

Employee well-being and engagement is paramount for CFOs who are leading through a business transformation.
Adam ZakiApril 26, 2023
Only 36% of Finance Teams Think Leaders Empathize Amid Change
Photo: fizkes

The CEO-CFO relationship has a significant impact on whether or not a finance chief is satisfied and willing to stay in their role. Research reveals that the relationship between CFOs and their teams seems to have a similar effect.

Talent retention issues and employee well-being being at the forefront of the workplace, and growth strategies — both organic and through M&A — will challenge leaders’ abilities to manage their talent base. Executives find themselves and their teams experiencing difficult hurdles with organizational evolution.

Despite a rising awareness of the need for steady communication amid change, many employees don’t feel heard during the process. According to new research from EY, less than four in 10 (36%) of finance teams believed their leaders understood the team’s needs and views during a company transformation.

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Employee Empathy Needed

Successful transformation requires CFOs to demonstrate empathy. Finance leaders should be able to clearly communicate the organization’s transformation plan and how it positively impacts the company and the finance team. 

Some leaders are truly unsure of what their employees need. According to the data, only half (50%) of finance leaders told surveyors they understood the needs and views of their employees.

For staff who feel their job is at risk due to a company change, leadership must make employees feel a part of the transformation process, even if the anxiety around their own job security is justified. By keeping employees engaged in the process, they are more likely to continue to remain productive and engaged during the transition. 

The employee’s say in the transformation process may be only nominal, as less than half (46%) of finance leaders said they accepted ideas from junior personnel and only 31% of finance workers felt leaders listened to their transformation process suggestions. 

Technology Plays a Part in Engagement

According to EY, technology isn’t something employees can be quickly trained on and expected to implement during the transformation process. Rather than just requiring workers to go through training modules, leaders should provide a product-based approach to technology design, where users can test and provide feedback at various stages throughout development.

This approach will improve staff engagement by allowing them to influence the design of the technology’s implementation, and can also improve the ultimate success of the technology as a whole. Through this, staff will have been able to experiment, learn and master the technology along the way.

Despite the various ways in which technology can be introduced to employees during a transformation process, 43% of finance leaders identified technology transformation as a top three challenge during a transformation process. Alongside these recognized challenges, over a third (38%) of CFOs identified the pursuit of technology and digital innovation as a key motivator for initiating transformations.

Re-Invent Finance Team and Working Structure

Rather than viewing new working styles as putting old work habits through a M&A-inpired mold, surveyors recommend CFOs to “break down silos and foster a culture of collaboration and ingenuity.”

Despite nearly half (48%) of leaders believing that existing processes ensure collaboration in their own businesses, employees disagreed. Less than a third (31%) of workers said their company’s processes ensure collaboration.

By increasing participation from an array of areas, CFOs can drive collaboration across the company according to EY. Furthermore, they suggest reinventing the way process, ownership, and empowerment are viewed throughout the company by creating a “cross-discipline” approach. 

The surveyors also suggest CFOs recruit an internal person, sometimes referred to as a “workplace champion,” who can act as the connector between management and staff. Through this, communication can be properly channeled, processed, and used in future decision-making during the completion of the transformation.