After several years during which workforce talent has been among the top ongoing concerns for CFOs, 2023 has brought a pronounced shift, one new analysis purports.
As recently as 2022, talent management was the third-greatest priority for finance chiefs, according to the latest edition of an annual survey by professional services firm Jefferson Wells.
This year, the topic tumbled to eighth position in the survey, which polled about 200 CFOs. Correspondingly, the proportion of finance chiefs who identified increasing wages and benefits as a key strategy for meeting business challenges dipped to 27%, a 14-point drop from 2022.
A key driver of these trends: The employment market has stabilized this year, with fewer people changing jobs. The shift has been most pronounced at large companies, according to Jefferson Wells.
“Large companies are meeting employee demands for flexible work environments with hybrid solutions,” the survey report said, “including the ability to work remotely for at least some period on a regular basis.”
Rebecca Albarelli, vice president of solutions for Jefferson Wells, noted that companies generally have fewer open positions than they’ve had for some time. They’re focused less on hiring and more on reducing turnover among existing employees, she added.
“With pressures on margins and the impact of macroeconomic factors such as inflation and higher capital costs, avoiding turnover costs and ensuring teams are right-sized with the right skills are top of mind,” Albarelli told CFO.
Despite companies’ willingness to be flexible with worksites, the number of employees back in the office following the COVID-19 pandemic continues to inch upward, while remote work is slowly decreasing.
Small organizations appear to be offering less flexibility, “perhaps because their business model requires on-site presence, or their smaller workforce needs on-site decision making,” Jefferson Wells said.
Fewer New Hires, More Automation
Within finance departments, the number of CFOs who said they plan to hire new team members within two years has fallen off this year by 18 percentage points, to 35%. At the same time, finance chiefs are also looking to spend less on outside help, with just 25% expecting to engage third-party financial providers, down from 39% in 2022.
How, then, are CFOs planning to manage the cost pressures and other challenges of attracting and retaining talent while still accessing needed skills and expertise? In addition to flexible work scheduling, CFOs are looking toward technology, the survey found.
That finding was unsurprising in light of overall survey results, given that CFOs cited technology transformation as their second-greatest concern this year.
Almost three in five finance chiefs said their companies either have started robotic process automation (RPA) processes (25%), fine-tuned RPA solutions (7%), or completed RPA projects (27%). A year ago, 10% fewer CFOs said their companies were in one of those RPA stages.
The top four drivers of technology investment, all of which were cited as having approximately equal impact, were promoting efficiency, making data more accessible, reducing costs, and enhancing decision-making.
Meanwhile, with the pressure to stay ahead of scammers remaining stubbornly acute, cybersecurity stayed at the top of CFOs’ list of concerns.
Interestingly, profits were only in the fifth spot, with CFOs saying they’re more focused on not only cybersecurity and technology transformation but also supply chain and operational challenges.