According to a recent Robert Half survey of 275 Canadian chief financial officers, 84 percent of respondents are “somewhat or very confident in their companies’ growth potential in the coming months.” However, CFOs still face significant challenges, one of the most significant being staff morale and motivation. This is particularly tricky because unlike many other issues, it can actually become more difficult to maintain as economic times improve.
In Canada, the job market has rebounded significantly since the recession—particularly for financial professionals—and as a result, employees are able to look around more. Fully 40 percent of North American workers surveyed for a separate Robert Half study said that they are more prone to look for new jobs as a result of poor experiences during the recession. As a result, CFOs are being careful not to overwork employees and are looking at specific ways to retain them.
Conversely, CFOs are still cognizant of the uncertainty in the economy, and thus are wary of returning to pre-recession spending levels. Many have resorted to using interim staff, which creates a scenario in which labor costs are congruent with heavy and light workloads.
When it comes to full-time hiring, employers face more serious issues. Forty-six percent of the respondents to the Robert Half CFO survey expressed difficulty in recruiting top talent, and 43 percent said that they are concerned about losing employees to better opportunities. As a result, the surveyed CFOs listed a number of different methods they are undertaking to attract, retain and motivate employees. The most popular methods include subsidized training and education, as well as allowing flexible schedules and/or telecommuting. Other popular methods are mentoring programs, free or subsidized lunches, and matching gift programs. One financial executive told Robert Half that his company kept employees by maintaining bonuses and stock options, even when the economy was at its worst. He also said that employees were not forced to work longer hours.
Eighty percent of the respondents to the Robert Half survey said that it is more difficult to be a company leader today than it was five years ago. To be an effective leader, today’s CFO must be aware of the many challenges in the current business environment, and be prepared to adapt at any given moment. The Great Recession forced organizations across the board to dramatically alter their business models, which led to much more demanding roles for CFOs. Another, similar paradigm shift could have the same effect, and CFOs need to be ready to confront such an occurrence head-on.