Driving change as a CFO

insight featured image
Change has been a corporate constant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) have been tested as they’ve worked alongside their CEOs and Boards to respond to seismic economic, regulatory and employment shifts.

The pandemic has accelerated business automation and digitisation, making Industry 4.0 a reality sooner rather than later for many organisations. It has created new employment realities such as hybrid and remote working arrangements, and exposed unwieldy, disconnected systems and structures that drain productivity.

The necessary focus for businesses during this time has been ‘adapt or perish’.

While challenges and disruptions continue, there are strong signs of optimism within the economy and business sector that CFOs should use to their advantage to maintain the momentum for systemic and productive change.

Time to switch from a survive to a thrive mindset

It’s time to shift your organisational mindset from survive to thrive. This may require boosting staff morale and energy levels, while simultaneously fighting pandemic-generated change fatigue.

Now is the time to dig deep, to work with your CEO and other C-suite colleagues to engage your teams and maintain the change momentum, albeit at a less frantic pace. If you don’t continue to innovate, your business won’t be ready for the next global shock.

Reflect and draw on your pandemic successes and missteps, as well as your ‘near misses’ and ‘almost made its’, to frame a future narrative in partnership with your CEO that will captivate and inspire your staff and stakeholders. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team, or at least one with a clear growth mindset and inspiring ambitions.

How is your talent bench looking?

Do you have the right talent to achieve your strategic goals? Is your business experiencing workforce churn or is it stable?

With Australia’s unemployment rate falling to 3.5% this year – the lowest in almost 50 years – talent needs to be top of your organisation’s change agenda and future business continuity planning. Work closely with your head of Human Resources to prioritise talent identification and retention. Your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) may need an overhaul to bring it in line with contemporary workforce expectations, such as flexible working arrangements, to give your company the edge in the current battle for talent.

Maintaining the momentum for change

Getting your talent mix right is challenging, but pivotal, for business transformation. Less tangible than people, but heavily influenced by them, is your organisational culture.Your corporate culture may have hit new highs as teams rallied together to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 and in its recovery, or it might have fractured under the pressure of constant change.

Have you performed a health check on your corporate culture recently? Your business balance sheet might be looking good, but that doesn’t mean your culture is performing equally as well.A strong culture creates the optimal conditions for corporate renewal. People who feel valued, who feel a sense of belonging and can see their contribution to an organisation’s future, will be more open and less resistant to change.

While your CEO is the primary custodian and champion for your organisational culture, staff at all levels look to C-suite executives to uphold the values and codes of behaviour that every team member, knowingly or unknowingly, signs up to when they join an organisation.

Corporate values should be consciously and consistently referenced in your onboarding process, team meetings, strategic planning, corporate decision-making and dealings with external stakeholders.

Cultural change happens when everyone in an organisation – not just its leadership – align their own behaviours with the values of the organisation and its mission and vision. Cultural change is not as easy to map or measure as structural change, but a strong corporate culture is an accelerant for broader corporate change, as well as an attractive selling point for new staff and investors.

Building the evidence base for better decision-making

An area where CFOs can significantly impact corporate change is through improved data-driven decision making. As CFO, your CEO and Board look to you as the source of truth about your company’s current financial performance and its future potential.

Reliable data has always been pivotal in business decision-making, and integrated corporate data analytics became critical during the pandemic as leaders were forced to pivot their business models to respond to government directives that restricted or ceased business operations entirely.

Did your data help or hinder your response and recovery?

Data architecture aligned to business strategy is vital. Unwieldy systems that don’t talk to one another or can’t provide a clear and reliable picture of the current and future health of a business are a productivity drain. 

‘Work arounds’ need to be replaced with systems that work – streamlined, integrated, secure systems that produce reliable, timely and meaningful data.

CFOs need a robust, consistent and comprehensive evidence base to continue driving corporate change, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Subscribe to receive our publications

Subscribe now to be kept up-to-date with timely and relevant insights, unique to the nature of your business, your areas of interest and the industry in which you operate.