4 Things CFOs need to Stop Doing in a Hybrid World

Whilst the COVID-19 crisis has yet to pass, there are small shoots of optimism beginning to emerge at the thought of being able to work together, in person, again. Whilst for most states – other than Victoria – this was a possibility for much of 2020-21, there was still a sense that until a vaccine arrived and had been provided to those that wanted it, the country would be in a state of flux, workwise.

Of course, most organisations have adapted to hybrid ways of working and have now created the expectation amongst staff, that it will continue into 2022, post-pandemic and beyond.

However, in order for hybrid working to be effective, then CFOs (and other members of the C-suite) will need to start thinking and acting differently to ensure that there is not only a smooth transition, but also to ensure that valuable staff are retained in a volatile recruitment market. Here are four ideas of things you can stop.

  1. Thinking face-to-face is the only way of being productive

David Solomon of Goldman Sachs was the first, but then he was swiftly followed (somewhat surprisingly) by Reed Hastings of Netflix in their determination that face-to-face was the only way to work. Wade Foster of Zapier and thousands of other senior business leaders beg to differ. Employees and teams can be just as productive whether working in the same space or based in their own place, however, a mindset and managerial skill set (see 3) shift is required in order to do so.

2. Underspending on cultural evolution

As Jonathan Beeby, Managing Director ANZ at SAP Concur said in a recent CFO Magazine webcast, ‘The finance community has become very optimistic about the opportunity for transformation. Be prepared and get ready for growth and ongoing change now. It’s all about being able to pivot on a dime.’ And when we talk of transformation and pivoting, we’re talking about culture evolution, which is traditionally not activity that many CFOs have invested in. Not only that, but there is often constant questioning of others in the business who are undertaking it (you can trust me on this)!

Defining the finance culture should be an exercise that’s undertaken every 12-18 months to ensure that the foundations exist for great behaviour, collaboration and innovation centred around a strong set of values and a vision of the future. Then and only then, will all of the targets be consistently hit in an environment that is respective of all, wherever they may be based.

3. Promoting people based on technical ability only

Being good with accounting, numbers, procurement, rules and analysis are all key components of almost every management position within the finance department. Yet, whilst these are all important, what’s required from managers more than anything else in a hybrid working world, are emotional skills. These skills have been under-invested in for years throughout organisations and the finance department is no different.

Development programs for aspirational people need to centre on emotional capabilities such as empathy, compassion, vulnerability, listening, expectation setting, performance management and enhanced communication to ensure that people feel cared for and included as well as motivated to perform

4. Being lazy with collaboration

When the first lockdown was imposed, most organisations moved from back-to-back in person meetings and endless emails to, well, back-to-back Zoom (or Teams) meetings and endless emails (with some chat messages thrown in for good measure too). Many didn’t take the opportunity to look at the way that they worked together and ask whether there was a better way? Not all collaboration needs to be a face-to-face, cameras on, meeting. In the same way that not every decision requires ten people to be copied into an email. Time is the most precious commodity that we have, so it’s important to use it in a way the produces results, not generates more work.

Hybrid working is not only here to stay, but it will also likely become a source of competitive advantage as organisations look globally for the best talent to fill finance positions (this is likely to include you too!). To ensure that your department is not left behind and to become a role model for others within the organisation, it’s important to stop doing some things, to create the space for evolving working practices and behaviours synonymous with a hybrid working world.

About the author

Colin D Ellis is best-selling author of The Hybrid Handbook: How to Set Yourself Up for the Future of Work and helps organisations around the world to transform their working cultures.

You can find out more about the work that he does at www.colindellis.com