Category Archives: staffing

How Remote Work is Influencing Financial Recruiting and Retention Strategies

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Over the past few years, we have learned that we are entirely more adaptable than we ever thought possible. We’ve learned that we can not only survive, but actually thrive in extreme disruption. And much of that adaptation and success is based on the ability to work remotely.  

Today, remote work has become a priority for most employees … in some respect. In fact, in the 2022 Salary Guide from Robert Half, 75% of workers said they wanted to work at least part of the time remotely, and 34% said they would quit a company that didn’t allow remote work.  And those who work in finance or accounting departments are no exception to these numbers. 

While our new remote or hybrid workforce has been around for two years now, it is no longer about logistical prowess to achieve social distancing in a global pandemic. Rather, it’s about the reprioritization among us all that includes increased flexibility and enhanced employee experiences. And while these are incredible benefits for candidates and employees, CFOs and other leaders aren’t lacking in advantages either – namely, a massive widening of the talent pool.  

In the same survey, 35% of finance and accounting leaders said they expanded their searches geographically to find the right candidates. Having employees across time zones also leads to the ancillary benefits of nearly automatically increasing the organization’s customer service, while helping with work-life balance at the same time. Consider an employee on the east coast who no longer has to solve a problem at 7:00 pm because they have a west-coast colleague who can easily take care of it within business hours.  

Realizing our remote world is not going anywhere, CFOs are now considering how to revamp their recruiting and retention strategies around it. It’s no secret that competition is fierce. To successfully recruit top talent and keep them, they need to have structured strategies that have been adjusted to our new realities.  

Recruiting 
When recruiting for finance or accounting positions, there are, of course, the “typical” qualifications and skills needed – certain degrees and designations, attention to detail, accuracy, confidentiality, ambition, embracing continuous learning, and problem-solving skills. That’s not changing. But now, more recruiting efforts are shifting to look not merely at the skills for the specific position or the necessary education and certifications, but the skills needed to work in a remote environment successfully.  

To work remotely, CFOs need to look for candidates who can exhibit discipline, initiative, and the following abilities to:  

  • stay focused,  
  • be a self-starter,  
  • work well without supervision, and  
  • work well under pressure.  

Additionally, by the very nature of remote work, they need to have more advanced technological skills or, at a minimum, be willing to learn them quickly.  

Retention 
So much of retention is based on organizational culture – whether we are in-office or remote. And the flip side of the flexibility advantage that remote work provides to employees is isolation, especially when some employees are in the office and others are not. Remote workers could feel less appreciated or valued, or think that they will be passed over for opportunities since they are not directly in front of their leaders. They can also start to feel detached from their work and those with whom they work. 

To ensure the organization has a people-first culture, these fears (real or perceived) must be minimized. Leaders should ensure remote workers are getting the time and attention needed – that they are acknowledged, promoted when justified, and provided equal opportunities to training, continuous learning, and resources, including access to the financial tools needed to do their jobs efficiently. Proactively sharing information, providing peer mentoring or coaching, and focusing on clear, timely communication, with opportunities for feedback are other helpful ways to keep them involved. Essentially, it comes down to the human connection, even when you aren’t physically together. Remember, technology is great, but alone, it will not build a culture your employees won’t want to leave.  

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow, especially as it relates to using the right strategies to keep your company running efficiently. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

Remote CFOs – Is Success Really Possible?

Remote CFOs – Is Success Really Possible? 
It’s All a Matter of Trust 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

More people are adjusting to the idea that our “new normal” includes remote work in some capacity. And this realization brings along new considerations, including which positions are better suited for remote work and the opportunity to attract additional top talent in various geographical areas. But when you’re talking about a leadership role, there are a number of other factors to consider, especially when that role is based in accountability and highly sensitive, confidential information, like a CFO. As such, many wonder if it is possible for a CFO to have success remotely. 

As we all know, the CFO holds the top financial position of an organization. Some focus more on financial planning and strategies, while others focus more on budgeting, accounting, reporting, and risk management. In either case, the CFO ensures that the organization’s numbers fairly reflect its performance. Also, in either case, the foundation of the CFO role is relationships, which are generally viewed as stronger when individuals are physically together. 

The key to working remotely is developing solid relationships with your direct reports. You need them to feel comfortable reaching out to you, as they would if you were in the same office.  Previously, when we all worked together, you could see fear and anxiety in someone’s face and body language when they were nervous about something. It was palpable because, in large part, it was right in front of us. Now, we no longer have that ability, as it is far easier to hide nervous tendencies when you are in front of a computer camera. As the CFO, it is your responsibility to build trust in any situation, including when you are not physically present.  

Remote CFO … In the Beginning 

If this is a new role and you are just coming into an organization, spending one-on-one time with each team member is crucial in developing a strong foundation. If you do not live in the same area, that will essentially mean more travel in the early stages, but it will pay dividends in the long run. Simply, there is no better way to establish trust in a relationship than being face-to-face, sharing a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice), and empathetically listening to the other person with whom you work.  

In these meetings, learn their strengths and weaknesses, their aspirations, and their fears. Further, be abundantly clear about how and when you will be available when you are working remotely, as well as your expectations. Setting boundaries and clearly communicating them from the beginning will save you headaches down the road. 

Building Trust as a Remote CFO 

Continuing to incorporate relationship-building and trust as you perform your day-to-day responsibilities is key. Schedule weekly one-on-ones with your team and other stakeholders, and keep that time sacred. These meetings should be non-negotiable for anyone, including the CEO, to continue to build trust. One tip on virtual meetings is insisting on the use of cameras, despite everyone’s fatigue of them. Seeing the person with whom you are working, even though a camera, is better than not seeing them at all. Finally, when your team members reach out to you when you are not available, make sure you respond to them as soon as possible. 

Another tip with virtual meetings is to be cognizant of differences in time zones. More than ever, you could be working with team members and clients across the globe. It is not always easy to accommodate others due to their various locations, but in your position as CFO, and to continue to garner trust, you must be flexible. If that means getting on a call at 5:00 am or 10:00 pm, that’s what you do. However, be nimble only where it counts. If other stakeholders or team members are reaching out to you off-hours (and time zone is a non-issue) regarding ordinary work activity, then put a stop to it immediately. Determine how to proactively communicate to them to keep it from happening again.  

As always, boundaries are a key piece of trust, and they are never more important than with remote work when we are seemingly available at all times.  Of course, if there is an emergency, all bets are off. In your position, you must answer that call and help find a solution. But be aware of the distinction between the two scenarios. 

Your team members are not the only ones with whom you need to build trust. To build trust with other C Suite members, take time to understand their issues and challenges.  For example, if you find out that an SVP is spending hours a month on a manual task that the accounting or IT department could easily automate, offer the solution, and help make their lives easier. These instances become huge wins all around, as you build stronger relationships within the organization.  

More than ever, after a global pandemic and resulting economic crisis, organizations understand that a CFO is an investment and not an expense. And to have the best fit, that may mean hiring someone as a remote CFO. While this will require a different type of critical thinking and creativity in addition to the ordinary technical knowledge and risk mitigation skills of CFOs, many will find it more challenging and fulfilling. Their success is not only possible, but likely when trust is established from the beginning. 

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance and outsourced CFO services to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

When It’s Time to Outsource a CFO

Graph on document with pen
Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

I often get asked about why companies should outsource CFO services. As small- to medium-sized businesses grow, they need additional financial resources, including data and expertise to help them better understand the company’s financial health, plan where they can feasibly go based on that health, and improve performance overall. In the past, many companies reaching this phase would bring on a full-time Chief Financial Officer (CFO). But, as we all know, times change … and so do needs and resources. Now, more businesses are deciding to forgo the large salary expense and still get the expertise by outsourcing those financial services.  

You may need high-level financial strategy, but you may not need, or maybe you can’t afford, a full-time employee. Essentially, the finance function of your company can be outsourced to a third-party service provider who acts in the same capacity as a CFO.  You gain expert financial insights, advice, skills, and resources that will help you grow your business, without the huge paycheck that historically goes with it. 

Why Outsource to a CFO? 
The reasons you may decide the time is right to get someone in your financial corner are plentiful. However, as I touched on above, your company experiencing rapid growth, such as the development of new products or market expansion, is one of the most common reasons. Growth like that needs cash for manufacturing, distributing, and marketing. Does the company have enough? Where will it get the money from over time? These are the questions a CFO can help you answer. 

Other reasons to bring on an outsourced CFO include resolving a financial challenge (cash flow, inefficient processes), scaling systems to handle the complex transactions aligned with rapid growth, and needing an accurate, up-to-date financial forecast for budgeting, restructuring, or funding purposes. These major decisions and company crossroads require a financial expert that many companies do not have on staff. 

How an Outsourced CFO Helps 
An outsourced CFO will take their knowledge and broad experience to analyze the company’s financial picture and provide strategic planning and solutions to move forward with the best financial footing. Equally important, they will help ensure the company has the checks and balances needed to keep stakeholders accountable as the company grows. For example, if the company needs to secure additional funding, prepare for a merger or acquisition, or increase oversight to minimize the risk of fraud.  

While each set of circumstances and needs vary, an outsourced CFO can: 

  • Develop a financial roadmap to navigate the company’s future 
  • Help make the numbers more understandable  
  • Help overcome obstacles to business growth 
  • Implement reporting for financial and accounting functions 
  • Oversee financial controls  
  • Identify weaknesses and capitalize on strengths  
  • Develop KPIs and metrics 
  • Develop forecasting and budgeting models 
  • Provide strategies to move forward  
  • Put accounting and reporting systems into place 
  • Provide regular financial reporting  
  • Manage cash flow  
  • Help acquire funding from investors 

The End Benefits of Outsourcing a CFO 
It’s appropriate that the largest benefit of outsourcing a CFO is cost savings. And while many people believe that the costs are actually higher, according to an article in Forbes, the idea that outsourcing is too expensive is a fallacy. In the article, they compare the salaries of full-time CFOs (companies with approximately $10 million in revenue) to the costs of outsourcing. The full-time CFO earned about $200,000 to $250,000 per year as a base, plus bonuses, benefits, taxes, overhead, and long-term incentives (equity), adding up to $300,000-$400,000 per year or more. However, an outsourced CFO for the same size company averaged $7,500 per month, or $90,000 per year (assuming they were retained every month, all year, which is not always the case). The outsourced CFO was about a quarter of the cost of the full-time CFO (at the higher end). 

In addition to the cost savings, an outsourced CFO provides access to a financial expert with various experiences, and the flexibility to utilize that expertise only as needed. The relationship can start part-time or be project based and, as the company grows, so can the services and time. But in either case, you can get back to the business of your business. 

Barker Associates provides outsourced CFO services to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of financial analysis and strategy your company needs to get to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

The Prioritization of Employee Experience in 2022

The Prioritization of Employee Experience in 2022 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We’ve been inundated with various headlines regarding the Great Resignation. And while they all have different perspectives, one commonality exists – the value placed on employee experience. Employees are making it very clear that while money is important, it isn’t everything. They want to be valued and appreciated, and find meaning in their work and in those with whom they collaborate.  

According to a recent Gallup survey, the percentage of engaged workers declined in 2021 for the first year in more than a decade, in large part because organizations have forgotten about the basics. “Among the engagement elements Gallup measures, the greatest declines were in clarity of expectations, having the right materials and equipment, and the opportunity for workers to do what they do best. These elements are foundational to employee engagement.” 

For employers, prioritizing the employee experience has arguably never been as important as it is right now.  

What Exactly is Employee Experience? 

Think of the employee experience as a journey that includes every interaction and observation during an employee’s lifecycle with your company — from recruitment and onboarding to development and retention to exit. It encompasses all that they encounter and observe during that lifecycle, including their role, workspace, leader, team, and company culture. At their foundation, employee experiences should be aligned with the company’s purpose, values, and mission, and have the full support of leadership at every level.  

Why Should You Care? 

I don’t know of any leader who would object to decreased absenteeism, low turnover rates, or increased productivity. And these are all very valid reasons that every leader should care about employee experience. In fact, it should be given the same time, attention, and resources as launching a new product or service.  

An enhanced employee experience results in increased engagement, a stronger company culture and brand, growth, and better customer service. Think of it this way – your employees are on the frontlines of customer experience, helping to build and represent your brand. And whether they have a positive or negative experience at work each day will invariably impact these crucial relationships, and by extension, your company.  

Additionally, as we discussed in At the Intersection of the Great Resignation, Professional Services, and Those Who Stayed, the employees who did not join the Great Resignation are burnt out and often feel underappreciated. These employees, who have more leverage than ever before, could still choose to leave in search of something better, and that often means a better employee experience. However, if their leaders are proactive and look at this instead as an opportunity to enhance employee experience before it’s too late, those employees are more likely to stay. Simply, companies who place value on employee experience have a significant competitive advantage over others who don’t.  

What Can You Do About It? 

Overall, improving employee experience means improving the company culture, having more touchpoints, and ensuring your efforts align with the company mission, vision, and values. Gallup recommends focusing on the basics, providing clear and frequent communication, and managing your managers. “Managers can only keep employees informed and engaged if organizational priorities are clear and well communicated as changes occur.” 

Other tips include:  

  • Conducting an audit of current processes (including hiring and onboarding) 
  • Listening to employees to understand their challenges  
  • Collecting regular feedback from employees 
  • Evaluating company culture from their viewpoint 
  • Creating experiences around the information learned  
  • Creating an action plan for each phase of the employee lifecycle 
  • Using metrics to measure the results at each phase  
  • Ensuring all strategies align with the company’s mission and vision 

Barker Associates has extensive experience as an outsourced CFO. If you need assistance or have any other questions, please click  here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.   

At the Intersection of the Great Resignation, Professional Services, and Those Who Stayed

At the Intersection of the Great Resignation, Professional Services, and Those Who Stayed 
Shifting Perspective from Those Who Left to Those Who Remain 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

The Great Resignation of 2021 has left more than vacant seats … although it has left plenty of those too. In its wake are thousands of desperate CEOs and the often forgotten-about, frenzied, and burnt-out workers who chose to stay. In their desperation, what these CEOs aren’t realizing is that while they struggle with finding new talent in this overly saturated candidate market, they are often not paying enough attention to, or completely disregarding, those who are still right in front of them.  

These employees, whether they stayed because they had no choice (after all, not everyone can quit), felt a sense of loyalty to the company and/or their co-workers, or simply loved their jobs, are now feeling undervalued and underappreciated at the same time they are working harder than ever. And, while they pick up the slack and feel underappreciated by their supervisors, they are often also dealing with increasingly demanding clients and customers. It’s as if the country is in the grips of a new pandemic of impatience, rudeness, and intolerance, and these employees are left to deal with it all. Additionally, the resulting shift in power and bargaining positions of the Great Resignation have forced companies to offer more money than ever before … to secure new talent. That’s great for them, but what about the others?  

As it stands today, in return for all that they’ve done and sacrificed, these employees are getting depressed, having panic attacks, and getting sick, with some turning to alcohol or drugs to try to ease their physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. With our nation already struggling with massive mental health issues, something must be done to curtail this destructive path. 

The Impact to Professional Services 

While this challenge has impacted nearly every industry, professional services, including accountants, lawyers, finance, and IT professionals exemplify it even more. The mental and emotional anguish of a professional who is trying to do a good job when it is physically impossible to do so (because they have too much work to do) takes away their ability to think clearly and make quality decisions. All accounting firms – from the Big 4 to regional companies – are short staffed. And the ones who stayed are having to work extra to cover multiple jobs. Despite this dynamic, it seems companies are reluctant to increase their salaries to meet current market demands. According to one recruiter, if you want an accounting professional work in the office, the rate will be 130% of the market because they are demanding to work from home. 

Like millions of others, professionals are tired, burnt out, and frustrated. And money isn’t everything. The pandemic shook people to the core – they are looking for more meaning and know that meaning rarely comes in a paycheck. In fact, there are professionals walking out of jobs that pay $250,000 per year because they can no longer cope with the constant stress of doing everyone else’s jobs. That’s a lot of money to walk away from, demonstrating the increasing severity of this situation. 

It’s About Retention 

It’s incredibly short-sighted to keep working those employees who chose to stay to a breaking point, while keeping them at below market salaries. It’s time for employers to shift some of that focus from securing new talent to securing the talent they already have. If they don’t, they will never find the right balance, as those who chose to stay before will likely soon also leave. According to Harvard Business Review, “employers need to recognize that it takes significantly longer to recruit someone than it does for them to give their two-week notice and depart.”  

Increasing retention can come in many forms, including: 

  • Incentivizing loyalty 
  • Providing opportunities to grow 
  • Elevating the company’s purpose (and communicating it with the team) 
  • Prioritizing culture and connection 
  • Investing in taking care of employees and their families 
  • Embracing flexibility 

Further, while we are at a time when there is increasing emphasis on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), we cannot decrease emphasis on the health and welfare of our employees. It is counterintuitive to work on ESG initiatives while the company is short-staffed and burning out the employees they have.  

A word of advice … 

  • For Professionals. Know your worth!  Do your research and ask for a raise with your current employer or seek a new position in this market to increase your salary. 
  • For CEOs. Retain the talent you already have by treating them well! Pay more attention to the professionals you already have on staff than those you are attempting to get on staff.  

The Great Resignation may have been considered empowering for those who were taking a stand, demanding more, and walking out the door. But for those chose to stay, it has been anything but empowering. And the resentment and exhaustion they feel isn’t going away anytime soon.  It’s time for decisive action now to retain those who remain. 

Barker Associates has extensive experience as an outsourced CFO. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

2021’s Great Resignation

2021’s Great Resignation 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We are all fully aware of how the pandemic affected the labor market last year. In March and April of 2020 alone, more than 20 million workers lost their jobs, with many of them remaining out of work for months or longer. The economy was clearly crashing, and then, very tentatively, started to ascend earlier this year.  

While we may have thought that was the end of it, we’re seeing it was only the beginning of the pandemic’s effects on our economy. Somehow, within a year’s time, the leverage shifted drastically from employers to employees. In fact, I recently read a Washington Post article reporting that a record number 4.3 million people quit their jobs in the month of August alone.   

The Whys of the Resignation Letter 

One of the things that struck me most is that over the past twenty years, when we’ve experienced higher numbers of employees resigning, there was also higher confidence in a very strong economy, providing the cushion most people need to risk the security of their regular paycheck. It typically does not happen in a volatile and unpredictable economy or during challenging times fraught with unknowns.  

It made me wonder how we went from millions of people out of work, scrambling to find any job to now 2.9% of the workforce leaving those jobs in under a year. It seems that when the pandemic shook our mindsets in countless ways, it completely revamped how we view our jobs, or lack thereof. And questions abound – Is it that there are other opportunities out there, with better pay? Is pay no longer as prioritized because people are searching for something more fulfilling? Are people more restless now?  

There are indications that it is some combination thereof. This is coupled with the fundamental shift in employees’ thresholds for what they will, and will not, deal with as it relates to work. Most have become accustomed to working remotely, and as such, are not as willing to partake in stressful commutes or long hours. Others are taking a more scrutinizing look at what they are being paid compared to what they feel they are worth. Still others continue to have direct pandemic related issues, such as concerns over safety, healthcare, and childcare for their children. Whatever the reason for the shift, the data demonstrates an abundance of confidence among employees and stronger bargaining positions overall. 

Additionally, the employees that continued to be employed last year, who often worked with a skeleton team (or no team at all) are completely and utterly burnt out. For a year, they carried not only their own weight, but the weight of their absent team members, trying desperately to help sustain their company in any way they could. They’re exhausted. And they want (and quite frankly, deserve) to be appreciated. Unfortunately, some employers haven’t handled those situations post-pandemic as well as they should have, causing those loyal employees to search for greener pastures where they will be appreciated.  

Is It a Matter of Supply and Demand? 

Regardless of the reason though, there were a reported 10.4 million job openings at the end of August. And plainly, that’s a lot of leverage for employees looking for “something else.” Maybe it all comes down to Economics 101 – Supply and Demand. The supply of well-paying jobs is outnumbering the unemployed, and employees are, whether consciously or unconsciously, reevaluating their options.

One thing is for sure – we haven’t seen the full effects of the pandemic on the workforce yet. It remains to be seen when the leverage will balance out, causing more stability. In the meantime, many employers are reacting with increased pay to try to find and retain qualified candidates. They are also (or should be) investing in retraining and skill analysis for their employees, who need new skills to work in the hybrid model for which so many employers are opting. 

Barker Associates has extensive experience in helping corporations shift and maintain alignment with the changing needs and requirements of the economy. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

The High Cost of Poor Leadership

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We talk a lot about leadership and how strong leadership is required for success in any organization. Strong leaders guide the company and the team along the mission-paved path, leading to the alluring vision of what the company will be one day. Strong leaders are confident enough to help grow skills in others without being intimidated. They can also manage various personalities and determine the strongest course of actions. But what happens when there is poor leadership? Is it just a matter of not liking the boss, or are there more dire consequences? 

Think back to a time when you worked for a manager who didn’t know how to manage, was irritable, gave no direction, had unrealistic expectations, etc. You probably dreaded going to work every day. Maybe you even quit your job – a job you actually liked – because you just couldn’t stand working for this person one more day. You may have gotten out of a bad situation, but what effect did your leaving have on the company you worked for? 

The Real Costs of Poor Leadership 

Most people don’t realize how much poor leadership costs an organization. There are the more obvious financial implications caused by poor leaders such as bad decision-making, higher expenses, and lower revenue from an operational standpoint, but what about the cost in terms of the staff? Bad leaders can cost companies millions of dollars a year by negatively impacting employee retention, customer satisfaction, and productivity. The health of the team can quickly deteriorate right alongside the financial statements. 

Bad leadership comes in many forms, but having poor communication skills is one of the worst. When leaders don’t know how to communicate effectively, they can’t adequately direct employees. Consequently, employees don’t truly understand the mission and vision of the organization and have difficulty visualizing their own goals. Instead, they become methodical in their accomplishment of tasks, with no innovation or stake in the outcome. This can lead to unmet deadlines, a reduction in productivity, and unhappy customers, all ultimately leading to a toxic environment and high staff turnover. 

Staff turnover is more than inconvenient; it is extremely costly to a company. With additional exit interviews, followed by interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training new employees, constant turnover can directly affect the bottom line. Statistics show that 57% of staff leave a company because of their boss. That’s more than half of the staff. Further, each staff turnaround costs an average of $5,500. So, in an organization of 100 employees, that costs the company $550,000 in staff turnover alone.  

At the end of the day, bad leadership causes damage that is difficult to repair. It incurs higher costs for a company and lower profits. But the good news is that being proactive can help eliminate these risks. Be aware of the following signs of poor leadership before an employee you value walks out the door:  

  • disengagement by employees,  
  • lack of cohesiveness among the team,  
  • decrease in productivity, and  
  • poor morale.  

You might consider instituting employment surveys and manager reviews to help spot these signs faster. But remember nothing is a substitute for truly listening to your employees. And once you spot a problem, keep in mind that it is only half the battle – you also have to address it. And that may mean firing or reassigning a poor leader for the larger benefit of the whole team.  

You can also prevent bad leaders from developing by investing in your future leaders. Provide meaningful opportunities to learn and improve leadership skills to even entry-level employees who show initiative and promise. A small investment at the outset can lead to improved staff retention, which leads to increased productivity, profits, and success. Remember the adage, “employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” Keep your employees around longer by developing managers they actually want to work for.  

Barker Associates has extensive experience in leadership issues and their overall effect on the team. We can assist in determining effective solutions that will help your team stay engaged and onboard. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

The ABCs of Recruiting the C-Suite

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

True leaders know they are as only as strong as the team they build around them. To that end, hiring not only the most qualified, but also the most compatible C-Suite executives with whom to strategize and collaborate on the future of the company is invaluable. 

Recruiting the right person at this level differs significantly from recruiting at other levels. He or she must possess the requisite qualifications and also the requisite experience to be enabled to make significant decisions quickly. Moreover, he or she must have the ability to handle incredible amounts of responsibilities, and function well, if not thrive, under pressure. This person’s presence will impact other employees, the company culture, and the company itself. And a bad hire at this level can lead to enormous disruptions, including damaging morale, decreasing productivity, and adversely affecting the company culture. 

Finding the Best Talent Doesn’t Come without Challenges 

Recruiting top-level employees presents its own unique set of challenges that aren’t generally encountered at other levels. These challenges should be kept in mind as the recruiting process begins. First, you will likely face competition. These employees are in demand, usually having the ability to choose where they want to work and name their terms.  

Additionally, C-Suite employees in general are not actively looking for a new job. In most instances, they are already employed. However, individuals at this level are always looking for new opportunities, so don’t let their current employment stop you. The workforce is different today. Long gone are the days of people retiring from a company after thirty years of service. This person may be ready for a change in his or her career, and that change could be your offer. 

Tips to Help Secure the Right C-Suite Fit 

  1. Set Goals. Ask yourself the following: What are you looking for? What is negotiable? What is not? What input have you received from your board of directors or even other employees? You should have the answers firmly decided upon before moving forward, and be clear about them during the interview process. It is equally as important to understand with clarity who you do not want to hire. What characteristics do they have? Transparency from the start is essential in this process.  
  2. Draft the Right Job Description. Don’t just resurrect an old job description or write what you “think” you need. Engage in due diligence to find out what your competitors are searching for, what candidates are putting out there (if anything), and then set benchmarks and make the description appealing based on the information you learn. This document should never merely be about a title and responsibilities. It should reflect the company’s culture and clearly demonstrate where this person will make the largest impact and how. 
  3. Realize Expectations. C-Suite candidates will have certain expectations, often resulting in increased costs. They may request their own office, own parking spot, and certain other benefits. Ask yourself what you are prepared for and can handle financially before you engage in discussions. 
  4. Vet carefully, but do not delay. It’s important to get to know this person – not just their qualifications and experience, but their values and who they are at their core. Utilize behavioral interview questions and emotional intelligence quizzes. Have frequent follow ups and thoroughly check references. However, all of this is said with a caveat. Remember this individual is likely in high-demand, and one of your competitors could move in and make them an offer if you delay too long. 
  5. Consider promoting someone from within. You should always consider moving someone up from within. Benefits of this decision include being good for overall morale, motivating employees, and increasing retention. Yet, while it is ideal to promote from within, you must ensure he or she is ready for the type of responsibility and demands the C-Suite brings with it.   

Hiring at this level requires forward-thinking analysis. It calls for significant preparation far before any job description is drafted or interview occurs. For example, you want to ensure that you’ve created a culture that reflects the company’s mission, objectives, values, and long-term vision. Without proper alignment, you risk attracting the wrong type of candidate for your company. 

Often, the first (if not, one of the first) C-Suite executives hired is the Chief Financial Officer. Generally speaking, the owner or CEO excels at strategy or operations, but does not possess the knowledge needed for financial decisions. He or she needs someone who thoroughly understands all financial aspects of the company and can then guide it the right direction. Outsourcing this function is another available option.

With the significant investment of time, money, effort, and energy the recruiting and onboarding of your new C-Suite employee will be, you want to ensure longevity with the right fit. Barker Associates has extensive experience working as an outsourced CFO and assisting companies in determining their needs for this position. If you would like to discuss these services, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

Increase Cash Flow – Add Women to the Board

Wanted: 3,732 Women to Govern Corporate America

(By Jeff Green, Hannah Recht and Mathieu Benhamou) 3/21/2019 Bloomberg.com)

If the headline wasn’t enough to get my attention, the statistics from Bloomberg made me do a double-take:

As a woman leader in the world of finance, it was no secret to me that women are underrepresented on boards of directors. But where did +3,732 come from?

It turns out that last October California law SB-826 Corporations: boards of directors (2017-2018), (sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners), was signed by Governor Jerry Brown. The law requires publicly traded companies to have at least one woman on their board of directors. KQED public radio reports that of the 445 publicly traded companies in California, 25% have no women on their boards.

The statistics above are a benchmark based on the gender representation of companies making up the Russell 3000 stock index; the index is comprised of the 3,000 largest U.S.-traded stocks. If the California law was applied to the boards of these 3,000 companies, 3,732 are the number of women that would need to be added by 2020 to comply with California’s law. Since most Russell 3000 companies are incorporated in Delaware, the legislation would have to be adopted in Delaware for to cover this many companies. 

Should companies wait until the legislation requires balanced gender representation on boards? They can wait, but it will be similar to maintaining data and information on a system that was implemented in the 1990s that few IT professional even know how to program – neither decision makes a lot of sense. Note the most recent search for the President of the University of South Carolina came to a screeching halt when none of the finalists were women. There were women interviewed and at least one of the semi-finalists took themselves out of the running for the position. There are several unanswered questions about this situation, like did the search committee conduct the search to reach out to all qualified applicants, were the questions to the applicants generally the same? There is no doubt the University of South Carolina spent time, money and energy seeking a President and was unable to accomplish this satisfactorily.  The cost is difficult to quantify, but there is certainly a cost related to this situation.

Is it that difficult for well-meaning companies to find women leaders to serve on boards or serve as C-Suite executives? I truly believe it is for several reasons.

Forbes magazine reported on Amazon’s appointment of two well-known leaders, Indra Nooyi and Roz Brewer earlier this year to serve on their board. Because a small pool of U.S. leaders is consistently tapped for board positions, they do not have the time to serve on the multiple Boards to which they are invited.

The Forbes article goes on to suggest that one of the reasons women don’t make the cut is the qualifications being sought.In general, the qualifications being sought include:

  • Must be a sitting CEO or senior executive in a Fortune 500 company.
  • Must be a financial expert.
  • Must understand cyber-risk and security.
  • Must understand innovation. Those are just some of the criteria stated out loud.

Implicitly, the board candidate also:

  • Must not have an agenda (feminist).
  • Must not be too old.
  • Must not be disruptive.

Another factor to consider is our networks.

If male leaders primarily are cultivating networks with other male leaders and women leaders primarily are cultivating networks of other women leaders, who else would they recommend when a board position opens? With only one-fifth of US board directors being women, it could take until my daughter’s children have children for female board representation to reflect the workforce.

A Board of Directors is elected to represent shareholders. Who is speaking for the 26% of U.S. women invested in the stock market? Why should you care if the boards of Corporate America are diversified based on gender or other factors? Here are a few of those reasons:

  • Your potential customers will view a diversified board as making better strategic decisions when the customer is represented.
  • Talented, highly qualified employees value the actions of their employer and will be monitoring social media and the news, as stories of board diversity are reported; as potential employees, they will embark on their job search with such information in hand.
  • Satisfied customers and a skilled workforce can lead to successful earnings and annual reports – and ultimately – happy shareholders.

Honestly, one of the most difficult things to overcome with women moving up to the C-suite and taking on Board appointments is the sacrifice required to maintain that type of position.  More men than women are willing to make that sacrifice. When I think about this, it leads me to think we should examine the requirements for C-level executives and leaders, regardless of their gender.  If you have a transparent conversation with a spouse or a child of anyone who holds one of these positions in the USA, they will admit it is difficult on them and the family.  I have had demanding professional positions most of my career and I have had to constantly make difficult decisions on how to allocate my time.

If having gender representation on boards of directors that reflects today’s workforce is important to you, what else can you do to promote your belief?

20% By 2020 Women on Boards is a national campaign to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20% or greater by the year 2020. Established in 2010, it is a 501c3 organization co-founded in 2010 by Stephanie Sonnabend and Malli Gero.

Their website lists several actions you can take, from establishing a local campaign committee to easy actions you can take to have a voice. Visit their website for more information.

In summary, company leaders are going to have to focus on this issue if they want the company to continue to make money, which most do. Legislative and social pressure is just too great.  It is a multi-dimensional issue that is going to require messy conversations and creative solutions to overcome. We should all think about this issue and make a choice regarding how we are going to work toward a resolution – perhaps mentor a young professional; perhaps you, as a current board member, begin to ask how many hours are the C-suite leaders working and try to move to realistic expectations; and if you are serving on a search committee for one of these positions, a well defined process is an absolute must.

If my post hasn’t convinced you just how passionate we are about this topic, let me add that I include this issue in these upcoming speaking engagements. I’ve included the links to each event so that you can consider attending.

6/19/19 Jax Chamber Professional Women’s Council Luncheon, Walking the Work-Life Balance Tightrope. The first 10 people that forward their ticket receipt to this event will receive a free copy of my book and reimbursement for the ticket.

7/22/19 Women Business Owners Dinner Meeting, Guest Speaker, Insanity or Financial Infrastructure – Your Choice.

10/22/19 Women Who Count National Accounting & Finance Conference, Keynote Speaker, Money Knows No Gender and Neither Should Your Business Value.

Start with Happy Employees – Gain Happy Customers

Danielle Moga, Barker Associates

If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.
– Lewis Carroll

Customer experience (CX) has been a hot topic for the last several years. Companies have invested in teams to analyze data, customer service issues, survey results, and they’ve utilized sophisticated tools such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to understand how likely the customer is to share their experience and promote the company.

Companies have increased their budgets and resources to understand the habits, needs and desires of customers to create the perfect journey and ultimate experience for those they serve but, despite all their efforts, some companies are still falling short, which means lost revenue, customer churn, and retention issues with their employees.

CX is the sum of all interactions. According to a 2018 survey by  Gartner, nearly 90% of businesses compete on customer experience alone. Whether your company is transactional or subscription-based the competition is fierce and if you want to attract, retain and grow your customer base you have to lead with the end in mind and design the ultimate experience.

Happy Employees

Employee Experience EX

The exclusive focus on the customer alone has not resulted in the business outcomes companies desire. Perhaps the focus should be on something a little closer to home…the Employee Experience (EX). After all, without employees you can’t serve customers, so maybe the old adage “customer first” should take a back seat for organizations that truly desire to be transformative in the market place.

Social media and platforms like Glassdoor and Indeed have created complete transparency so that organizations can no longer hide from the real-time employee workplace reviews. In this competitive market, where skilled talent can be scarce, companies cannot ignore the need to make the Employee Experience a priority.

Like CX, EX is the sum of every day to day interaction the employee has from the first contact to last. It’s every touchpoint they have with recruiters, HR, their boss and peers, the software they use, the processes they must follow; each touchpoint is specific and distinctive.

The Employee Experience is a full spectrum of all their experiences and a well-designed EX should empower employees with the tools and know-how to serve customers successfully, provide employees control over their professional growth and development, and create an atmosphere for positive and healthy collaboration in a well-designed workplace. When EX strategy is developed and correctly implemented the end result will be happy employees with a commitment to the company and their job.

According to a 2016 report by Deloitte University Press, organizational culture and employee engagement was a top priority in 2017 and is still a top focus. The report noted that nearly 80% of executives rated employee experience very important or important, yet only 22% felt that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience. Of those same responders, more than half were either not ready or only somewhat ready to address the challenge.

In lieu of a true strategy that focuses on understanding and implementing modern actionable solutions to promote a positive EX, employers are using perks like casual Friday, free ice cream and an occasional “bring your pet to work day” to solve the problem. Companies use these perks in an attempt to build a great culture without any actual thought to what creates a great culture.

Jacob Morgan, the author of The Employee Experience Advantage, analyzed over 252 global organizations to understand the attributes that promote EX and drive employee engagement. The top 3 companies that excel in this area are no surprise: Facebook, Google, and Apple. We’ve all heard about some of the amazing perks these companies offer, but according to Morgan, leadership in these organizations has focused on the bigger picture to yield positive results. They focused in areas that really matter to employees: culture, technology, and physical space.

Culture

Culture is a nebulous word and people define culture in a variety of ways. Morgan describes culture as a side effect of working for an organization. Are your employees frustrated and burnt out? Do they have a voice and an opportunity to present ideas or provide feedback without fear of backlash? Is there role clarity and a clearly defined path for growth? If you’ve heard negative chatter, you likely have a culture problem impacting the EX, which will ultimately impact the engagement level of your employees and your customers.

Technology

Employees should have access to technology that supports their function. Technology should be a help not a hindrance to employees. They should be able to work successfully and with ease with the help of technology, but sadly, many companies have convoluted systems that don’t sync, resulting in errors, rework and duplication, all of which are time-consuming, costly and put not only the employee experience at risk but your company as well. Leaders who fail to stay current with new technology and upgrade the employee experience through exposure to more advanced technology risk losing those employees to companies who do make such investments.

Physical Space

Lastly, a great employee experience is dependent upon the physical space in which employees work. Is your office well lit, clean, free of clutter? Do you participate in initiatives that support a healthy workplace? Are employees situated in an environment that supports their tasks? For instance, if call centers are placed next to employees who must utilize quiet focus to get their job done, then you likely are going to have some unhappy and frustrated employees.

Companies that invest in the development of a focused EX have seen improved results with attracting and retaining skilled employees who are passionate about the company and the brand, and play an active role in the ongoing success of the organization. Employees want and expect to develop their skills as the company grows and adapts to market demands. Maintaining stale, obsolete skills is the ultimate morale killer.

Although developing a focused strategy has not been a priority to organizations, of the 252 global organizations analyzed by Jacob Morgan, only 15 companies, or 6%, have created a winning employee experience; companies that don’t focus their strategy are at risk for both employee and customer churn.

Focusing on long term solutions means taking the time to engage employees to understand their needs, wants and expectations and work to align tactics with developing a winning experience. In the end, you get happy, productive employees who bring tremendous value and drive positive business outcomes.

Are your business outcomes meeting your expectations?

Where is your focus, the CX or the EX?

Have you invested in your Employee Experience or paid it lip service?

Barker Associates will help you review and understand opportunities to enhance your Employee Experience – the work environment, use of technology and company culture. Together we can design and implement employee experience solutions that yield happy employees and positive results. Contact us today at (904) 394-2913 or by email at here.