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A New Role for the CFO: Preserving Trust in a Climate of Rapid Change
Trust is a vital element in business. If companies do not nurture and build trust, they will face difficulties in engaging their staff, and attracting and retaining key talent.
Analytics gained from digitalisation allow businesses to have more visibility in terms of accuracy, performance and ultimately control – thereby influencing trust.
In finding out which industry was regarded as the most trustworthy, Edelman’s Trust Barometer surveyed a range of over 33,000 people from the general population. The results placed technology as one of the most trustworthy, above industries such as pharmaceuticals, automotive and telecommunications.
The CFO – champion of innovation
The Finance function has gone through radical technological transformation. The expansion of more fluid automation has led to the shortening and streamlining of time-consuming manual processes, including internal audits, archiving and bookkeeping. This automation has led to a greater ability to discover and notice patterns in data and identify emerging trends, ultimately optimising the workforce and improving efficiency.
Since change is inevitable, it is imperative that CFOs fully prepare for change. They must build trust within their team and across the wider workforce by displaying true leadership, and clearly communicating the vision of their department, what that will entail for the business and what the impact will be on teams.
Honesty about the current state of affairs and clarity on the vision will help to facilitate change. Involving employees in the process, keeping them posted on progress and celebrating success will not only help engender trust but better prepare them for the new future, improving the chances of their becoming engaged advocates.
Honesty about the current state of affairs and clarity on the vision will help to facilitate change.
The need to steer and change the mindset
As reported in our CFO & Financial Leadership Barometer, CFOs are perceived as the change leaders who implement these new systems and help to drive the industry and company forward. They now have the added pressure of maintaining and improving trust levels internally and externally. This is taking place at a time when IT has bigger implications regarding legal risks, HR topics are becoming more complex and there is the growing use of technology in business.
More often than not it is the process that employees tend to have difficulty adopting, not the technology or system itself. Ensuring that processes are set up as efficiently as possible to minimise disruption will contribute to wider adoption and faith in the change.
The importance of the ‘human touch’
Innovation usually impacts the human side of any business. Amid the changes brought by automation, HR has a role to play in retention, in conjunction with the CFO. They will have to develop programmes together in order to foster and maintain levels of trust.
When talking about the optimisation and adoption of new processes to transform finance at PageGroup’s Shared Services Centre in Barcelona, Finance Director Geoffroy de Beaucorps, said, “Technology is an enabler. It is what people do with the technology that counts”, before going on to give an example: “The actual word ‘process’ sounds like a machine. In essence, it is all about the people.”
Finance today needs an ‘ecosystem’ of employees with the right skills, systems that support higher levels of automation, and processes to achieve effective overall control.
In order to instil trust, CFOs and HR leaders must reassure their workforce that some new roles will emerge. It is important that CFOs assess their employees to see who can adapt to change and embrace new opportunities. A mapping of employees that have real potential to grow will help develop digital transformation effectively and boost engagement. Essentially, what technology will do is help the workforce become more efficient as a whole and support employees in becoming smarter in their roles.
CFOs must deliver on the promise of technology, taking into account the critical human factors. High technology also requires high touch – a level of human interaction.
While automation will signify the end of some process-related jobs, it demands new skills as disruptive technologies arise.
People will be needed to implement, maintain and manage these new automated processes. To sustain levels of trust, CFOs will have to continually engage with employees and offer talent development to upskill their workforce.
- CFOs have become champions of innovation and leaders of change and their sense of people management is increasingly important
- When enacting change, CFOs have responsibility for influencing their employees’ mindset to win the wholehearted trust of their workforce
- CFOs need to be transparent about the vision of their function to inspire trust within the business as a whole