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Your tech strategy should be a ‘people strategy’

January 25, 2022, 11:35 AM UTC

Good morning,

As the talent war rages on, finance leaders are relying on tech to attract high performers. And in turn, tech-savvy candidates could have an advantage over those with a purely financial background.

Workday’s latest global survey of 260 finance chiefs found 99% agreed that tech updates will be essential for attracting and retaining employees. And about 57% of CFOs are searching for new hires with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning skills (ML) skills. I sat down with Philippa Lawrence, chief accounting officer and VP at Workday (a Fortune partner and sponsor of CFO Daily), who shared insight on the findings.

“For me, it’s almost like my technology strategy is a people strategy,” Lawrence explains. “I’m trying to get really good people in the door, and finance [professionals] want to work for companies that are going to enable their career growth as well and see into the future.” As Workday’s products include AI and ML, Lawrence does like job candidates for her team to have a general knowledge of the technologies, she says. 

The research found that 40% of CFOs are now prioritizing analytics and data storytelling skills in new hires to help support the use of real-time reporting and analysis. “AI and machine learning are automating the manual transactions,” Lawrence says. “All of that leads to the empowerment of the finance professional to really roll up their sleeves and do what they were trained to do—the fun stuff.” That includes “doing really deep analytics of numbers and looking for anomalies, and then being able to take that and serve it to the business and add value,” she says.

But CFOs aren’t just seeking to hire tech talent for finance, they want to create opportunities for current employees to meet new challenges. About 71% of respondents said they plan on upskilling workers to close the gap on any new functions or capabilities. “Just as a finance professional, personally, I know I’ve got to keep up on my game because things are changing,” Lawrence says. “Maybe for the first time in 30 years, [technology] is changing at such a speed that is incredibly exciting.”

Along with focus on talent and tech, Workday’s survey found that 57% of all CFOs surveyed are prioritizing investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion and ESG. DEI and ESG reporting requires the processing of both internal and external data that a cloud platform could help facilitate, the report found (for example, keeping up with new expectations around pending SEC reporting requirements for carbon emissions and greenhouse gases). And finance teams will require new skills to keep up with compliance.

“There’s never been a better time to be in finance,” Lawrence says. “As long as you go with it, and have an open mindset, your career [can be] on the fast lane of growth right now.”



See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

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Join us for our CFO Collaborative event, Finance as a Driver of Transformation, in partnership with Workday, on Wednesday, January 26, from 3-4 p.m. ET. The program will feature two interviews—one with Jeff Jones, president and CEO, H&R Block, and another with Amy Feirn, Deputy CEO, partnerships and offerings, Deloitte Consulting LLP—as well as small group discussions. We’ll explore how to deal with macroeconomic shifts from digital transformation and record M&As to the war for talent and increased focus on ESG demands from stakeholders. We’ll also delve into how finance is key to support your organization’s transformation across the board. CFOs, you can register here.

Big deal

PwC's 25th Annual Global CEO Survey found optimism about continued economic resilience. More than half of the CEOs reported high levels of confidence about their own prospects for revenue growth over the next 12 months, according to the report. But when it comes to threats to revenue growth, 49% pointed to cyber risks. The findings are based on a survey of 4,446 CEOs from 89 countries and territories.

From the PwC 25th Annual Global CEO Survey

Going deeper

New research by Qualtrics (Nasdaq: XM) found 71% of U.S. workers surveyed said they don’t think COVID-19 is ever going away. Meanwhile, when it comes to making permanent office-return policies, 39% said they wish their employers would stop waiting for a "return to normal." Just like employees, employers are also uncertain about the proliferation of coronavirus variants, Qualtrics’ Head of Employee Experience Advisory Services, Benjamin Granger, Ph.D., told me. So, a higher frequency of communication is key in this situation, Granger says. “Step one to reducing uncertainty is to acknowledge it,” Granger says. “Second, transparency with employees—here is what we are considering, and here is direct access to the information we are tracking.” For example, an employer could be making decisions based on OSHA guidelines, he says. “And the third step is listening to employees by having an open dialogue, back and forth,” Granger says. The research also found that 47% of employees said they would consider leaving their current employer if a vaccine mandate was enforced. “Meet employees where they are,” Granger says. "Acknowledge that there's going to be different groups of employees who feel very differently." The report findings are based on a survey of 1,021 employed adults in the U.S.

Leaderboard

Salman Khan was named Interim CFO at Verb Technology Company, Inc. (Nasdaq: VERB), effective immediately. Khan joined VERB in May 2021 as EVP of corporate development and strategic planning. Most recently, Khan held various leadership roles at NYSE-listed companies Occidental Petroleum Corporation and its spin-off California Resources Corporation. During his time at OXY and CRC, he served as a business division CFO. Previously, Khan spent eight years in audit and advisory services at Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Arthur Andersen.

Andre Maciel was named EVP and global CFO at The Kraft Heinz Company (Nasdaq: KHC), effective March 2. Maciel will succeed Paulo Basilio, who will step down on March 1, as part of a planned transition and will remain with the company as a strategic advisor through August 2022. Maciel has been with Kraft Heinz since 2013 and has held several leadership roles, including VP of global financial planning and analysis for the H.J. Heinz Company. He was also managing director of Continental Europe responsible for the Kraft Heinz business in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland, and his current position of SVP, U.S. CFO and head of digital transformation.

Overheard

“We have been monitoring PMIs and earnings revisions breadth for signs the slowdown is bottoming, but it has quite a bit further to go, in our view, and equity markets are not yet priced for it. It’s too early to get bullish.”

—Morgan Stanley strategists wrote in a note concerns about a slowing economy being poised to take over and the effect on the stock market, as reported by Fortune.

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