CFOs have become central in steering business strategy and value creation. But that task is about to get a lot more comprehensive in scale.
The workforce is changing into an ecosystem, consisting of full- and part-time employees, but also includes robots, chatbots, contractors, gig workers, professional service firms, app developers, and even customers. These internal and external elements all contribute to an organization’s value creation and strategic goals, according to the new book, Workforce Ecosystems: Reaching Strategic Goals with People, Partners, and Technologies.
Two of the authors explained their research on Thursday during MIT Sloan Management Review’s (SMR) virtual summit on the future of work. “When Amazon decided it wanted to have its own transportation system, it didn’t hire people,” said Elizabeth J. Altman, coauthor and an associate professor of management in the Manning School of Business at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “It started subcontracting, often with mom and pops. These people add value to Amazon, but don’t work for Amazon.”
She continued, “If you think about YouTube or TikTok, those content creators are contributing to the business in a very meaningful way, and enabling the business to go forward. For many platform businesses that rely on contributions from users, those users absolutely, in my mind, are part of the workforce ecosystem.” However, “the relationship between the company and their customers or contributors is a little more complex than it was when a company was just selling a product to customers,” Altman said.
The years of research culminating in a book included global surveys of more than 10,000 business leaders across industries, and more than 100 executive interviews, with 26% of the businesses surveyed earning more than $1 billion in revenue.
When external contributors are considered to be part of an organization’s workforce, that’s “a nontrivial shift,” said David Kiron, a coauthor and editorial director of MIT SMR. “It’s so nontrivial that three-quarters of managers agree that effectively managing these external folks is critical to their organization’s success,” Kiron said. “It’s especially true for organizations like Cisco and Novartis, and some of these other organizations that have tens of thousands of external contributors getting the work done.”
However, based on their research, just 30% of business leaders agreed that their organization is sufficiently prepared to manage a workforce that relies on all of these external contributors. “Those leaders who are taking this issue seriously consider it to be a holy grail, or a potential strategic differentiator for them to figure this problem out,” Kiron said.
Regarding a workforce ecosystem framework, four vital themes emerged in their research: management practices, technology enablers, integration architectures, and leadership approaches. Senior leaders and business unit leaders have to manage these themes. And the departments—HR, procurement, finance, legal, and IT—closely collaborate in a cross-functional approach for the workforce, internally and externally. There can’t be departmental silos in this approach.
However, a workforce ecosystem comes with challenges like issues of ethics, compliance, and regulatory matters. “The third part of the book is about ethics and social responsibilities and corporate social responsibility,” Altman explained. “We’re very aware that this structure leads to all kinds of questions. Like, who owns the intellectual property, for example. That is an ongoing discussion. There are different mechanisms for working with it. It’s not that it hasn’t been addressed at all, but I think these discussions continue to evolve as workforce ecosystems become more prevalent.”
In a workforce ecosystem, I asked the authors if company strategy and value creation ultimately fall under the purview of the CEO and CFO. “We have realized that these discussions move to the C-suite,” Altman said. “They are strategic conversations because they get to the heart of how organizations compete [in their] industry, how they develop new products and services and move into new markets. So yes, ultimately, we think this is a very cross-functional C-level discussion. But we also see it going down deep into an organization.”
A workforce redefined, for sure.
Enjoy your weekend. See you on Monday.
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The "Nasdaq 2023 ESG & Climate Survey" is based on feedback from executives in North America and Europe. Companies of varying maturity levels report they are leaning in on sustainability initiatives despite an unclear path forward and with regulation looming on the horizon. Forty-five percent of companies have been tackling ESG strategy for fewer than three years, and 9% of companies have been tackling ESG for more than five years. As companies advance in their journey, teams grow and become more integrated into day-to-day operations and decision-making.
When asked how the most senior team member responsible for ESG and sustainability was appointed, 47% of executives said the person voluntarily took on responsibilities on top of their own role. Meanwhile, 39% said the team member migrated internally from other teams, and 14% said the person was hired for the role.
Here are a few Fortune weekend reads:
"A famous hedge fund chief who managed to net record returns as stocks fell in 2022 says investors should look abroad to profit" by Will Daniel
"Frank founder sued by JPMorgan for making up customers is in talks with DOJ over fraud charges" by Luisa Beltran
"Airbnb’s CEO spent 6 months living in his company’s rentals—and found the core problem with his business" by Trey Williams
"7 ways to bounce back after a bad night’s sleep" by Alexa Mikhail
Here's a list of some notable moves this week:
Markus Neubrand was named CFO at Guess?, Inc. (NYSE: GES), effective Aug. 1. Neubrand will succeed interim CFO Dennis Secor. Neubrand currently serves as group CFO of luxury fashion brand MCM Worldwide. Before that, he spent 17 years at Hugo Boss, in roles including managing director of Scandinavia, and group director of financial planning, then COO and CFO.
Teresa Chia was named CFO at Vertafore, an insurance technology company. Before joining Vertafore, Chia was a senior partner and managing director at White Mountains Insurance Group, a publicly traded holding company. She was responsible for White Mountains' direct investing and corporate mergers and acquisitions activity. Before that, Chia was a private equity investor at Permira Advisors, where she focused on investments in the global technology and consumer verticals.
Tim MacCarrick was named CFO at project44, a supply chain visibility platform. MacCarrick has over 25 years of senior executive experience in finance and operations roles. He's held both COO and CFO roles at public and private companies including Qlik, Xerox, DLL, and most recently OutSystems.
Patricia Kaelin was named CFO at Safe & Green Holdings Corp.(Nasdaq: SGBX), a developer, designer, and fabricator of modular structures, effective May 2. Kaelin served as CFO of Buddies Brand, a privately held consumer packaged goods (CPG) company. Before that, she served as CFO of 1933 Industries, Inc., a publicly traded CPG company. Kaelin also served as CFO of business operations at Clifton Larson Allen, a CPA and consulting firm.
Jay Matushak was named CFO at Bright Health Group, Inc. (NYSE: BHG), the technology-enabled health care company, effective May 12. Matushak will succeed Cathy Smith, who is stepping down to pursue another opportunity. Matushak joined Bright Health in 2021. He currently serves as SVP of finance. Matushak also serves as CFO of Bright HealthCare, the company’s insurance business.
Michael Dougherty was named CFO at bioAffinity Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: BIAF; BIAFW), a biotechnology company. Most recently, Dougherty served as CFO of Alexa Business Domains, Amazon’s Alexa AI and Voice division. Before that, Dougherty was chief financial and operating officer of TINT and CFO at Filestack. He also previously served as CFO for Amazon Pay.
David Black was named CFO at Proterra Inc. (Nasdaq: PTRA), a commercial vehicle electrification technology company, effective May 16. Karina Padilla, the current CFO, will step down from her role, effective May 15. Black served as a special advisor to the CEO of BWX Technologies, a supplier of nuclear components and fuel to the U.S. government. Before that, he served as SVP and CFO of BWX Technologies.
"We continue to see our customers return to us for reasons of the product innovation...in areas like refreshers, iced shaken espresso, cold foam, those are difficult to make at home, they give customers a reason to come in."
—Starbucks CFO Rachel Ruggeri told Yahoo Finance.
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