The Management Series

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Nov 2017

Workplace Culture Key to Healthy Bottom Line

The corporate organization chart in our heads is pretty clear: financial issues and decisions go to the chief financial officer; workforce concerns and policies go to HR.

But corporate culture and employee engagement drive financial results and should be a crucial element of a CFO’s thinking and agenda, argues Robynne Sisco, CFO at the Silicon Valley technology company Workday, in the CNBC article “CFO Memo: If Your Employees Aren’t Happy, Your Shareholders Won’t Be, Either.”

Sisco points to a variety of research that shows a happy and engaged workforce leads to happier customers and happier shareholders.

“Companies with a highly engaged workforce—which is likely to include employees who feel a sense of belonging, ownership and accountability—outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share, according to Gallup,” she writes.

Why can’t HR and other departments be responsible for creating such a culture of engagement, as they have been traditionally?

CFOs constantly make decisions that affect “the quality of facilities and workplaces and the appeal of employee programs, benefits and training opportunities. These investments can positively or negatively impact culture and play a big role in whether employees feel valued by the company,” Sisco says. “…As such, the investment decisions we make will have long-lasting and deep ramifications to culture and, thus, to company performance.”

The CFO has a unique perch for seeing and understanding the interplay between financial decisions and such things as employee retention and customer interaction.

“We can access data to identify where and when we need to make changes to positively impact our employees’ experience,” she writes. “Companies win business by being proactive with customers, by anticipating their needs. The same attention to detail is invaluable when addressing how best to retain and motivate one’s own employees.”

While CFOs clearly have a huge role to play in creating policies intended to nurture a positive corporate culture, the execution of those policies is up to individual managers up and down the corporate ladder.

The Indian magazine BW Businessworld explored how to develop leaders who contribute to a culture of employee engagement in an interview with Randy Slechta, the head of Leadership Management International.

“Engagement is predominantly created and driven by an employee’s immediate leader. It is this relationship that is the number one factor in engagement levels,” Slechta says. “…So it is critical that effective leadership practices are implemented through the entire organization, not just at the executive level.”

He warns there are no specific courses or interventions that will magically produce top-notch managers. Bosses should understand that leaders mature over time as they take on more responsibilities—first for themselves and then for others.

Slechta says Leadership Management International has identified four stages of development corporate leaders must identify to know when and how to best promote managers.

  • Personal productivity—learning to manage yourself, your time and your priorities
  •  Personal leadership—developing character personal values and work/life balance
  • Motivational leadership—the ability to lead others through motivation, engagement and coaching
  • Strategic leadership—the ability to lead an organization

“It is like maturing as a person; you can’t skip a step,” he told BW. “What we have done is develop specific leadership development programs around these stages so that we can enable leaders to master and progress though the four stages.”

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