For CFOs, investing in culture—as a way to reflect the importance of talent—requires creativity and courage, Sweet said. “CFOs have to bring balance, but they often do have to give the organization the courage and the nudge to do things differently,” she added. “And that definitely has an economic component.”
ESG considerations have grown over the past few years, at perhaps a greater clip during the pandemic.
ESG efforts are one way to drive business in a manner that’s more attractive to a range of stakeholders. “That’s not just about investors,” she said. “That’s about talent. That’s about our partners who want it.”
McClure pointed to a recent Accenture survey in which 68% of respondents said CFOs are going to lead ESG efforts, and she added that data integrity will be at the heart of the structure and governance necessary for such efforts to succeed. McClure also credited single global instances of cloud providers, including Workday, for the data integrity those efforts require.
Walking the Walk
“People want to really know that the company they work for has a mission they connect with, has values they connect with—things like social justice,” said Robynne Sisco, co-president and CFO of Workday. “ESG matters more to employees now than it did 10 years ago.”
Sisco sees a commitment to culture as a driving factor in recruiting and retaining top talent—if it’s genuine. “Really living those values all the way up to the top and through the organization is super, super important,” she said. “If you do a good job of that, then it will really help you through changing times like what we’re going through today.”
For Scott Herren, executive vice president and CFO of Cisco, the future of work isn’t a hypothetical thought exercise. It’s unfolding now. While Cisco had already embraced a hybrid approach to work, the pandemic prompted executives to provide evidence that successful career paths were still possible for employees living outside its San Jose, California, headquarters. To ensure the message was clear, Herren volunteered to move to Atlanta.
“Work has changed, and it’s not changing back to how it was before,” Herren said, even as he appreciates the in-person experience. “I do look forward to the day when I can come in [the office], and there’s other people in here again.”
A Matter of Trust
As employees shift to a hybrid work experience, strong communication from the top is imperative, Sisco said.
“When you go through such a significant change, communication is key,” Sisco said. “A lot of what you’re asking your employees to do is trust you: ‘Trust us that we’re going to do the right thing. Trust us we’re going to listen to your feedback and adjust as necessary.’ Having built that trust with your employees through your strong culture over time is what’s going to get you through these challenging times.”
The other crucial component is ensuring there’s a two-way exchange, or feedback loop, Sisco said, adding that Workday recently acquired Peakon, creators of the listening platform Workday Peakon Employee Voice. “That’s really allowed us to understand the sentiment across our employee base, how they’re feeling about certain things, which has become, as all of you know, more difficult since the pandemic, because you don’t have the hallway conversations and the informal chats,” she said.
Herren agreed: “Really understanding your current employee sentiment, not just a once-a-quarter survey, I think will become more and more important to all of us.”
Herren added that collaboration technology will continue to evolve, much like the evolution of motion pictures. “Scroll forward 100 years later to how movies are now, and it’s a complete immersive experience,” he said.
Investing in Employees
When imagining the future of work, Tracey Doi, group vice president and CFO at Toyota Motor North America, said the demand for talent will only increase.