Reimagining the Workforce: Collaborative Strategies for HR and Finance

The modern workforce is challenging the status quo like never before - and it’s about time your business did the same.

With new skills and non-traditional approaches to a career in finance, the modern workforce is challenging the status quo like never before - and it’s about time your business did the same.

Kate Vacovec (CFO at Pizza Hut UK), Lee Taylor (CFO at OnlyFans) and Melissa Dreuth (Chief of Staff and Chief People Officer at Planful) unpack what today’s workforce really wants out of their employers, and why it’s never been more important for finance to team up with HR to lock in future talent for the digital finance age.

Recruiting for the future of finance

In recent years, digital transformation in finance has exposed the urgent need for HR and finance to join forces, tackling the recruitment and retention crisis once and for all.

But how to bridge the gap when the two have typically operated worlds apart?

“The stereotype used to be that finance was driven by numbers and only cared about hitting a hiring target, while HR was soft and touchy-feely, '' says Melissa. “They were always in conflict! Nowadays, the world has changed and there needs to be a true partnership between the two.”

At Pizza Hut UK, that looks like putting heads together to align exactly on what you’re looking for when it comes to new recruits, according to Kate:

“Smart, heart, and courage! That’s the framework we use to assess new talent and it came from in-depth collaboration with HR."

"I love it because it reflects the workforce we need to be building for the future of finance: smart as in delivering great results; heart as in having great leaders and culture advocates; courage as in innovating and taking the risks required.”

At Planful, finding common ground between the recruitment needs of the digital finance function and HR has been key to strengthening a partnership that works for both sides, says Melissa:

“We’re both equally focused on finding people with a growth mindset. It’s not just a cliché, it’s crucial that people are able to own their mistakes from the past and demonstrate future fixes. In today’s modern finance world you need that natural curiosity and resilience.”

The sooner today’s CFOs accept they might need a helping hand from HR to future-proof their teams, the better, according to Lee:

“Let’s be honest: finance leaders have many skills, but creating a framework for identifying talent was never something we were taught. But now we’re spending the majority of our days leading teams and empowering them to grow. It’s essential to tackle that knowledge gap in ourselves if we want to progress.”

Meeting the demands of the modern finance workforce

So you’ve got your wishlist of skills and attributes you’re looking for in a new recruit.

But what exactly do candidates want for themselves?

“More transparency and accessibility to company leaders,” according to Melissa. “They want to know why every decision is being made, and they want to communicate with senior leaders much more easily. By contrast, I would never dream of calling my CFO when I first started out!”

And if you’re thinking of trotting out the same old company perks to entice new talent, think again, says Melissa:

“They don’t care about free lunches in the office, they want to know how you’re going to look after their mental health."

"Nowadays, it’s about taking care of the whole employee, not just the nine-to-five employee.”

If that sounds a like a much bigger (and more daunting) task, Kate suggests a shift in perspective:

“Rather than seeing it as a burden of responsibility, it’s exciting to think about how we shape the future of finance for young talent. It’s not just about helping them climb the ladder, it’s about building a longer-term fulfilling career.”

But getting the answers to what employees want is far from an exact science, says Lee:

“I proposed a big internal survey to ascertain what our staff really want out of their jobs. But a colleague told me doing that is a bit like asking your kids what they want for dinner - they’re just going to say ice cream every day! The point is, employees don’t always know what they want or need. Being informed by employee feedback but making the executive decisions works best.”

After all, you can’t keep everyone happy and trying to do so is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for failure, according to Melissa:

“I always tell my team to focus on the intention behind why you’re doing things, and the benefit you’re providing to those who will see value in what you’re doing, not on the people who won’t.”

All of this begs the question, how important is it to meet the modern workforce where they’re at, and is it ever a good idea to push back?

For Kate, nowhere has this come to a head more than negotiating the growing demand for remote working:

“If the way we’ve set up our hybrid working pattern is integral to success within the finance function, and someone isn’t happy about that, then sometimes what I call radical-candour-with-care is required: it just might not be the right fit for them. We can then work with that individual to find them a role that’s better. It’s crucial to set clear limits and expectations.” 

Generational divides within the finance function

Against the backdrop of recent political, social and economic upheaval (to put it mildly), is it any wonder today’s candidates have wildly different wants and needs compared to those before them?

“You cannot underestimate the effect of the last few years on people,'' says Melissa. “Everyone is more protective of their mental health and of their time.”

Not only that, it’s a reality that’s inextricably linked to generational divides that employers are increasingly having to contend with:

“Some generations are more risk averse because they've lived through trying times - global recession, a pandemic, multiple wars,” says Melissa. “Part of it is generational, and part of it is everyone adjusting their mindset after the challenging times we’ve all gone through.”

But how much stock should we put into the notion of Gen Z as an alien species, completely at odds with boomers in the workplace? Well, potentially less than we’re being told to do, according to Lee:

“I’m not convinced by some of these sweeping categorisations about generational divides. Even the phrase “Gen Z” has become a buzzword to me! At OnlyFans we’ve got a lot of fantastic, hard-working young people in our digital finance department who definitely have a growth mindset. But equally, there will always be others who don’t, regardless of which generation they’re from.”

While no generation is a monolith, one thing is for sure: all roads are leading to a digital age for finance, and the right skills are needed whatever your background, says Kate:

“Ultimately, I believe at least 80% of tomorrow's jobs are going to be different to what they are today."

That means we have to constantly reflect on what skill sets we’re going to need for the future of finance. In that sense, it’s on employees and employers alike to adapt.”

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Christopher Argent, Founder, GENCFO

Chris is the founder and MD of and creator of the Digital Finance Function Model and a contributor to many articles on our platform. Chris focuses on the shift toward digital transformation in accounting and finance, shows you what good looks like, then helps to get you there!

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