Workforce Management Now: 3 CFOs Reveal Strategies for Employee Turnover, Cash Flow, and More

Suzy Strutner, Marketing Specialist

October 24, 2022

We’ll skip the “unprecedented times” introduction: CFOs needn’t be reminded that they face tons of challenges that didn’t exist three months ago, let alone three years ago. 

CFOs do, however, need a bigger window into their peers’ experiences with and plans for this economy. So, NetSuite gathered three CFOs from varied industries into a panel discussion.

They talked through some of their top issues at the moment:

  • Employee turnover;
  • Hiring amid a talent shortage, when some competitors offer sky-high salaries they can’t match;
  • The current state of the economy;
  • The potential of a worsened economy — and the degree of uncertainty around that potential; and
  • Lack of cash flow and how all of these play into workforce management.

We should note that these CFOs’ companies are doing well; the issues above haven’t derailed them like they have so many other businesses. But, like most leaders, the CFOs we spoke with have overcome some major obstacles in order to continue thriving. Read their stories below, and hear NetSuite experts describe new functionality that will keep successes like these coming:

How CFOs Are Coping With and Preventing Employee Turnover

Glenn Hopper is CFO of Sandline Global, a legal technology company specializing in e-discovery, forensics, and legal tech products. Sandline offered across-the-board raises at the beginning of the year in anticipation of the turnover many companies have seen in recent months, Hopper said. Those proactive raises, plus a “company philosophy of taking care of employees,” mean Sandline has minimized turnover and helped employees weather the economic turmoil.

CFO Chris Caprio’s tactics of choice may be helpful to leaders who can’t offer broad raises: a career development program and promotions from within

“We can keep some people away from other jobs if we’re truly offering them a career path,” said Caprio of his multifaceted IT firm, Focus Technology. So, “we’re doing a lot of promotions from within. Employees are starting to manage, and managers are starting to lead.”

The strategy is most effective in preventing employee turnover(opens in new tab) when competitors are offering salary bumps of 15% or less, he noted. That makes things tricky in the current climate, where some competitors have hired his employees away for up to 40% more than their current salaries.

Handling a Talent Shortage While Competitors Offer High Salaries

Melissa Hurrington can relate to the salary wars. Her firm, Premier Claims, is based in Nebraska. A few months ago, larger companies nationwide started poaching her employees with the idea that, since a lot of people work remotely, they can pick up Midwest employees affordably. 

Then came the large-company layoffs. As workforce reductions made headlines over the past few months, Hurrington’s relatively small firm communicated job security. The business leaned into a message of, “‘I’ve got you. I'm loyal to you. I'm invested in you and your success.”

“And if we can help it, we'll never do a layoff ­— we don't have the strategy of bringing on a bunch of people and then just sloughing them off,’” she said. The messaging has “grown a lot of loyalty for us.”

 Though some may regard it as a “soft” tactic, maintaining a mission-focused culture among tight-knit teams can also wield power in the talent wars. Premier Claims has seen two boomerang employees who, after leaving the company for higher salaries, “came right back — either at their salary from before or a small increase,” Hurrington said. “It’s been refreshing to see people come back and say ‘I really do think we have something special going on here.’”

The CFOs on this panel aren’t alone in their talent concerns: The labor shortage also ranked highly in a recent NetSuite survey(opens in new tab) of execs.

Automation as a Solve for Talent Issues

As of late, Premier Claims has slowed down a bit on hiring. It’s allocating expenses to technology and the efficiency of the employees it does have, which Hurrington said can also drive retention by offloading repetitive, manual work.

“If the company can do more with less, then your salaries will [increase on] track with that,” she said.

 The business recently implemented NetSuite ERP(opens in new tab) as part of its automation initiative. To determine where the system can deliver value now, Hurrington is asking employees to nominate tasks that are ripe for automation, in exchange for a cash bonus

“There’s always a line out my door with ideas of what we can do smarter and more efficiently, so we can continue growing with the staff we have in place,” she said.

Her approach mirrors the findings of a recent NetSuite survey, in which finance execs ranked “improving worker efficiency” as their No. 1 way to address the talent shortage. In that same survey, 80% of leaders said they’ve already automated functions in areas spanning accounting to ecommerce or will do so in the next six months.

Leaders reported especially high adoption of accounting and other back-office automation in a recent NetSuite survey(opens in new tab).

 One specific automation paid off big for Caprio’s company. At the pandemic’s start, the team built the processes needed to finally stop paying vendors with checks, using a third-party tool integrated with NetSuite. Now, it’s pursuing ways to encourage customers to pay online via credit card or ACH, so the team won’t have to process customer checks manually.

Increasing Cash Flow and Planning for Potential Shortages

Sandline is also tweaking its accounts receivable practices, but with the specific goal of increasing cash flow. The company recently started offering shorter payment terms with a discount incentive in one of its divisions: Instead of net 30 — which Hopper says larger clients often try to stretch — clients can choose net 10 and a 2% discount.

 Meanwhile, Premier Claims faces a different cash flow issue: As a public adjusting firm, its business model relies on insurance carriers with healthy cash flow. But when carriers invest premiums and those investments go south, it raises concerns. As CFO, Hurrington responds with thorough scenario planning(opens in new tab).  

 “With so many unknowns, it feels like I project 47 different situations,” she said. “For us, being smart with cash looks like projecting and re-projecting, looking at every scenario to make sure that no matter what, I have enough runway to take care of everything.”

 Caprio is taking a similar approach. Amid employee questions about the company’s plan to deal with economic issues like inflation, he’s been meeting with other departments to earmark “areas in which, if things got bad, we could save costs before we get to people. Because the last thing we want to do is cut our people.”

 The economy may not in fact get worse, Caprio said. Some foresee further damage next year or the year after that. In any case, he has some strong words for those who scoff at planning.

“You might say, ‘I don't know if there's going to be a bigger economic downturn,.’” he said. “Well then, from a scenario planning perspective, just assume it.”

Hear more about how leaders are approaching economic challenges in this business guide(opens in new tab).


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