5 Human Capital Strategies CFOs Can Use Now to Start Building Tomorrow’s Workforce

by Robert Half and Protiviti, a Special Edition Newsletter contributor

Many businesses are looking more toward the future, eager to move beyond years of disruption and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The upside of that experience is that it gives chief financial officers (CFOs) and other senior executives a rare opportunity to build on lessons learned and successes earned to create a more dynamic, flexible, resilient and highly skilled workforce for the future.

Building tomorrow’s workforce needs to be a priority, considering that hiring and retention are already significant challenges for most U.S. employers:

  • The national unemployment in the U.S. was 3.7% in August, and the rate for college-degreed workers was just 1.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • Other BLS data shows that 4.2 million workers quit their jobs in July, and 11.2 million jobs were sitting open at the end of that month.
  • Research conducted for Robert Half’s 2022 Benchmarking Report found that staff retention is significant concern for 87% of employers in the United States.

Meanwhile, the latest Executive Perspectives on Top Risks survey conducted by Protiviti and NC State University’s ERM Initiative found that nearly all executives based in North America (97%) are concerned about a potential shortage of qualified workers over the next 10 years.

So, how can CFOs and other business leaders help their companies gain an edge in hiring and retention today, while also shaping the workforce of the future? These five human capital strategies can help:

1. Embrace and continue to reimagine the new role of the office

Many companies are still struggling to decide what return-to-work strategy to adopt for the long term — in-office, hybrid or remote? What’s becoming clear is that the latter two approaches are winning, in part because they can have a significant impact on an employer’s ability to attract and keep valued talent.

In a Robert Half survey, 50% of employees currently working remotely said they’d look for another job if they were required to return to the office full time. And 70% of business leaders globally expect their companies will be embracing a hybrid working model in 2032, according to a recent University of Oxford and Protiviti survey.

At the very least, flexible work schedules are likely to become the norm in most organizations. That means companies need to reimagine the role of the office — and take actions to help foster a cohesive, inclusive corporate culture across a dispersed workforce. That includes deploying highly configurable office real estate assets and conducting creative, compelling activities that promote team building, employee connection, innovation and more.

2. Amplify upskilling and retention efforts

Most employers still view upskilling and retention as separate efforts, but today, they’re intertwined. Companies should therefore develop thoughtful upskilling strategies to prepare their next generation of leaders and hold onto to high-performing and high-potential talent that wants to learn continuously — and also clearly visualize their future in the organization.

Upskilling efforts should be future-forward. Employers need to invest in their employees and help them become proficient in rapidly evolving and emerging areas that are driving business objectives like automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and even quantum computing. Businesses that don’t take this approach to upskilling risk losing their best workers to competitors that do.

3. Invest in a standout employee experience

More than ever, the employee experience is a competitive differentiator for employers. Leading companies strive to make that experience similar to a great customer experience, with a focus on engaging workers and making them feel valued. They also take steps to ensure their remote team members feel supported and satisfied.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a compelling employee experience — and the work is never finished. Companies must consider the needs and expectations of different generational segments and subsegments in their workforce, which are always evolving (along with the makeup of their workforce).

One thing is certain, though: Today’s employers must have a thoughtful strategy for promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), as this issue matters a great deal to many workers today. And supporting employee resource groups and other initiatives that celebrate diversity, promote inclusion and help raise employees’ visibility and voice, is increasingly vital to creating a standout employee experience.

4. Adopt and promote a new mindset about the contingent workforce

Even before the pandemic, many companies were starting to expand their use of the contingent workforce to access specialized skills and drive critical projects forward. Now, it’s become an ongoing strategy for businesses looking to develop new capabilities and increase their future fitness.

Many employers are now taking the extra, critical step to promote contingent workers and related solutions as part of their organizational culture. They’re communicating to their core team members how this staffing strategy helps to support them and furthers the company’s efforts to create a more flexible, dynamic workplace of the future

5. Empower direct managers to help strengthen the fabric of the company’s culture

Companies that want to succeed at building the workforce of tomorrow should lean more on and develop their director managers (those who oversee other employees and operations of a business). These managers can act as organizational ambassadors and stewards of the company’s culture on a day-to-day basis.

In other words, direct managers can be full-on rock stars who inspire and motivate others in the organization. Senior leadership should help ensure that these managers have the tools and support they need to assume the rock star role successfully. They also need to confirm that direct managers’ actions align with a positive, collaborative tone that’s set at the top if the organization.

Make it a collaborative effort

CFOs are uniquely positioned to help their organizations build tomorrow’s workforce. Applying the five human capital strategies outlined above can be a starting point.

CFOs should engage with the CEO, other C-suite members, including chief people officers, and the board of directors to confirm everyone is on the same page with the company’s human capital objectives and measuring progress toward those goals.

Other articles from this Special Edition Newsletter

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