TRENDS SHAPING THE MARKETPLACE
2018 GUIDE TO THE OFFICE OF THE CFO
The following seven trends facing CFOs today reinforce the need for managers of all levels to stay current with the rapidly changing business environment.
The first commentary, Job Growth & Industry Trends, tackles an increasing incidence of structural unemployment in many (not just tech) fields. Workers will often have to face the need to reinvent and re-educate themselves to match the workplace skillsets required.
The second trend, How to Retain Top Talent, discusses the type of enhanced work experience that employees want and expect. Smart employers know this and can rely on digital and mobile apps to deliver the best work experience for the highest retention.
Third is The Value of Mentorship. Data show that companies that attract and retain higher caliber people have formal mentoring programs.
The fourth trend addresses the question, Is Working from Home Productive? IBM and Yahoo say no. However, by leveraging technology effectively, the lack of connection on both ends can be improved.
Fifth, When Is Lean Too Lean? provides an analysis of the pros and cons of running a lean organization. Working with fewer resources becomes management’s challenge for survival and also for growth. Staffing correctly comes from knowing the company’s goals and vision as well as making sure every decision is in alignment.
The sixth trend finds organizations restructuring their accounting systems to comply with the ASC 606 standards.
In the seventh topic we see that Mergers & Acquisition pressure is on the rise, stemming from a lower cost of capital and a desire to shortcut the build cycle. Yet other forces make M&A difficult. M&As often fail due to regulatory interventions and become even more tricky in the global amphitheater.
According to the June 20171 quarterly Duke/CFO Global Business Outlook, the Optimism index fell slightly to 67 (on a 100-point scale) from the previous quarter ended March 2017. (See graph below.) This long-lived survey of 750 CFOs has been conducted for 85 consecutive quarters and spans the globe. The consensus indicates an uncertainty about regulatory policy and healthcare costs that are causing Chief Financial Officers in the U.S. to hold off on investment plans. How is this affecting the job market? Not as much as one would think. Some industries are even expecting growth in job opportunities that would cause students to reconsider their major.
Duke/CFO Global Business Outlook, June 2017
Demand for experienced workers has increased since 2016. Highly trained technology personnel are among the hardest to attract and keep. Contrary to what many people think, the New York Daily News noted that the hottest jobs for the Class of 2018 might be in fields outside of technology2 . The article cites areas such as healthcare, research, and sales and marketing. This trend is supported by the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Report3 .
With many people in the workforce being lured away from technology jobs, CFOs who are in the market for technology workers to fulfill the company’s objectives have their work cut out for them. In conjunction with HR, they must continually monitor labor pool shifts to plan for and guard against talent deficits
Recent statistics show that the biggest percent change between 2014 and 2024 is projected to be in the field of Home Health Aides. While the Home Health Aide salary is low, the related registered nurse category enjoys one of the highest median annual wage figures and the group shows one of the higher percentage growth rates. Computer Systems Analysts and Software Developers come in very high in percentage growth and median annual wage amounts. Accountants and Auditors’ wages look relatively healthy and the 10-year growth rate is a respectable 10.7%.
Big data is the big ticket. The BLS article “Labor Markets in 2040: Big Data Could Be a Big Deal for Jobseekers,” foretells a future in which big data is being used not only to build a “learning healthcare system, but also to improve business sales and marketing, education delivery, national security, and law enforcement. It is even being used to improve traffic congestion, emergency response, and energy efficiency.” The article also delves into big data’s negative ramifications by touching on the offsetting risks, such as “privacy, confidentiality and security concerns.”4 Nonetheless, big data offers a good future.
The more business conditions change, the more people will need to change to survive. While the U.S. economy is forecasted to add more than 7 million jobs over the next five years5 , many Americans will be struggling to find their niche. The displacement of retail workers by online distributor Amazon forces job seekers at the lower pay levels to reassess their opportunities. Those at the higher end suffer possible replacement by Artificial Intelligence. Those in the middle ($13.84- $21.13 per hour or about $29,000 to $44,000 annually) will need to pay close attention to trends and statistics. The economy has either pushed this sector into unemployment or into low-skill minimum-wage jobs.6
Jobs are increasing in some sectors while shrinking or disappearing altogether in others. At the jobs level, technology offers opportunity in big data-related jobs, while health-related (non-technology) positions at many income levels are growing at surprising rates. In spite of this trend, incomes are at risk. To protect earnings, workers will often have to face the need to ‘re-tool’—to reinvent and re-educate themselves to match the workplace skillsets required. Businesses may find themselves unable to hire trained workers as structural unemployment (mismatch between the skills that workers offer and skills demanded) caused by technological change reduces their ability to compete.
The answer: Companies and people “on the edge” of technology need to stay alert to the next form of innovation and find a way to learn it if they can. Online universities, night school, and trade schools are good options for those who want to be prepared for the future.
1https://economicgreenfield.blogspot.com/search/label/CFO and CEO Confidence
Mentorship programs—the personal relationship that evolves between two individuals to guide and develop less experienced individuals on their quest for greater knowledge and skills—can be formal or informal. Companies that sponsor formal mentor programs often report lower turnover stemming from a better overall working experience for the “mentoree.” Equally important, mentors find the teaching role to be satisfying, both personally and professionally. Formal mentoring programs come in many forms—both face-to-face and via digital engagement. And while well-structured programs are effective, the best results come from formal systems backed by a spirit of informal mentoring woven into a company’s fiber and culture.
A 2016 Deloitte Millennial survey (showing views of 7,700 Millennials representing 29 countries around the globe) explores the factors that underlie loyalty challenges for companies today. That report indicates “…Of great significance in the current survey results is the finding that 71 percent of those likely to leave in the next two years are unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed—fully 17 points higher than among those intending to stay beyond 2020…”13
A recent (January 2017) Forbes article14 states, “Having a great mentor is a key factor to improving employee engagement among Millennials. Millennials planning to stay with their employer for more than five years are “twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%).” The article continues, “Eighty-one percent of them are happy with their mentor. However, among Millennials planning to leave their employer within two years, only 61% were happy with the mentoring they received.” This is significant, since 75% of the workforce will be composed of Millennials by the year 2020. To that end, the cross-generational workforce of today may find mature workers benefitting from a younger mentor-coach, males from females and vice versa.
Having a productive and stable workforce is vital to most organizations. When coupled with increased employee productivity, better recruiting and upward mobility opportunities, the prestige as an employer grows as well. Mentoring plays a role in this process. Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends report found that 85% of executives surveyed15 rated engagement (understanding more fully what the talent they employ expects and values) as an important or very important priority for their business.
Recognizing mentoring as a key management skill, the American Management Association identifies the steps involved in starting a mentoring program.16
To implement these phases, many companies are using mentoring software such as digital programs to enhance and encourage mentoring in the workplace. While the digital versions cannot replace face-to-face mentoring, the inclusion of a ‘distance’ mentoring program can enhance and bridge the gap between personal sessions, and reinforce continuity and consistency in mentoring.17
Whether personal or digital, a mentoring program should start with some agreement; a formal buy-in for both the mentor and mentoree.18 The Mentor Agreement sets forth the objectives to which both partners agree. Taking each objective individually, the mentor would discuss with the individual to be mentored how they will work together on achieving an objective. Here’s an illustration: • Objective #1: Learn all the names of the executives in the organization. Learn their functions and who reports to them. [Note: this might be especially important if the individual wants to move up the ladder.] a. List the specific assistance the mentor will provide to achieve this objective. b. Detail what the mentoree is expected to do in order to achieve this objective. c. Note what other resources may be available to assist the mentoree in this area (training programs, resource materials, other individuals). d. Set a deadline for accomplishing this objective. e. Understand how the company will measure the mentoree’s success in achieving this objective. For each of the next objectives, the mentors and mentorees create a separate and similar listing.
A digital mentoring program can enhance human interaction. It cannot replace it. Any mentoring program should be able to be customized for the many functions in complex business organizations and be applied across multiple platforms. Whether software-based or not, the successful formal mentoring program must generate meaningful analytics that allow for improvements and changes for both the employee and the company. Companies that attract and retain higher caliber people have formal and informal mentoring programs.
Each year, around 2 million people apply for a job at Google7 and 5,000 are hired. Among the benefits they receive: subsidized childcare, dog sitting, and massage chairs. Hairdressers visit the site every Monday, and mechanics come to service cars on Tuesday. With a few clicks on the local intranet, employees can arrange, without management’s approval or knowledge, surprise bonuses of $175 for each other “just because.” Should they die, and should they be married, Google employees’ spouses go on receiving half their salary for a decade. What else? Two square meals a day and free ice cream!
While it sounds like a perfect work arrangement, Payscale’s 2013 report on turnover rates mentions that the turnover rate at Google was just behind Amazon (in 2nd place) and tied with Mosaic for 4th place for shortest tenure in the report8 . Google scored well on attraction but poorly on retention. As employers vie for top talent (“…attracting top talent is crucial”— Forbes, June 29, 2017, Page 38), they still experience the challenge of keeping their good employees before marketplace rivals steal them.
It is surprising to note that the lack of “retention” (one of the key initiatives for employers) does not seem to be a reflection of employees’ job satisfaction according to the “Business Insider Best Places to Work in 2017.”9 The article, which summarized the findings from Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards, shows that Google, with its high turnover rate, is still tied for the 4th best place to work out of the top 50, behind Bain & Company, Facebook, and Boston Consulting Group. Google had to share its 4th place spot with World Wide Technology, Fast Enterprises, In-N-Out Burger, and LinkedIn. All are in very different industries.
With names like that, one wonders what makes a company “a best place to work.” In general, the term usually signifies a great fit between the employee and the company. Not everyone in an organization falls into this category. That is why knowing what specific types of individuals are looking for in a work environment is crucial. In the article, “The Employee Experience: Culture, Engagement and Beyond,” the focus for today’s Human Resource (HR) managers seems to be on improving the employee experience as a whole. Through new approaches such as design thinking and employee journey maps, HR departments are now focusing on understanding and improving this complete experience and using tools such as employee net promoter scores to measure employee satisfaction.10
Recent surveys11 show several factors that contribute to a positive employee experience. They include:
The key to success is to work through the above list and then consider a program outlined in the Inc. Magazine article, “5 Steps to Keeping Top Performers”12 by Peter Economy, which supports the Deloitte findings and reinforces conclusions found elsewhere in this salary guide. (See “Value of Mentorship” and “Working From Home.”)
Separating the employees’ work life from their home/personal life is becoming increasingly difficult. For that reason, employees today want an enhanced work experience and have come to expect it. Smart employers know this and are relying on digital and mobile apps to deliver the best work experience to produce the highest retention. Productivity and collaboration apps abound (Workplace, Slack, Skype for Teams, etc.). Furthermore, engagement and feedback apps offer pulse survey tools to obtain ongoing engagement information in lieu of the annual employee feedback survey of the past. Finally, responsibility for retaining good employees is often elevated to the C-Suite to ensure an awe-inspiring employee experience. Why? Because the level of transparency today makes this simple question, “What does Glassdoor say about us?” into a game changer in the competition for great, long-term employees.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer discontinued the company’s work-from-home policy in February 2013 to force teams to “focus on communication and collaboration.” In May of 2017, IBM made a similar decision by requesting that many of its home-workers report to the office. Should other industries continue letting their remote employees work outside the office?
Recent data show a general increase in remote working situations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, “… 22 percent of employees (up from 19 percent in 2003) did some or all of their work on the internet at home in 2016.”19 While the question of letting employees work at home or work in the office is important, another deeper issue might be whether mid-level supervisors are adequately trained in managing remote workers. It is also worth asking whether the company hired correctly in the first place. Perhaps a hybrid solution of home/office exists that would be the best solution. For example, consider a model where associates are in the office four days, home for one or in the office for three and home for two. With a focus on ensuring high employee retention, working from home is a continuing experiment—one aimed at reducing turnover even for employees who have tenure. At the same time, remote workers represent a challenge when it comes to hiring (and retaining) the best employees while also maximizing productivity.
There are benefits to working from home, but there are also drawbacks for both the employer and employees. Thankfully, there are solutions available that can represent the best of both worlds for both participants in the equation.
With some high-profile players bringing people back into the office, why do work-at-home statistics indicate a rise in home workers? (See BLS figure.) It’s difficult to say, but the trend is clear: More people are working from home. The reason may lie in technologies that can connect people wherever they are in the world and also measure the work being done. Project management applications and team-communication software apps abound in the marketplace. There are several: Asana, Basecamp, Slack, and Trello to name a few. All are designed to keep the team on task with deadlines, reporting, meetings, mail, calendars, and built in collaboration menus. They do not preclude face-to-face meetings or desk-to-desk work groups, but rather offer an alternative to the two-hour commutes that some employees endure to reach their offices every single day.
Out of sight is not out of mind for employees who are hired correctly in the first place. Productivity can be measured. Collaborative meeting tools such as “Zoom” can facilitate video enhanced meetings for dozens of people. Plus, the meetings can be recorded. Work has changed since 2003 when the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart was created. Technology has as well. Yahoo and IBM may have their reasons for returning employees to the office, but companies today can lose employees to more enlightened competitors if they are unwilling to entertain creative alternatives to “a day at the office.”
The attractiveness of working remotely versus working from home has changed over time. There are pros and cons for both the company and the employee. The media’s featuring of large companies bringing at-home workers back into the office skews the public thinking on the issue for the moment. But there may be another future around the corner as the interconnectivity offered by project management solutions can control what work gets done, how it is done, and how well it’s done.
Every company must decide what is best for them based on its values, its mission, and its culture. There is no one right answer. If businesses are going to retain the best employees, they will need to discover, nurture, and reward them based not on media trends, but on what their quantitative and qualitative research reveals. Based on all facets, starting with attracting and hiring the right people, management will have to make appropriate decisions to determine if working from home is productive, if the company is thriving, the customers are served well, and the employees are motivated to do their best work.
During and after the 2008 recession, companies cut back everywhere. They had to. Thereafter, the cautious rebuild to normal left many companies with lean, skeletal organizations even after they were done rebuilding. Workloads were increased, tasks combined, and more was done with a thinner employee base. Alternately, there are companies that espouse and implement a specific notion of ‘Lean’ (short for Lean Six Sigma) as a culture, a management style, and business philosophy. What’s the difference between the two?
One is reactive and the other is proactive. The first emphasizes low employee count and the second doesn’t count employees. In both cases, there are financial and social benefits that accrue from running lean, but there are costs as well. As a result, organizations that face uncertainty in today’s business climate need to assess when lean is too lean.
Staying lean—running an organization with as few people as possible to get the job done—can mean the difference between survival and bankruptcy. Yet, just “getting the job done” may by itself be disastrous. A lean philosophy can reap benefits because the philosophy creates a culture in which everyone in the organization is sure of a company’s purpose, processes, and people, rather than one based on a low body count. This latter type of ‘lean’ often results in excellent customer service and well-honed values as the employees feel a strong sense of being a team player.
If running on a minimal crew is reactive rather than proactive, then the results can be high turnover, stress, poor work quality, more overtime, dissatisfaction from work-life imbalance, bad customer service and lost sales. Management assesses these humanitarian costs through honest appraisals of employee morale, levels of innovation, signs of stress, and by reading the social media feeds about the company by both employees and customers. Other costs are more easily measured, such as those hard numbers that include year-over-year comparisons of turnover, revenue and profits, number of new hires, etc.
It might be unexpected, but understaffing can actually increase the risk of workplace injury.20 For example, understaffing in hospitals results in poor patient care and increased infection. Another example comes from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that reports staffing shortages, which certainly leaves travelers more vulnerable. Employees who operate heavy equipment or machinery within a sparsely populated work force are particularly at risk for injury. The solution to the understaffing dilemma is difficult but manageable with diligence and strategic planning.21
While ‘Lean’ (as in Lean Six Sigma) is often applied to manufacturing organizations, there is value across the spectrum for all businesses. Essentially, a lean culture interpreted for survival means looking at the organization through your customers’ eyes.22
If Lean (the Lean Six Sigma kind) is “the relentless pursuit of adding value for the customer23,” then there is little doubt that the philosophy has worth.
While hiring correctly is always important, the task itself suggests intimate corporate self-knowledge. Handling overflow might be accomplished temporarily with independent contractors, but it can be easily overdone. Doing nothing to address unintended lean staffing will result in disgruntled employees, degradation in work, and a depletion of customers.
Running a lean organization is not inherently bad. Proactively building the lean team24 can be freeing and can make a company more nimble. It forces management energy to be focused and applied to purpose, process, and people. Running lean by default, solely to save money, may be sustainable in the short run. Even necessary. It can, however, be debilitating in the long run.
Working with fewer resources becomes management’s challenge for survival and for growth. Staffing intelligently for the unstable future comes from knowing the company’s goals,
vision, and mission, and making sure every decision is in alignment with all three.
The recently converged accounting standard ASC 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, between the FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) and the IASB (International Accounting Standards Board) will soon replace today’s rules-based approach for revenue recognition to one that is principles-based for all companies, including those that are privately held. To prepare, most accountants should be nearly finished with the process of complying with the new rulings for revenue recognition. Designed to facilitate the comparison of financial statements, the new rules must be applied consistently across industries. The new mandate requires companies to make and document more judgments and provide more comprehensive disclosures. As a result, the new standards will require new workflow processes.
While the law was put into place in May 2014, the publicly held company compliance deadline starts with reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2017 (January 1, 2018 for calendar-year-end companies.) Privately held companies have one additional year to comply. This is not new information. Those who have proactively adopted the new accounting standards are familiar with the new approaches to contracts, IPOs, and acquisitions. As with all changes, both benefits and costs follow.
One of the benefits of this regulation is that it will make financial statements more understandable to non-accountants who may not be familiar with the nuances of technical accounting. Revenue recognition policies need to be granular because even small differences in interpretation can have a major impact on revenue reporting. Another intended benefit is the simplification of preparing financial statements so that recognition of revenue is consistent across all industries with similar transactions.
Perhaps the most significant benefit comes from the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). In two 2016 workshops, the CAQ suggested that adherence to technical accounting guidance is key for stemming fraud and reducing the number of restatements.25
While there are many benefits associated with the new law, compliance comes with costs. Even before implementing the new standards, it is important to decide which method to use when applying the new guidance:
There are many costs of assimilation and training across functions: accounting, financial reporting, tax, internal audit, sales, IT, legal, and human resources. It might also be necessary to hire outside specialists to assist with implementation. In addition to the manpower associated with the initial execution, there are costs associated with choosing the best revenue recognition technology option and then acquiring that technology.
The costs are not always monetary. Because the rulings impact so many departments in the company, the entire undertaking can cause frustration and stress as old processes are replaced by new systems. More strain can come from re-visiting and field-testing financial reports: These checks are sometimes required to make sure the subjectivity inherent in principles-based reporting is applied consistently.
While companies have had plenty of warning, there are still instances in which the systems, resources, and technology have not yet been put in place to handle the new ruling. Three steps are necessary: 1) Assessment, 2) Intent, and 3) Implementation. The first level, assessment, will indicate how much must be done to comply. The second step, intent, shows that the guidance is not being ignored, which is important. The last step, implementation, might be accomplished with outsourcing. At this late date it might be worthwhile for management to consider the need to implement a system that is not perfect. In this way, an over-burdened CFO will be assured an improved version will follow as time passes. Plus, the earliest ASC 606 adopters will be revising their systems and reportage as they have with other accounting practices that have changed over the years.
The introduction of ASC 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, standards and practices underscores the need to correctly handle revenue in contracts, IPOs and acquisitions. Once the decision is made on applying the new standard, a company will make sure that every department knows its role in providing information for revenue recognition, lease accounting, and stock option administration that is consistent and defendable. An outside team may be the best answer if internal resources have not been able to complete the task prior to the December 2017 deadline.
Documentation of judgments and disclosures will shape companies’ compliance activities going forward. Failure to comply means risking an audit, penalties and, perhaps these days, unwanted negative press.
Predictions for the direction M&A activity will take vary by industry and by source. According to a survey26 of 137 bank executives (CEOs, CFOs, and board members) done by the financial services specialist Keefe, Bruyette and Woods (KBW), M&A activity in the next 18 months is expected to increase. These survey respondents credited pressure on deposits as interest rates rise as the top reason (74%), with the closing of bid/ask spreads in M&A negotiations (68%), and political and economic uncertainty (57%) as the second and third reasons.
ChannelE2E—a source for analytics, events, and custom content in the IT service provider sector—weighs on the side of increased M&A activity, stating deals involving VARs, (Value Added Resellers), MSPs (Managed Service Providers) and CSPs (Cloud Service Providers) should accelerate from now through 2022.27 One of the factors driving growth is that business owners in the Baby Boomer generation will be looking to exit (sell their businesses) in the next 10-15 years. It is estimated that these businesses represent over $10 trillion in wealth.
Withdrawn deals in 2016 amounted to $842 billion. More recently, the Q1 2017 “ruined” deals total was $271 billion28, which if it keeps pace will outdo the 2016 withdrawn deal figure by almost 29%. The cause of the withdrawals: regulation. Business Insider Magazine reported in April 2017 that while the announced global volume of Mergers & Acquisitions is at an all time high of $700 billion with oil & gas, healthcare and technology being the prime drivers, the regulators fearing monopolies or oligopolies exerted negative pressure, and many of the announced deals never materialized.
Regulation is not the only obstacle; the other is fear. There are good reasons why the M&A market is hot. Cost of capital is low. Debt levels are high, which is a sign of corporate health and confidence. The reason for concern is an eerily similar environment to the pre-2008 recession.
Meanwhile the cross-border acquisitions market has its own unique set of problems29. The law firm of Baker McKenzie30 cites the following:
Organizations braving the cross-border M&A arena will face these and varying levels of global complexity31 as they work through the decision process.
Deloitte’s M&A 2017 Index32 indicates that economic and political uncertainty will remain dominant. On the other hand, they say that same uncertainty allows the bold to be bolder, which invites successful deal making for the non-faint of heart. In fact, courageous buyers will look for companies that are divesting assets to refocus their attention on their core businesses. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
Such awareness proves profitable in that finding innovation costs less than funding it. This kind of marketplace acumen derives from an organization’s willingness to be introspective. The same Deloitte M&A index33 challenges companies to ask of their team: 1) “Where do we want to play?” 2) “What capabilities do we need to play there?” and 3) “How will we win?” Each company will have to decide what will best accomplish its goals: building innovation or purchasing it through merger & acquisition.
Mergers & Acquisition pressure is on the rise stemming from a lower cost of capital and a desire to shortcut the build cycle, yet other forces make M&A challenging. It carries the possibility of failure through regulatory interventions, and then becomes even more difficult in the global amphitheater. Uncertainty across the political and economic spectrum leaves corporate executives leery of M&A, while retirement of the Baby Boomer generation fuels a mass exodus and acquisition opportunity over the next ten to fifteen years in the $10 trillion IT industry.
30Baker McKenzie is a leading cross-border M&A firm, and has one of the largest and most active integrated M&A practices in
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