Survey Outlines CFOs’ Steps To Support Employees, Business During Outbreak

A survey of chief financial officers finds that most, 81 percent, intend to offer benefits to their hourly employees that exceed any contractual obligations during the coronavirus disruption. Research and advisory firm Gartner surveyed 200 CFOs on March 17 in its study and found that as many as one-third intend to offer full monetary compensation during this period.

“Many view this as a good ethical gesture, and this is also about seeing the bigger picture and finding creative ways to ensure business continuity in times of crisis,” says Dennis Gannon, vice president, advisory for the Gartner Finance practice. “Not only do companies want to emerge from the crisis with an experienced and engaged workforce, they also want to mitigate the risks of employee fraud and misconduct that rise significantly during times of uncertainty.”

CFOs in the survey reported a variety of actions they are considering to support employees. These include expanding work-from-home and sick policies, and adjusting work schedules and non-illness-related flexibilities (such as for childcare needs) to ensure tasks and projects get completed; tracking state benefits for hourly workers; considering offering childcare for employees who have to continue coming to work; offering remote working equipment such as modems and routers if needed; and allowing employees to donate sick leave to one another.

“It remains the CFO’s first responsibility to do everything they can to support their organization and its employees in such a difficult time,” says Gannon. “That also means seeing the opportunity to reinvent old and broken processes, especially when that can keep the business running and keep staff engaged.”

With the financial impact of COVID-19 just beginning to emerge, and as there are many unknowns and uncertainties, Gartner reports that CFOs are beginning to shift their attention from crisis mode towards minimizing the downside impact. Most CFOs (51 percent) have not yet adjusted internal targets even though there is little chance they will be met this year.

“There’s no good way for most CFOs to reset targets with any certainty,” says Gannon. “Instead, many CFOs are assuming that targets won’t be met and are taking steps to ensure ongoing working cash flow to support operations, such as securing access to credit and planning for possible repatriation scenarios.”

In terms of managing the finance function, Gartner’s survey found that CFOs were broadly optimistic, with 90 percent reporting that only a minimal amount of accounting close procedures cannot be executed off premises. CFOs are most focused on critical third parties and how they can work together to adapt working processes to function well during the coronavirus disruption. For example, many CFOs have used this crisis as an opportunity to transition towards automated clearing house (ACH) payments instead of check-writing. They’ve also shifted towards videoconferencing options for auditing physical inventories.

“Now is the time to deepen collaboration with vendors, auditors or customers,” says Gannon. “Take advantage of relevant solutions that have been put off in the past.”

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