CFO|Circle convened to discuss burning topics during the Pandemic of COVID-19. As always, and especially now, they came together, leaning in and helping each other navigate through unprecedented times.
Forecasting and Planning: Leading Indicators. Given the unprecedented level of uncertainty, it is difficult to identify accurate and timely leading indicators to inform your planning and forecasts. For external data, it might be prudent to “give up on trying to predict the world.” Acknowledge that much is out of our control and we just don’t know (even the macro experts are constantly reforecasting), and instead prepare for multiple macro scenarios. Real-time inputs (churn, win-loss rates, etc.) can trigger which scenario you run as your current case. For internal data, while your quantitative metrics might not be dynamic enough in this rapidly changing environment, you can talk to customers to get a real-time sense and then work to quantify that data. Customer surveys are an alternative that have worked for some companies to gain meaningful insight in real-time. And for B2B businesses, evaluating your pipeline and the financial health of your customers can create actionable insights. You can forecast the financial health of your own customer base (consider segmenting by verticals).
WFH Challenges. By and large, CFO|Circle participants do not view WFH as a permanent way of life. Remote work may be appropriate for some task-oriented workflows, but it can detract from creative/collaborative workflows. Some executives have noticed that the quality of conversations has diminished, overall energy levels are down, and the momentum you build through constant interaction is lost. Complete and undivided attention is required for certain conversations and tasks (like board meetings), and you simply don’t get that in a WFH environment.
WFH Management Practices. We all recognize the need to adjust management practices in a WFH business setting. One key strategy is to over-communicate. If you don’t actively schedule Zooms or calls, employees start to fade; if you don’t provide transparency, employees’ minds start to wander. You also have an opportunity to make a positive impact as a manager through implementing creative strategies that focus on building community and engagement within your workforce. Examples of approaches some companies are taking include: virtual happy hours; a weekly meeting where the executive team addresses the company with the goal of maximizing transparency; a periodic check-in with the team focused on personal well-being rather than practical business; a new workplace norm where any time there is a meeting (phone call, Zoom, etc.) with more than two employees, start the conversation with a personal question. While these practices may feel slightly forced, it is important to foster informal interaction while working remote.
Reopening the Workplace. Here are some considerations your peers are making about when and how to bring employees back to the office:
- Short-term: The consensus is “do not force” people back to work if they are uncomfortable, but leadership teams are thinking about timing differently. Some teams are considering this on a 6-12-month timeline, while many believe giving this option through the end of 2020 seems too long.
- Intermediate-term: Think about the logistics of reintegrating the office when SIP is lifted. Who will go back to work first? You can consider phasing in by groups or planning for in-office rotations to reduce the number of employees in the office at one time.
- Long-term: If you do not want WFH to become the expected norm, consider reframing the conversation around the current working environment as “working in a pandemic” versus “working from home.” Some may consider new permanent policies that allows more frequent remote work or only require a portion of the workweek to be in-office.