All the Right Moves

With the best and brightest ready to bolt, CFOs will have to step lively if they hope to retain their top talent.

Company culture can also be a big factor in the success of such initiatives. Michael Porcelain, CFO of Comtech Tel, says his company’s finance organization purposely stays away from team-building activities because such activities “feel contrived,” and instead tries to let the 20-person finance team develop friendships on their own. “They don’t want team-building activities; they want to go home,” he says. (In fact, offering extra days off and flexible hours is one strategy that nearly every finance executive interviewed for this piece is using, one that creates almost no cost to the business if done right.)

Does It Work?

Measuring the effectiveness of any of these programs is maddeningly difficult and can generally be seen only over time. As Porcelain says, success or failure “is in the turnover numbers and in the number of people complaining.” That doesn’t mean companies don’t try to get a quicker read on whether their retention efforts are working. Anonymous surveys of employees are one common method and can turn up some useful information, such as how much importance employees put on soft benefits such as flex time and time off. Alberico says that employee retention is a topic of discussion at management meetings “at least quarterly, and as often as monthly.” Meanwhile, executives like Hosein and Provenzano say they are trying to get more one-on-one meetings going on to get a sense of how employees feel.

Whatever the strategy, CFOs would be well advised to be proactive rather than reactive, says Gochman. Once an employee gets an offer from another company, almost no counteroffer can patch up the relationship. “Sometimes people stay because companies throw a lot of money at them, but it isn’t the same, and there’s some anger there about ‘Why did I have to go through this to get the promotion?’” says Gochman. And those employees usually leave within two years, anyway.

Smart managers, therefore, should take steps now to ensure that when recovery arrives it does not inspire a raft of departures.

Alix Stuart is senior editor for human capital and careers at CFO.

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