Leveraging Employees: It Takes a Strong Partnership With Finance – and HR

According to a recent CFO Alliance report, 46 percent of CFOs believe that growing their customers’ experience is the most important driver of growth, making customer-centricity a top priority among CFOs.

The problem is that improving responsiveness and meeting customer expectations were also cited as top operational challenges. As a result of this disconnect, many CFOs are recognizing that in order to improve the customer experience, they must first invest more in the success of their employees.

To do this effectively, CFOs need to develop a stronger partnership with HR. Because each of these departments have an increasingly significant impact on the customer experience, and therefore bottom line, strengthening the tie between them is becoming critical.

One way that CFOs and HR can work together more effectively is by implementing a “Business to Employee to Customer” (B2E2C) strategy that will enrich every touch point between the business and employee, the employee and customer, and finally, the customer and business.

B2E: How finance and HR can help employees

Employees who are engaged at work are more productive and motivated than those who aren’t. Unfortunately, studies indicate that less than one-third of employees are actually engaged at work.

With that in mind, when CFOs think about an employee’s long-term value, they should be taking into consideration the investments that they could be making to help their employees reach their fullest potential, and how HR can help them execute on that.

For instance, employees want the same simplicity and ease of use from the tools they use at work as those they use at home. Because of this, it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to equip their employees with technologies that are similar to those they use in their everyday lives.

As more of the Facebook generation enters the workforce, businesses must modernize the traditional work experience to encompass tools that are fast, intuitive, social and mobile. Not only will this help companies increase functionality and flexibility, but it will help improve productivity because employees will feel more empowered with the ability to access necessary business information wherever, whenever. Furthermore, harnessing the power of modern technologies will help companies maintain a competitive edge when it comes to talent acquisition and retention.

The social element is critical because adding a social layer on top of a business, using an application like Salesforce Chatter, will give both finance and HR a deeper level of visibility into the employee experience. Specifically, it will show how employees are performing and whether or not they are engaged, which can be indicative of their overall happiness within the organization.

In addition, this will help them get a better sense for which employees are taking advantage of learning and development opportunities that not only cost the organization time and money, but also align with goals established by HR. At the end of the day, CFOs want to know whether or not the investments they’re making in their employees are proving effective, so this extra layer of visibility will enable HR to better analyze employee engagement and satisfaction and report back accordingly.

E2C: How employees can help customers

This leads us to the idea that happy employees result in happy customers. As I mentioned earlier, employee engagement needs to be at the foundation of every customer-centric CFOs strategy because ultimately, this will support better customer experiences. After all, your employees spend the most time with your customers and can greatly influence how a customer perceives your brand.

A big problem is that historically, there has been a major disconnect between employees across the front office and back office, and this has resulted in muddled internal processes that are not only frustrating to employees, but also the customer. To add to that, customers today are more demanding, more informed and more connected than ever before, making it even more difficult than it already is for companies to keep pace.

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Because of social and mobile technologies, the balance of power has dramatically shifted between businesses and customers, and now customers are setting the tempo that employees need to be equipped to match in order to do their jobs successfully.

That said, as CFOs strive to become more customer-centric, they need to focus on unifying the front and back office with technologies that break down barriers to communication and give employees a complete 360 degree view of the customer. Additionally, they should be investing heavily social and mobile capabilities that are tightly integrated into every business process.

In the same way that these tools enhance the employee experience in the B2E component of the “Business to Employee to Customer” cycle, they also enhance the customer experience because the level of visibility they can provide ensures that customers with questions aren’t bounced around from department to department before finding the one person who can help them out.

Now, the role HR plays in this process is critical because simply implementing a new system isn’t going to lead to employee adoption overnight. It’s up to HR to educate employees and also get their feedback and readjust accordingly to ensure that the tools they’re using resonate and add value.

What does this mean for your business?

There isn’t a more important asset than your people. They are the heart of every business. When employees are happy and engaged, companies will see better customer interactions and even better business outcomes.

CFOs striving to become more customer-centric need to understand that employees are the key to customer satisfaction and that because of this, it’s vital for finance and HR join forces to ensure their individual goals – customers and employees respectively – are aligned. The most forward thinking and well-run companies recognize the importance of this intersection and how it’s critical, strategic driver of company success.

Of course, accomplishing the “Business to Employee to Customer” approach effectively is no easy feat. It will require a full team of dedicated professionals.

However, CFOs have the power to put the wheels in motion. In doing so, and with the help of their new friends in HR, they will be able to overcome those key operational challenges that are hindering customer growth in a way that impacts the bottom line.

As CFO of FinancialForce.com, John Bonney oversees the company’s global finances and operations. Prior to joining FinancialForce.com, he was the Global VP of Finance & Division CFO for SAP Cloud. John has a master’s degree in accounting and finance from Wake Forest University and is an active CPA and CFA.

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