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This is Capitalism: Up Close, Inspired, Explained

Apr 22, 2022

 Patricia O’Connell interviews Tom Stewart, Chief Knowledge Officer at AchieveNEXT® about the 2022 CFO-CHRO Sentiment Study. They discuss the top concerns of middle-market companies.


Listen in to learn more about middle-market company plans for 2022.

Key Takeaways:

[:36] AchieveNEXT® specializes in helping businesses grow by sharpening their focus on human capital.

[:58] Patricia O’Connell introduces Tom Stewart, Chief Knowledge Officer at AchieveNEXT®.

[1:18] Tom describes AchieveNEXT®’s CFO-CHRO Sentiment Study. AchieveNEXT® surveys CFOs and CHROs at the beginning and end of each year. As 2022 began, CFOs and CHROs looked back on 2021; 40% said their performance was very much better than the year before. Looking forward, 46% expected 2022 to be even better.

[1:41] A total of 77% of CFOS and CHROs surveyed said that they expected 2022 to be much better or better than 2021. Of course, businesses fell off a cliff in the Spring of 2020 from pandemic issues. Many of them rebounded in late 2020. Businesses entered 2021 with confidence in a good year; 2021 turned out to be better than expected.

[3:16] At the beginning of the year, AchieveNEXT® asked CFOs and CHROs what their biggest challenges and concerns were. The number one risk was talent and the number one obstacle was talent. They were looking at the Great Resignation and wondering where the people would come from to execute the companies’ growth plans.

[3:47] AchieveNEXT® has just completed 10 roundtable meetings of CFOs and CHROs from New York to Orange County. Talent remains the number one issue, with two nuances: Can they get the talent, and how much will it cost to get the talent?

[4:30] Some of the CFOs are worried more about the cost of talent. Others are worried about how to get critical technical employees that are hard to find. The power in the labor market has shifted to the employee. Tom addresses the reason employers think employees leave vs. the reason employees leave.

[7:49] Companies are starting to think about succession planning, and leadership development to improve retention. They are also working on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues to build a sense of belonging.

[8:32] The question of diversity that came up a few years ago has expanded into a larger question of does the employee have a feeling of belonging and a voice and is the company listening to that voice? Do employees have a sense they can learn and grow, and that there is a career path for them?

[10:09] Money matters, but it’s not the deciding factor in recruitment and retention. A sense of belonging matters more. Before the pandemic, employers were competing with each other for talent. Now they are also competing with life choices such as flexible hours, working from home, or part-time work.

[11:27] Tom shares some of the thoughts he hears from mid-market companies at the roundtable meetings. There is concern about competing with large corporations and their pay packages but that is balanced by a better quality of life and personal attention. They don’t have to be rigid and bureaucratic.

[12:48] Tom discusses supply chains and supply chain disruptions. A lot of the middle-market companies are tier-one and tier-two suppliers to large companies. Going with supply chain disruptions are concerns about costs of talent, fuel, materials, and components. CFOs have to change their budgets dramatically.

[15:00] As the pandemic sent everyone home, officers couldn’t walk down the hall to talk to everyone. Suddenly, processes were needed to catch up with people. Processes and structure are now needed at mid-sized companies to recruit and retain talent.

[15:56] Tom talks about the training offered by AchieveNEXT® in sales, sales and relationship building, customer experience, and the alignment of the employee experience and the customer experience. Tom says that fast-growing companies are 25% more likely to say that they had a formal customer experience process.

[17:35] People are still expecting a strong 2022, but are looking to the second half of the year and thinking maybe it’s going to be a bit tougher, especially the cost issues. Tom is hearing from CFOs that they have a Plan B budget for “tougher sledding.” Most of them are on plan or ahead of plan but see headwinds coming up.

[18:49] Tom Stewart gives the link to find more about the survey.

[19:10] Patricia thanks Tom for being on This is Capitalism, the podcast.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Tom Stewart

AchieveNEXT 2022 CFO-CHRO Sentiment Study

McKinsey & Company