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Three business-critical questions CFOs must ask today

CFOs are rightly focused on the financial health of their organizations, but adopting a broader company view is now essential for real growth.

In brief
  • Traditionally CFOs have used data to manage the ups and downs of the bottom line, but adding experiential metrics can bring new clarity to growth strategies.
  • CFOs need to broaden their focus beyond finance to consider employee experience – a key driver of consumer satisfaction, engagement and long-term success.
  • Employing a new kind of data insights can help CFOs align leadership behind the changes needed for their organizations to evolve.

Three business-critical questions CFOs must ask today

Data, without a doubt, is critical to modern business. Most companies would be lost without access to revenue numbers, customer churn percentages or employee attrition numbers. But the scale and volume of collected daily data in most organizations today is now so vast that managing it can be an overwhelming or labor-intensive task. While financial leaders rely on data, too many CFOs are awash in disconnected dashboards that collect huge volumes of operational metrics but then stop short of providing the context or insights needed to make critical business decisions that drive success. Now, evidence is mounting, and findings from a new EY-Qualtrics Alliance survey of 119 organizations and more than 3,500 employees across the US, UK, Asia and parts of Europe, spotlight the growing need for a new level of intelligent insights that now factor both traditional operational metrics along with customer and employee experience data. If you’re a CFO tasked with creating new value or are looking for fresh perspective on the hidden variables that really impact growth, here are the crucial questions you should be asking:

1.Are you collecting both operational and experience data for a full picture?

Companies can be rich in data but still lack the insights they need — and not realize it. Tracking things like revenue, business unit profitability or the journey of raw materials and parts from manufacturing to distribution can paint an important picture of what’s happening operationally, but it’s the combination with experience data that digs deeper for true context. The addition of metrics that measure other variables like employee sentiment, worker satisfaction and both customer perceptions and purchasing behaviors can create a far more intelligent vision for your business future. For instance, if you have data that shows slowing sales but are missing insights into employee turnover, open staff roles or a change in customer perceptions, you’re — at best — guessing as to the reasons for the sale slump or the strategies to course correct. Ask yourself if you have the data on exactly what is happening within your organization as well as experience insights to also understand why. If not, it’s time to review data practices.


2. Are you thinking beyond financials?

When employee — and customer — experience have such a significant impact on business success, are CFOs and other leaders paying these critical audiences enough attention? It seems not. In the same EY-Qualtrics Alliance survey of thousands of employees across the United Kingdom, United States, China, Japan and Switzerland, we observed trends that show CFO attention is too siloed in finance and organizational leaders aren’t fully in-step with employee needs.


While almost half of CFOs (49%) say that although their role is to consider both experience factors and financials, financial performance still remains their sole focus. For broader leadership, a full understanding of employee priorities in the workplace is missing too. The survey shows agreement around the importance of compensation and upskilling, but wide gaps in important beliefs. While only 6.2% of employees see investment in flexible working as a priority, as many as 14.4% of employers rate it highly. And four times as many employers (8.7%) as staff see employee recognition programs as important. The numbers may not be enormous, but at scale these kinds of disparities in focus — and crucial, allocated resources — can hurt employee satisfaction, retention and ultimately, profitability.


3. Is your data just numbers or insights for action?

If your organization is collecting data but failing to turn it into actionable insights, and then actions to drive change, you’re missing potentially big returns. Understanding and then acting upon customer perceptions, engagement successes and overall purchasing patterns can fuel hyper-personalized sales strategies, drive greater order volume and reduce both customer effort and cost-to-serve. And being able to both anticipate and address employees’ real needs as well as actual priorities can help retain talent, reduce recruiting costs and support overall productivity. To put these kinds of insights to work for your organization consider these steps:

  • Define a vision for insights — how will you use them to activate changes in your business?
  • Build a transparent, listening culture — welcome employee input, feedback and involvement.
  • Track insights success to engage leadership — demonstrate how insights and consequent workplace changes drive employee satisfaction, customer relations and sales

Employees are more than just salary line items on a P+L, and engaging consumers meaningfully goes way beyond generic demographic targeting. CFOs that embrace a new level of understanding both inside and outside of their organizations can take those insights and learnings to action new strategies that better meet employee satisfaction needs and the changing preferences of modern consumers.


As competition for both talent and consumer loyalty heighten, the organizations that place an emphasis on understanding and optimizing experiences of workers and customers will be better positioned for success. It's now time for the most visionary CFOs to employ intelligent insights tools to develop actionable strategies. Doing this can remove friction for consumers and build brand preference, deepen employee satisfaction, and unlock new value over time.

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