Talent retention tops CFOs’ staffing concerns

The layoffs, furloughs and other measures caused by the financial crisis led some employees to worry about how committed companies are to their staffs. Now, it appears, executives are similarly distrustful of the commitment their employees have to their company.

Retaining valuable staff members was identified as the biggest staffing concern for the next 12 months in a survey of more than 2,100 US CFOs conducted by staffing firm Robert Half. Thirty-eight per cent of CFOs identified retention as their top concern with regard to staff.

“Though general unemployment levels remain high, professionals with specialised skills have more opportunities available to them, which has led to talent shortages in some areas and made replacing valuable employees even more difficult,” Robert Half Senior Executive Director Paul McDonald said in a news release. “Employers will need to pull out all the stops to retain their best and brightest.”

Other surveys also have identified retention as a key concern. Retention of key finance talent was at the top of CFOs’ personal priorities as described in Deloitte’s most recent quarterly CFO Signals survey. And 43% of chief executives, CFOs and HR directors said in a CGMA report from September 2012 that poor human capital management had kept their companies from hitting financial targets in the last 18 months.

In the Robert Half survey, the second most frequently identified staffing concern was maintaining staff productivity, identified by 27% of respondents. Recruiting new staff members (13%) and improving staff morale and engagement (13%) also are concerns.

Methods for retaining top employees, according to Robert Half, include:

  • Keep your door open. Employees need to feel comfortable expressing ideas and concerns.
  • Promote from within. Staff members can get frustrated if they don’t believe advancement opportunities are available to them.
  • Compensate competitively. Keep salaries and benefits at or slightly above market rates.
  • Recognise outstanding work. Praise of employees can be a powerful tool, and it doesn’t have to cost much.
  • Make training available. Improving skills can raise morale and boost productivity.

McDonald advised that managers focus on improving aspects of the work environment that contribute to turnover rather than relying on counteroffers to keep key employees.

“Counteroffers rarely fix the underlying reasons a professional decides to leave the company, such as a lack of challenge or a desire for advancement,” McDonald said. “An employee’s resignation can be used by the organisation as an opportunity to make improvements benefiting its remaining staff.”

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.