The new CFO: Building organizational strength through company culture

Vaco - CFO role in building company culture

For a recent Vaco webinar, Vaco’s Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Farah Hottle, was joined by Donald Thompson, the founder and CEO of the Diversity Movement, a full-service DEI consultancy. With Hottle acting as host, Thompson explored the unique role of the CFO in building company culture and how strong culture can translate to organizational resilience.


Check out some highlights of their conversation below, and view audience responses to poll questions given during the webinar. Make sure to watch the full presentation on-demand.


Finance leaders are now driving change across departments

Chief financial officers—and finance professionals, in general—are often placed into very specific boxes: they’re the number crunchers, the data wizards, the department that says “no” when something just isn’t in the budget. Over the past several years, that view of finance leaders has become less and less accurate. Today’s CFO is a central figure in virtually all aspects of business decision-making, including building and guiding organizational culture. 

The past few years have only intensified this role: a global health crisis, a recession (with another on the horizon), geopolitical turmoil, record-breaking inflation, a once-in-a-generation labor market, and social justice unrest comprise just a snapshot of the current climate.  

In the business world, companies are experiencing change at a dizzying velocity. One of the biggest changes is the increased call for businesses to address environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues within their organizations.

ESG factors have been elevated beyond the investment circle and into the broader public consciousness. ESG is now a cornerstone business concern, one that can impact a company’s public image and its business opportunities. Within the social pillar of ESG, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is uniquely important—especially since research has shown that diverse companies outperform their competitors in multiple key metrics, including financial earnings.

“Companies in virtually every industry are facing critical questions. Finance professionals have a responsibility to help their organizations navigate them.”

DONALD THOMPSON
Founder and CEO, The Diversity Movement

As a Certified Diversity Executive, Donald Thompson has helped hundreds of companies across multiple industries create roadmaps for DEI, with a focus on business profitability and the bottom line. During the presentation, Thompson emphasized the inflection point businesses are facing on the topic of DEI. 


Read more: The evolving role and impact of the CFO

It is crucial for finance leaders to know the level of DEI maturity within their organizations

Thompson emphasized that the first step to making sensible investments in DEI is knowing which stage of DEI maturity your company is currently in. 

“A lot of leaders are in a hurry to go out and hire a Chief Diversity Officer because it sounds and feels like the right thing to do. But there may not be an organizational appetite to support that leader and invest in their education and growth,” Thompson said. 

“It’s important that when you think about DEI, you consider the budget that surrounds an initiative.”

A company that doesn’t have proper buy-in from the executive team isn’t likely to see success from an organization-wide rollout of a DEI initiative. In these cases, it may be more beneficial to invest in DEI training for the C-suite before moving onto other investments. 

For Thompson, it’s most important for finance professionals to understand the complete financial impact of a DEI investment so that they can become the voice of reason in the boardroom and help identify reasonable milestones so the company is prepared to increase their investment at the right time. 

The power of DEI language in sourcing and recruiting talent

Thompson also touched on the importance of training your hiring team and recruiters to use DEI best practices in their conversations with job seekers and candidates. 

“From a talent management standpoint, when was the last time your team was trained on DEI best practices? Because this is where we win or lose candidates who care deeply about this subject,” Thompson said. 

“Yes, we want to win candidates, yes, our recruiters can be professionally persistent. But are they using inclusive language so that they’re bringing people towards your organization rather than pushing them away?” 

In a labor market that is heavily weighted towards candidates, using inclusive language and DEI best practices in recruiting efforts can help companies attract candidates that may feel overlooked or dissuaded from applying with other companies. It also helps attract candidates who place a high value on working for an diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. 

Among Gen Z workers, Thompson noted, DEI is not a nice-to-have feature of the workplace; it’s a requirement. As more members of Gen Z enter the workforce, companies will have to display a commitment to DEI to recruit and retain them. 

Other topics covered by Thompson and Hottle in the webinar include the importance of internal communication, tips on creating an inclusive policy for hybrid and remote work, and the ROI of DEI. 

Watch the full webinar on-demand today. 


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