CFOs concerned about maintaining staff as employees seek greater flexibility

Aug 16, 2021
Shift to hybrid workforce increases IT and cyber-security expenses for companies, notes Grant Thornton survey

The majority of CFOs (68 percent) are concerned their organization will experience a talent shortage as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a Grant Thornton survey.

With many employees expecting to retain flexible working arrangements, CFOs have concerns about recruiting and retaining top talent, the survey finds.

More than a third of US workers (38 percent) would consider quitting their job if their employer isn't flexible about remote work, with the number jumping to 49 percent for millennials and Gen Z workers, according to a Bloomberg News survey, which was quoted by Grant Thornton.

But one third of CFOs (33 percent) are moving forward with plans for workers to return to the office. ‘There are clear indications that CFOs are concerned about the looming war for talent. Yet there are also conflicting messages on taking steps to actually fix it,’ says Tim Glowa, Grant Thornton principal of human capital services, in the report.

Due to the sudden shift to a hybrid workforce as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses have had to expand their digital footprints – prompting an increase in expenditure for CFOs.

More than half of CFOs (54 percent) expect cyber-security expenses to increase and 53 percent expect expenses for IT and digital transformation to increase. While 39 percent of CFOs expect to see an increase for travel expenses, 25 percent believe travel expenses will actually fall and 36 percent believe they’ll remain the same.

Biden’s jobs plan has a favorable view from CFOs

In March 2021, US President Joe Biden announced the American jobs plan, a deal that would spend $2 tn on US infrastructure over eight years. On August 10, a $1.2 tn version of the bill focusing on physical infrastructure was passed by the Senate 69–30.

The bill includes tax changes to fund the American jobs plan, including raising the federal statutory corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent.

Just under half of CFOs (45 percent) perceive the impact on corporate taxation as positive or very positive, but 31 percent believe the one tax proposal that would have the most negative impact on their business is the corporate tax rate increase.

On possible outcomes of the bill, just over half (51 percent) of CFOs feel very positive or positive about workforce hiring, while 27 percent have a negative feeling and 22 percent believe it will have no impact. The majority of CFOs (51 percent) feel very positive or positive about the impact to corporate growth, while 30 percent have a negative feeling and 19 percent believe it will have no impact.

Forty-two percent of CFOs have a negative feeling about the impact to pricing of goods and services and 22 percent believe it will have no impact. Only 36 percent of CFOs have a very positive or positive feeling toward the pricing of goods and services.

‘Businesses seem to view the administration’s investment policies favorably. The generally positive views on tax policy indicate they may be willing to pay for government investment in the economy,’ says Bill Marx, national managing partner of the tax reporting and advisory practice at Grant Thornton, quoted in the survey.

‘But positive feelings toward both investment and the tax policy are more strongly felt by private businesses and smaller middle market enterprises. Publicly traded and larger businesses are more evenly split on proposed policy and tax changes—they would be most affected by the proposed tax increases.’

For this survey, Grant Thornton surveyed 239 CFOs and senior executives at companies with annual revenues ranging from $100 mn to more than $1 bn.

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