Ask the CFO: How do I Innovate Without Sacrificing Productivity?

May 17, 2023 Theresa Rex

workers collaborating and discussing about innovation without sacrificing productivity at conference table

Dear CFO,

My biggest challenge this year is turning out to be — you guessed it — talent. Practically every department head is short-staffed and we're feeling the squeeze everywhere: finance, customer experience, IT … everywhere. We offer competitive benefits and salaries but that's not enough anymore.

It's become clear that we need to change our approach, and we've decided to start by finding innovative ways to offer the one thing it seems every candidate we interview is looking for now: flexibility. I'm excited about the collaborative approach we're taking and hopeful that the right solution will solve some very urgent capacity challenges.

Going forward, I just want to make sure that "outside of the box" doesn't mean "off the rails". How can we offer attractive and innovative flexible work options without sacrificing even more productivity?

Russell Bowman innovation without sacrificing productivity

Fellow Finance Leader,

Good question!

Let me tell you a story.

In a previous role, we had an issue that caused us to run a little behind on implementing a change to our tech stack that was going to deliver an extra six percentage points on gross margin — millions — right to the bottom line. Where were we stuck? Customer support.

The wait times were too long, calls were getting dropped and unanswered emails and chats were just sitting there. We didn't have the headcount we needed to fix it, and that didn't look likely to change anytime soon. The team lead and I got together and we decided there had to be another way. When we went back to look and map out the trends and see when revenue was increasing. We would walk around, spend time on the floor and even drilled down into when our remote team was the most productive and where the lags were. What we found was that we had plenty of people already – it was a capacity issue, especially during the week. By moving from one long shift to multiple short ones, we were able to create part-time opportunities that were perfect for college students in the area – smart, intelligent people who needed part time jobs. Two- or three-hour shifts? No problem. The labor cost was much lower for us and it met their needs as a workforce.

Did we get the same daily productivity from four college students working a two-hour shift as we did from one full-time rep working one eight-hour shift? Actually, we did. That's because we put the right person in the right shift. We were able to go out to the universities beforehand and talk to offices that match students with universities. At first, we would say, "This student said they can do two shifts. Maybe they can do three?" That wouldn't have worked. Those career coordinators urged us to take the students at their word. If they wanted two shifts, we gave them two shifts. Ultimately, that's how you'll be successful, no matter how drastically you change what you offer to candidates, whether you're overhauling your schedule or working asynchronously or doing something totally out of the box.

You need to get out there and talk to them and find that good match between what you need and what the workforce needs. Take them at their word, and line that up, and you'll be able to get ras creative as you want without risking productivity or engagement.

Happy innovating!

Russell Bowman

Senior VP Finance, TMGcore

Russell Bowman senior vice president

Russell Bowman is a Dallas-area executive finance leader Senior VP of Finance at TMGcore, a company that develops and commercializes emerging technologies supporting global Blockchain stability, growth and long-term sustainability. Russell's career spans more than 30 years in financial management and corporate strategy. Prior to joining TMGcore, Russell served as the Senior VP of Finance at Access and the VP of and Accounting at Axxess, leading the finance and accounting teams through a period of significant growth.

An active member in the community, Russell serves as a founding board member of the Frisco-based nonprofit The Olive Branch. Russell is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in business management and finance.

He was recently a featured speaker at Personiv's CFO Leadership LIVE event, Planning for a Successful New Year: The Future of Finance & What's Next, where he shared his thoughts on everything from innovation without sacrificing productivity and the technologies finance leaders should keep an eye on to tackling tough talent questions with creativity and teamwork. For more of Russell's insights, read the full event recap.

Looking for new ways to stay competitive in a tough labor landscape, fill productivity gaps and make a bottom-line impact? That's what Personiv's best at. Our solutions help finance leaders keep their focus on what really matters by applying people power to a range of talent challenges. Get in touch today to see what we can do for your team or ask a CFO to answer a burning leadership question of your own.

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