Of the 200 CFOs, one in three expect to extend full monetary compensation to their hourly and salaried employees.
"Many view this as a good ethical gesture, and this is also about seeing the bigger picture and finding creative ways to ensure business continuity in times of crisis," said Dennis Gannon, Gartner vice president and finance advisor. "Not only do companies want to emerge from the crisis with an experienced and engaged workforce, they also want to mitigate the risks of employee fraud and misconduct that rise significantly during times of uncertainty."
"It remains the CFO’s first responsibility to do everything they can to support their organization and its employees in such a difficult time," Gannon said. "That also means seeing the opportunity to reinvent old and broken processes, especially when that can keep the business running and keep staff engaged."
Gannon named three major takeaways Gartner gathered from speaking with the CFOs in an interview with CFO Dive on Wednesday.
First, CFOs are most concerned with staff experience and helping their employees feel secure and taken care of, which they value tremendously despite the greater uncertainties.
Second, Gannon said, many CFOs have "an intense liquidity focus" right now.
"Most CFOs are not planning to fully draw down on their bank lines," Gannon said. "Most CFOs are talking to their bank groups, making sure their covenants are in order, and trying not to create an antagonist relationship to their bank group by drawing down aggressively, or otherwise putting strain on counter-parties."
Third, CFOs of public companies must be transparent with investors. "We don’t know a lot about how this is going to shake out, but CFOs must be transparent," Gannon said. "It's time for organizations to do a better job discussing their risk mitigation strategies, and to make good contingency plans, so you know you can come out of this strong."
CFOs surveyed considered supporting employees in a variety of ways. Their options include expanding work from home and sick policies, tracking state benefits for hourly workers, considering offering childcare for employees who can’t work remotely, offering equipment like routers and modems for those who can, and allowing sick leave donation among employees.
The long-term financial impact of COVID-19 remains elusive, but Gartner found CFOs are beginning to shift their attention from crisis mode towards minimizing the downside impact. Most CFOs (51%) have not yet adjusted internal targets despite the long odds of meeting them.
"There’s no good way for most CFOs to reset targets with any certainty," Gannon said. "Instead, many CFOs are assuming that targets won’t be met, and are taking steps to ensure ongoing working cash flow to support operations, such as securing access to credit and planning for possible repatriation scenarios."
In terms of managing the finance function, 90% of CFOs were optimistic, reporting that only a minimal amount of accounting close procedures cannot be executed off-premises. CFOs are most focused on adapting the working process for their critical third parties.
For example, many CFOs have used this crisis as an opportunity to transition towards automated clearing house (ACH) payments instead of check writing, Gartner found. They've also shifted towards videoconferencing for auditing physical inventories.
"Now is the time to deepen collaboration with vendors, auditors, or customers," Gannon said. "Take advantage of relevant solutions that have been put off in the past."