Finance and talent acquisition teams are like peanut butter and marshmallow fluff — they’re a classic combination, but one that most people don’t think of first. It makes sense why these two teams work so well together because they share one of the biggest areas of capital allocation in every business: hiring great talent.
Despite this fact, many businesses of all sizes struggle to keep their talent and finance teams aligned. In this current macro environment with ever-changing variables, fluctuating budgets, and varying headcounts, it’s more important than ever for these two teams to build a strong relationship. But that also means it feels harder than ever to do so. According to Forbes, a lot of the difficulty stems from a lack of communication and bringing talent leaders into the decision room.
We recently spoke with finance professionals David Wieseneck and Scott Buxton as well as TA pros Erica Galos Alioto and Rebecca Price to understand why it’s so important to build alignment between finance and talent departments — and how to hit the ground running with your teams.
Why it’s important to invest in building a relationship with your CFO
It’s easy to focus solely on optimizing the hiring process and bringing in great candidates as a talent acquisition team, but that can cause a lack of collaboration with other departments — especially finance.
At their core, talent teams are dedicated to building great organizations and internal processes. You can build the best hiring and talent plan in the business, but it could be very disconnected from what the business is trying to achieve and what the projected budget allows for. Misalignment between TA and finance teams can cause misunderstandings and confusion at its best, and significant budget hits at its worst.
Our Co-founder and CEO, Benjamin Sesser, says it best: “At the end of the day, what drives an organization forward is people. The intersection between finance and people and talent is critical and at the center of a company’s success.”
A talent leader’s checklist for strengthening your relationship with your CFO
The areas in talent acquisition that overlap the most with finance’s responsibilities are headcount, compensation, benefits packages, and headcount-related costs like events, offsites, and team dinners. When you’re working on these areas, follow this advice to build the strongest relationship possible with your company’s finance team.
1. Don’t work in a vacuum.
“Work shouldn’t be done in a vacuum,” says Scott Buxton, former CFO of HighRadius. “Headcount-related costs are more than 75% of your total operating expenditures as software companies, so it’s an important working relationship to nail right away.” When talent teams keep their projects and plans siloed, finance is often hit with surprise headcount and budget requests that they didn’t account for in their budgets.
If there are no surprises, that means there’s constant communication and transparency between the two departments. To avoid working in a vacuum as a talent leader, talk with the CFO and make a plan for how your teams can reach your goals collectively. Focus on what’s best for both teams and initiatives — and keep everyone in the loop. “Bring the CFO along on any investment or change management decision,” says Rebecca Price, Partner at Primary Venture Partners.
Scott agrees: “Things can add up pretty quickly; if there isn’t the same understanding between finance and people as to what some of those costs will be, whatever you’re trying to model out for the year or quarter is going to be off.”
2. Align on what’s important for the business at that moment in time.
Team collaboration and alignment aren’t one-and-done deals. They require consistent check-ins and adjustments as the variables involved change. “Don’t assume that just because there was an understanding previously that it always remains true,” says Erica Galos Alioto, Global Head of People at Grammarly. “Align on what’s important at that moment. Be proactive on readjusting plans as the economy and market changes; being flexible goes a long way with building trust with finance teams.”
Erica went through something like this recently. As Global Head of People, one of her main goals was to look at office real estate and choose the right space for the company’s needs at the time. “We may have looked at the cost per square foot before, whereas now we look for flexibility. We’re willing to pay more of a premium for flexibility because of what talent wants today and the uncertainty of the market overall,” she says.
3. Communicate constantly to avoid misalignment on goals and priorities.
“The best relationship is one where you can talk constantly; you don’t need to wait for the weekly or biweekly one-on-one,” says David Wieseneck, VP of Finance at Demostack.
When discussing new talent plans and ideas with your company’s finance team, bring all of the details to the table, including the answers to these questions:
- What are the possible options available to achieve this goal?
- What does it cost to achieve this goal?
- How much employee time and dedication will this need?
- What is the time to value?
We recommend scheduling a one-on-one with the CFO at a cadence that makes sense for you both, but you should be sure to continue to communicate outside of those meetings. And if you can agree on a foundational philosophy and values from the beginning, it makes all future decisions a lot easier. “If we agree on our philosophy around equity, retention, and so on, a lot of the decisions we make can flow from that agreement easily,” says David.
4. Be specific about the terms you use.
“Finance values specificity,” says Erica. “Be very clear about the definitions of the words you use. What does headcount mean to you — getting open roles filled, or total offers accepted? Don’t use the same term with different definitions.”
Sharing plans and goals with the finance team as clearly as possible will make things easier for everyone in the long run. What your talent team is being held to is important to be clear about — so be specific about what you’re trying to achieve and how you plan on doing it.
5. Have empathy for what’s on finance’s plate and try to meet them halfway.
As a talent leader, you never want to surprise anyone in your organization; managing the relationship between you and your finance partner is important to help mitigate any surprises. The finance team is dedicated to the costs of hiring, yes — but they do have many other budgets and tasks on their plate, including the cash flow into the company. The more you can do to alleviate any extra, undue stress or work on their plates, the better they can work with you and your needs.
“Investing in the relationship from the beginning, before decisions need to be made, is really valuable. Having empathy for what’s on the other team’s plate helps you think from their perspective and meet them halfway,” says Rebecca. “It’s not like you can’t make decisions without your finance team, but because of how we work together, I don’t really want to.”
6. When proposing new budget items, don’t just list the cost of doing something — list the cost of not doing something.
Sharing the total cost of proposing a new product, vendor, open role, or backfill is important for both your team and finance, but what about sharing the total cost of *not* filling that role or buying that product?
“Show what the cost is for not doing something,” says Erica. “How many candidates did we lose and how much time did we waste because we don’t offer the specific benefit we want to add? How many recruiting and hiring manager hours were unnecessarily spent? Laying out the total cost for anything you propose — in addition to the opportunity cost — is vital for team alignment.”
Think about the risks and opportunities for each new budget item you propose to help finance make the best decision possible with your team.
Creating better alignment between finance and people teams doesn’t have to be difficult
“Where we spend our money is going to come out in our values. What are your company’s values? Make sure you budget appropriately to live up to those. If you’re not doing that, you’re going to fall short of your values and philosophy,” says David.
Fostering a tight-knit working partnership between TA and finance requires communication and understanding. As long as you work on your goals together, continue to align with what the company needs at the moment, and make decisions together, your teams can work together seamlessly.
To learn more about strengthening your relationship with finance, watch the full on-demand webinar today.