Date posted: 01/02/2019 5 min read

How to halve staff turnover and other strategy questions for 2019

February 2019 Acuity explores how successful finance leaders are setting strategy, forecasts and budgets in times of change.

In Brief

  • In February 2019 Acuity magazine, in mailboxes from 1 February, we introduce the new CA ANZ president and regional council chairs.
  • On the cover is Mark Nielsen CA, the CEO Asia-Pacific of Talent recruitment, who in two years halved staff turnover and boosted earnings by 40%. His secret? He says it’s his CA training.
  • We also interview Janelle Hopkins FCA on reshaping Australia Post for the future, and find out how successful CFOs are setting budgets and forecasts.

The tech evolution is touching almost every part of an accountant’s role but as technological capabilities escalate, people are becoming more rather than less important.

Smart modelling tools can spit out a snapshot of business health in almost the click of an accountant’s fingers. Yet it’s those accountants who can discern the story behind those numbers, who can relate them to a business’s strategy and, crucially, set credible targets for success that are adding real value to their role.

In the February issue, Acuity interviews finance professionals from established, turnaround and start-up businesses on their approaches to setting budgets and forecasts – two tasks that increasingly converge.

What is their top tool for getting budgets and forecasts chiming harmoniously? It’s not a particular software, as you might think, but good communication with people at all levels of an enterprise.

“A more relaxed environment can still be a high-performance environment.”
Mark Nielsen CA, Talent

Change from the top

Mark Nielsen CA, the CEO Asia-Pacific of Talent recruitment firm, also cites good communication as a factor in halving his business’s staff turnover rate from 25% to 12%, against a recruitment industry average of 35%.

Nielsen, who features on the February cover, says he took the strategic planning skills he learned in his accounting and corporate finance background and applied them to his passion of developing people.

“This is a pure people business and it’s about motivating people to set their ambitions high, and creating engagement with people in order for them to be the very best they can be,” he says.

Transparency around Talent’s targets and clear business plans for all people and all levels of management have resonated with staff. Nielsen believes Talent’s more positive work culture was critical to it achieving a 40% lift in earnings last financial year.

“A more relaxed environment can still be a high-performance environment,” he says. “We find people are far more motivated in the way they approach their work… it’s not rocket science.”

Dealing with digital disruption

Acuity also interviews Janelle Hopkins FCA, who as chief financial officer of Australia Post is helping reshape the company from its once-mighty letters monopoly towards rapid, reliable delivery of e-commerce parcels.

Few strategists face a tougher job, and few industries have been more disrupted by digital technology. In her first full year as CFO, 2014-2015, Hopkins signed off on an after-tax loss of A$222 million – the first loss Australia Post had recorded in 30 years.

The business is back in the black, with a A$134 million profit, but Hopkins wants to future-proof Australia Post by expanding its services and entrenching it as Australia’s leading delivery brand.

“No-one can bury their head in the sand around the impact of disruption and the pace of change,” she says. “Every organisation, big or small, needs to always be thinking about what’s coming over the horizon… Because if you’re not considering a change, you are going backwards.”

“No-one can bury their head in the sand around the impact of disruption and the pace of change.”
Janelle Hopkins FCA, Australia Post

Future-proofing accounting

Future-proofing the accounting profession is on the minds of CA ANZ’s 2019 leadership group, who are introduced in February Acuity.

In addition to promoting ethical leadership among chartered accountants, Stephen Walker FCA, the new CA ANZ president, wants the organisation to offer more advice for small to medium accounting firms on evolving their practices.

He is also keen to highlight potential careers for CAs beyond the corporate ladder in the not-for-profit and government sectors.

Regional council chairs point to the need for more cybersecurity and technical knowledge among accountants, and the danger of offshoring more junior work, as it means trainee accountants don’t get to learn about accounting basics and controls in Australia.

However, all agree that it is the chartered accountants’ commitment to ethics that will keep the profession in good stead, whatever the future brings.

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