COVID-19Treasury Management

Talent Travails: Loose Lips About Pay and Hybrid Headaches

By May 5, 2022No Comments

A younger generation’s transparency about what they earn creates another challenge for finance leaders coping with hybrid work woes.

A session on talent at a recent meeting of NeuGroup for Mega-Cap Assistant Treasurers revealed that finance teams already struggling to hire workers amid tight labor markets, demands by candidates for higher compensation and the unwillingness of some of them to spend much, if any, time in the office face additional, less publicized problems:

  • Many younger workers speak freely about how much they are earning, prompting dissatisfaction among existing, veteran staff who may learn that new hires are making almost as much as they are—or more. And not all efforts by treasury to get HR to make salary adjustments for current staff are succeeding.
  • New hires directed to work in offices are arriving on corporate campuses with very few workers, prompting them to ask why they have to commute and then work on nearly empty floors when more experienced finance team members remain working from home.
  • “We’re really struggling with this hybrid issue right now,” said an AT who started the session by presenting her observations to the group and whose comments resonated with many other NeuGroup members present.

Generation gap: talking about pay. Many senior treasury leaders have come to accept the need to offer more attractive pay and benefits packages to lure candidates in this environment. And that in some cases, they won’t be able to match another employer’s offer. But they have also been forced to accept that many younger people are far more willing to discuss what they earn than people from older generations. This new climate of pay transparency brings new problems.

  • “You never talked about what you made to your co-workers,” one AT said. “Now, it’s generational. I’ve got people in my office every day. They went to dinner with their co-worker and found out what they’re making compared to the other ones. ‘I’ve been here for years busting my butt to deliver; this person has no experience, yet I know they make more than me.’ And you hear the complaints, but HR keeps telling us there’s nothing they can do.”
  • Another member framed the pay issue surrounding existing staff this way: “How can I properly compensate them to help them to stay, number one? And then, as we’re hiring other people, my salaries are all out of whack. I’ve got people at one level making almost as much as people who have been there forever.”
  • Unlike the first AT, though, this member has been able to raise the salaries of some existing team members “who are deserving, who I was afraid would really leave a big hole.” But this member does not expect to have that lever to pull in the future.
  • Salary transparency is also being fueled by business schools that publish data on salaries in specific industries and individual companies, one AT said. That can create frustration for existing talent who learn that “fresh MBAs” at the company are making as much money or more than they are.

Hybrid headaches. Managing the generational divide over pay transparency is not the only talent balancing act that finance team leaders must perform. Another is balancing the desire to get new hires in junior roles into the office on a regular basis with the reality that many experienced workers mostly remain at home.

  • “The people with the experience don’t want to come in the office,” said one AT whose company has a campus built for several thousand people. “So we are struggling with that right now.”
  • Junior people, no surprise, don’t see the value of coming to an office and working on an empty floor. “They say, ‘why are we here and nobody else is? There’s really no benefit to us being here,’” one AT said. Another member said, “They go into the office but no one’s there, so they’re on video calls all day. And everyone’s, like, what’s the point?”
  • Some companies are using free breakfasts and happy hours to get people back in the office. One member said when a new hire starts, all of the treasury team go in to avoid having the new team member work alone in the office aside from a few IT workers.
  • At another company, the problem is not getting more experienced people in the office; it’s getting the junior people to see the value of joining them. “Maybe they don’t put the same value on those in-person interactions,” the AT said. “We’re really trying to find ways to make time in the office productive and meaningful and show value, but it’s a challenge.”

Big picture: the office obstacle. The member who kicked off the discussion was among 29% of respondents to an in-session poll who said hiring in the current environment is “very hard.” (About two-thirds described it as “relatively hard.”)

  • One of the biggest challenges for this AT is resistance to the company’s policy that workers spend at least three days a week in the office. “It’s really taken a lot of people out of the mix, which I find incredible, particularly for these levels,” the member said, referring to junior positions.
  • The member has started telling candidates about the policy from the get-go after enduring the frustration of making an offer after a lengthy vetting process only to learn the person would not agree to come in more than twice a week. In this case, “the candidate said, ‘No, it’s a deal breaker, won’t do it.’ I’m like, you’re kidding me, for one day to come into the office? It’s unbelievable.” 
  • Another member said it took her six months to fill an analyst position and almost a year to hire a senior manager. She chalked up the difficulty in part to being clear about her unwillingness to bend on the requirement that candidates be in the office as much as five days a week. It’s based on the group’s belief that working in the office promotes collaboration and the development of skills that allow team members to work on ad-hoc projects and opportunities that pop up.
  • “I feel like it took me longer to fill the roles, but I didn’t have that back-and-forth. I was very upfront,” she said, adding that once someone accepts those terms and is hired, the company is flexible if they need to work from home occasionally.
Justin Jones

Author Justin Jones

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