Matt Wolf on How Organizational Transparency Creates Trust at the Workplace
Matt Wolf, the CFO of ChartHop, discusses the benefits of organizational transparency, some potential challenges, and why it ultimately benefits the company in terms of stronger employee retention.
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Matt Wolf on How Organizational Transparency Creates Trust at the Workplace
Matt Wolf, the CFO of ChartHop, discusses the benefits of organizational transparency, some potential challenges, and why it ultimately benefits the company in terms of stronger employee retention.
Organizational transparency is one of many buzzwords in the business world, but it can be a game changer for any company that adopts it. Executive leaders shouldn’t be afraid of being transparent with employees because it can lead to greater motivation, more trust, and improved productivity.
However, it can be a struggle to find the sweet spot between sharing and oversharing. And finance leaders can help bridge the gap and make a strategic impact by helping executive and department leaders discover their common language around the numbers and people that make the company’s growth narrative come to life.
In this episode of The Role Forward podcast, our host Joe Michalowski welcomes Matt Wolf, the CFO of ChartHop. They discuss the benefits of organizational transparency, some potential challenges, and why it ultimately benefits the company in terms of stronger employee retention.
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Matt Wolf is the CFO at ChartHop, a people analytics company that is creating more connected organizations. Wolf has over a decade’s worth of experience in financial leadership, from startups to global organizations. Prior to his career at ChartHop, Wolf served as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley and the CFO of Roadster.
- Organizational transparency is a strong company asset. It's one of the best ways to generate trust and improve employee retention. When you distill information about performance and strategy down for everyone across the organization, it forces leaders to understand it on a deeper level as well.
- Organization transparency comes with some challenges, as it opens the stage for people to ask tougher questions. Managers need to agree on how to explain something, anticipate how people may interpret information.
- Employee retention has become more vital than ever — and organizational transparency helps keep employees engaged and satisfied. Employees feel valued due to the company showing that they trust employees with information. And when managers are proactive with gathering feedback, employees feel that their opinions have merit.
Episode Highlights from Matt Wolf
07:40 — Finance Is Another Strategic Arm of Business
“I think in some kind of traditional view of accounting or planning, it’s sort of a very cold function. And I think, my view of it is that it really seems to be another strategic arm of business. All of these things kind of point to my sort of philosophy around finance, which is that it is making sure resources are available to the organization whether that’s financial resources or team resources. And then, what are the teams doing to foster that culture?”
13:58 — Get to Know Your Business Partners and Understand Their Needs
“Knowing how teams are organized and being able to see them; knowing who’s in charge of what and what they’re working on — whether it’s tenure or whatever data you’re trying to look for — you can get a perspective on the business that you don’t normally have. And so, taking that information into a planning meeting gives you just that much more context for when people are asking for things, justifying things, or asking for feedback on whether or not they should do something. You can be going back to this strategic partner just because you have that much more understanding of the business.”
17:10 — Seeing Is Believing
“I think if they believe that they are coordinated and aligned, and they trust each other — that’s also ultimately what it comes down to, that’s where the transparency really gets to. It’s like, ‘Do I trust this organization? Do I trust this management team?’ And yes, I trust them. One of the reasons I trust them is that I see what is going on, and what I see is consistent with what I’m being told. So I think that’s a huge piece.”
28:38 — When an Employee Leaves Your Company, Team Morale Takes a Hit
“I think there’s a morale hit on teams when people leave. If you’re in an organization where people generally get along well and because we are all remote, when we get together, there are real bonds that are formed. When you lose people, you feel that.”
Table of Contents
[00:00:00] Matt Wolf: I think that starts with the exec team, is that team transparent with each other? And if it’s great, then, then everyone feels comfortable, everyone feels confident saying things, you can have difficult conversations with and among the exec team if it’s more siloed in, in organizations that makes that challenging. And that’s going to sort of follow the organization.
[00:00:41] Joe Michalowski: Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Role Forward podcast. My name is Joe Michalowski. And this episode is brought to you by Mosaic, a strategic finance platform that transforms the way business gets done. And today, our guest is Matt Wolf. He is the CFO of ChartHop, a people analytics company that is creating more connected organizations.
[00:00:57] Joe Michalowski: Matt, thank you so much for joining.
[00:00:58] Matt Wolf: Thanks, Joe. It’s great to be here.
[00:01:00] Joe Michalowski: Awesome. Love getting through, you know, the intro spiel, but we have a, a pretty good topic lined up for today. I’m excited about it, but before we get to it, I want to start off with just a quick background on yourself. Can you give everybody like the, the quick rundown of who you are, the work that you do at ChartHop, and kind of how you got there?
Matt Wolf Introduction
[00:01:15] Matt Wolf: Sure thing. So, uh, as I mentioned, I’m currently the CFO at ChartHop, which is a people analytics platform. Prior to that, I was the CFO at another sales company, did a few other startups prior to that. And, uh, began my career as an asset banker in a prior life.
[00:01:32] Joe Michalowski: Nice. We did an eBook one time, that was, like, who your first finance hire should be as a, as a startup.
[00:01:37] Matt Wolf: Right.
[00:01:38] Joe Michalowski: And there were like four personas, and one of them was like the investment banker, and one of them was like the account. So, now that’s just drilled in my head. I’m always curious, like, what the person’s gonna say, like, which background they came from.
[00:01:49] Matt Wolf: Which option’s that I’m gonna select. Yeah.
[00:01:52] Joe Michalowski: We haven’t failed yet. I haven’t gotten anyone coming outta left field being like, “I was a history major, and I did x, y, and z.” It’s been pretty, it’s been pretty solid, so.
[00:02:01] Matt Wolf: Yeah, sure, sure. Makes sense.
[00:02:03] Joe Michalowski: Awesome, well, great to have you here. Uh, we’re gonna be talking about organizational transparency today, which I’m gonna be honest is, it’s a, a different topic than I, you know,
[00:02:11] normally, we cover a lot of finance topics, just it’s a little outside the realm of like the, the numbers and the business partnering. And so, we really wanna focus on how finance and HR teams kind of come together to foster organizational transparency. But that’s her means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
[00:02:28] So, can you just talk about what organizational transparency means to you and the kind of framing of what we’ll talk about it as?
How Organizational Transparency Frames Financial Storytelling
[00:02:35] Matt Wolf: Yeah, happy to do that. So, I think the way that I, I look at organizational transparency is ensuring that our employees have a really clear view of what the company is, strategy, what the, how the company is performing. We do share financials with our company, with our employees kinda pretty broadly, which I think is, is somewhat rare in some organizations.
[00:02:58] I think there’s a couple reasons for that one. I think they can be hard to adjust sometimes, and so, we do a lot of work around making sure that things are, are in fact adjustable, a lot of, like, teach-ins one-on-one, be making, make ourselves available, frankly, to answer questions, to kind of, sort of foster that. And then I think, you know, the other piece is that sometimes management tends to want to keep, you know, employees in the dark in certain things.
[00:03:22] And I, I don’t think that always works very well, and you know, we don’t do that here at ChartHop, and I think we put, we do quite the opposite as we’re saying, but I think in, in some instances it, it makes signal that, that management sometimes is a little unsure the numbers themselves, or unsure their performance, or friendly unsure how to talk about it.
[00:03:38] And I think it actually makes us better, as a management team, by having to talk about it to the organization, explain performance, explain the strategy and, and really having to distill it down so that everyone in an organization can understand it. It forces us to understand it better as well.
[00:03:55] Joe Michalowski: Yeah, I think it makes a lot of sense. We, we talk a lot about, you know, financial storytelling for the board and for executive teams, and kind of the, the making the business grow side. And it just doesn’t often get caught, brought up how we need to foster that internally, as well. And at Mosaic that, that’s what the leadership team has done here, as well.
[00:04:13] We have like our own, like, Mosaic company, you can go in, you can see, like, how we’re trending towards our numbers. So, very much top of mind for, for us as well. So, I’m really excited. We’re gonna dive into this and thank you for the definition, but, you know, if you get like a rundown of what company values are, you know, if you just see every company’s value, I feel like foster transparency or cultivate transparency will probably show up like all the time.
[00:04:36] It’s a very common company value, but it’s not easy to do. And I feel like a lot of companies, even though they say it, maybe don’t actually like effectively put it in place. So, I’m curious what some of the challenges are. Um, I know you’re talking about distilling that story for the people in the company, but what are some of the other challenges you face as a CFO and as a leadership team to actually make this happen?
The Challenges of Cultivating Organizational Transparency
[00:04:57] Matt Wolf: Yeah. I, I think, you know, one of the things is that it’s hard to do, like how do you, how do you share these things? Is, is it through slides? Is it through, you know, data tables or whatever else? Um, and then what is, what does organizational transparency really mean? It goes beyond just the numbers as well.
[00:05:12] It’s, it’s what are reporting wise look like? What are, how are teams structured? Uh, what are comp bands? And that’s actually one of the challenges that, that ChartHop seeks to solve as a platform, which is making that information available to organizations. And so, I think, you know, we, we certainly use our own product internally.
[00:05:29] So, there’s a lot of, a lot of internal feedback. And so, I think we, we, we’re in a, you know, a very fortunate position to have, have that tool available to us, and really kind of being on the cutting edge of it, but I think that is, it is one of the challenges, how do you present all of these different sort of facets of information of a company in a sort of consistent and consolidated way so that people know where to look?
[00:05:51] A lot of times, you know, people will say that someone’s available, but they’re not quite sure where to look for it, and having in a single platform makes that very easy.
[00:06:01] Joe Michalowski: Yeah, for sure. I think if people are listening, I, I feel like maybe company culture and culture building doesn’t often fall in the plate of finance, or it’s not stereotypically what you would see finance’s role as. So, I mean, the way you’re talking about it, it’s very numbers-driven, but I think people would still expect this to be like a CEO responsibility mainly.
[00:06:20] So, I’m curious, like what, if these are the challenges? Like what, what is finance’s broader role in cultivating transparency? How do you work with your CEO? I know we’re gonna get to HR, but what, what is finance’s role here, and how can finance leaders think about their role, um, a bit differently than maybe they have in the past.
[00:06:37] Matt Wolf: Yeah, I think it, you know, I think historically finance has been looked at as an, in an organization, as, as accountant in a lot of ways, accounting, and planning. And I think, you know, HR teams also were looked at as sort of an adjacency to management, as opposed to kinda serving the needs of the company.
[00:06:54] I think that’s starting to shift, think that has shifted in a lot, in a lot of ways. And so, one of the things that I really try to focus on is, especially with my own team, is getting them out of, sort of the back office, if you, I mean, we’re all remote, so it’s, you know, it’s a, a figure speech, but is making sure that our teams are interacting with, or my, my team is interacting with the other teams in the company.
[00:07:16] And, as you said, you know, kind of, it starts with, with interactions between the CEO. I think kind, sort of trickles down in, in an organization, and I, from a finance perspective, make sure that gets into my team as well. And then they are interacting in ways that are consistent with that culture across the team, so whether it’s following up on dealing with something like that, or asking questions about it, about vendors, I think in some, some,
[00:07:40] Matt Wolf: sort of the kinda the traditional view of accounting, or planning, it’s sort of a very cold function. And I think my view of it is that it really seems to be another strategic arm of the business, all of these things, kind of point to my sort of philosophy around finance, which is, it is making sure that resources are available to the organization.
[00:07:59] Um, whether those are, you know, that’s, that’s obviously financial resources, team resources. And then, what are teams doing to kind of foster that culture within an, is there, is there a budget for that? Am I reminding teams when we’re talking about budgets that, “Hey, you know, we probably wanna allocate some spend to making sure that teams are collaborating and getting together and things like that.”
[00:08:19] I love that. I’m gonna go off in a little tangent ’cause I, you didn’t hear it because we don’t run it at the beginning of the actual recording, but if you’ve listened to an episode of our podcast, there’s like a little intro kind of a talk track about getting like finance outta the back office trenches and making them more strategic.
[00:08:35] Joe Michalowski: So, we are very much, uh, in line with kind of making finance that more strategic, uh, role in the business. But, uh, I’m curious if that’s something that has evolved for you over your career, or if you’ve always like, did you always come to your roles with that thought, or were you also in that kind of accounting role and realized maybe that wasn’t working out the way you wanted it to and had to change?
Bringing a Strategic Mindset to Your Finance Career and Company Culture
[00:08:57] Matt Wolf: So, I, I think my, my background sort of influenced how I, how I came about it. So, I, as I mentioned, I came from an investment banking background, which is a very sort of consultative role, is a very transactional nature to it, but it’s, there’s a lot of just human interaction, ’cause you’re working on either buying or selling companies or taking companies public, things like that.
[00:09:14] So, you’re working with management teams in pretty high-stake scenarios sometimes. And so, you have to learn how to be a strategic partner. And so, when I sort of shifted my career from, from that, you know, that aspect of it into more operational roles, I took that with me.
[00:09:33] Matt Wolf: Um, and so, from, from the start, it was important to me that the organizations that I was joining viewed, viewed finance as a strategic function within the business, as opposed to just, you know, a team that kind spits out numbers every month.
[00:09:45] And we look and move on from there. And so, I, I think it, it certainly has come from, you know, my, my own background as a strategic partner to other companies and then bringing that mentality and that, that philosophy internally.
[00:10:00] Joe Michalowski: Yeah, I love that. We’ve always talked about it as like a finance as the customer service organization for the business. And so like, you know, you’re not just kind of doing ad hoc requests for everyone, but you’re acting as like, kind of the customer, success role kind of supporting everything that everybody else needs.
[00:10:16] So, I love that, but it’s like, it’d be really easy to say, “Oh, the traditional role of finance is like, scorekeepers in the background.” So, there are blind spots for how they could culture or cultivate transparency. If you’re talking about kind of like this nice blend of numbers-driven and strategic partnership-driven, it seems like you kind of have everything covered.
[00:10:36] Joe Michalowski: I’m curious if there are any challenges that finance isn’t as equipped to handle as far as cultivating transparency goes, like, where do you need help in this case?
[00:10:46] Matt Wolf: Yeah, and I, I think that’s a, it’s a good segue into kinda how we interact with the people team, and I think part of why, yeah, I’ve I, I like the think that I’ve been quite successful at that, uh, in the organiz, organ, I actually, my previous role, um, was running HR for the first year as I came in the finance hire, and kind picked up a lot of things that we, that weren’t staff.
[00:11:08] And so, it was everything from finance and accounting, obviously, but legal IT facilities in HR. We eventually brought in a wonderful HR professional to lead the team, but I, making a very close relationship with her as she scaled the team and, and kinda we, we just worked very, very well together, but I got to see sort of the people side from managing that, that part of the business and not just being a partner to it.
[00:11:30] And so, I think, there’s a certain level of understanding that, that, that I had just I’m, I’m fortunate to have because of some of the responsibilities I’ve had at other, other organizations. And I think, you know, finance to your point, being very numbers-driven, you, you can get a little bit bogged down in that, or kind of caught up in that.
[00:11:48] And I try to look at it from a, a much more empathetic perspective than I think might be sort of expected, in terms of how, how we partner, how we talk to, and how we engage with other, other parts of the company, other parts of the team, you know, it’s, I think sometimes you look at finance teams, and they’re sort of thought of it as like spend police.
[00:12:07] Matt Wolf: And it’s like, well, I’m trying to get something done here, and they’re just saying, “No.” I don’t like to say no, I have my responsibilities, but at the same time, I like to find creative solutions in, in sort of collaborative ways to solve problems. And so, it’s like, it’s usually, you know, if, if it is a no, we can’t do something it’s no, but can we do this?
[00:12:24] Or can we do this later or, or another way here. And so, I think, when I think about how we interact with other teams and especially the people team, it’s really interesting what are the actual needs? What are the pain points of teams beyond just the, they’re asking for something, for example, outside of budget, while it goes beyond that because there’s a reason they’re asking for it?
[00:12:44] Matt Wolf: There’s a reason that the organization has that demand. And let’s talk about it. Let’s understand it.
[00:12:50] Joe Michalowski: How does this look in, in practice? I wanna, I wanna get to some examples in a little bit, but I mean, like, If you’re talking about, let’s say you’re talking about the, I mean, we’re coming up now, it’s July as we’re recording this, like we’re coming up on annual planning, season planning, sea, I mean, at this point planning season is kind of like all the time ’cause times are rough, but regardless, uh, so if you’re like going into budgeting meetings or planning meetings, like, does this, does this benefit you in that way?
[00:13:17] Because you have this relationship with HR, like where does this pop up from an execution standpoint. And how does that impact kind of your day-to-day as a CFO?
[00:13:26] Matt Wolf: Yeah, that’s a, that’s a good question. And the way I sort of look at it is when we, when we go into planning sessions. One, I tend to approach it from the perspective of whatever we spent in the past is sort of irrelevant because, one, it’s a faster-run company, and it’s not the kind of traditional budget process.
[00:13:44] Well, you had x last year, let’s increase it by this or decrease it, and did you use it, did you not use it? I look at it, I go into a, go into a planning meeting, and I say, “Okay, here, here are sort of what we’re trying to achieve on the top line or certain company goals for next year. What do you need from a
[00:13:58] marketing sales, engineering team, whatever it is to achieve this, this goal?” And having built those relationships that, that goes beyond just the numbers, um, and understanding who the people are on teams, how the teams are organized. And again, not to, not to go back to, to ChartHop again, but knowing how teams are literally organized and being able to see them and knowing who’s in charge and why, and knowing what they’re working on, knowing who’s, you know, even whether it’s tenure, or whatever data you’re trying to look for, you can get a perspective on the business that you don’t normally have.
[00:14:30] And so, taking that information into a planning meeting gives you just that much more context for when people are asking for things or justifying things or asking for feedback on whether or not they should do something. You can be, again, going back to this sort of, sort of strategic partner, just ’cause you have that much more understanding of the business.
[00:14:51] Joe Michalowski: Yep. Yeah, I mean, if you’re going into a meeting and you have to start with the baseline of, “Hey, uh, what does your team actually look like?” It’s, uh, little less productive than starting seven steps ahead of that, and actually getting to talk about what the needs of the team are. So, I think it makes sense to me.
[00:15:06] So, I mean, we, we talked about kind of finances role, we talked about how you interact with the people team. I’m curious, just super quick question. Does HR roll up to you as the CFO at ChartHop? I’ve heard different people structure it a little differently. So, I guess just for people listening, what does, what does that actually look like organizational-wise for you?
How ChartHop Executes Organizational Transparency
[00:15:23] Matt Wolf: It, it does not ChartHop. Our VP people rolls up to our CEO, so there’s a separate reporting line, and, and obviously on the exact team.
[00:15:32] Joe Michalowski: Gotcha. Does that impact, I know you said you, you owned HR at one point, um, in previous roles. Does, how has that impacted kind of the way you approach this organizational transparency? Has it made it more difficult? Not being the one that this person reports to. I’m sure you talk all the time, anyway, does it really matter in the end?
[00:15:50] Like what, like, the roll-up looks like?
[00:15:53] Matt Wolf: Yeah, I don’t think it does. And there’s a couple things that we, there’s a couple reasons for that. Um, one, as I said earlier, you know.
[00:16:00] The managing team is very well aligned on that. And we also have, uh, you know, a small, a small group of execs that, that really do focus on that specific aspect. So, there’s a lot of communication, and so I don’t think the reporting really make a difference at all.
[00:16:22] Joe Michalowski: Gotcha. Cool. I mean, that, that’s great. I mean, honestly, it, so much of what we talk about on this podcast, guests I’ve had in the past, it’s the CEO-CFO relationship is like the most critical one you have, and then after that it’s pretty close second to pretty much any functional business partner, like at the executive level.
[00:16:38] So, I guess like what you’re saying is, as long as that executive level in its entirety is aligned, then you are gonna be all set to kind of make your way down this path of cultivating transparency.
[00:16:50] Matt Wolf: Yeah. And I think that starts with the exec team, is that team transparent with each other? And if it’s, if it is great then, then everyone feels comfortable, everyone feels confident saying things, you can have difficult conversations with and among the exec team where you, if it’s more siloed in, in organizations that makes that challenging.
[00:17:10] And that’s, that’s also going to, going to sort of follow the organization. But if the organization believes that the exec team is coordinated all, you know, rowing the same direction, to use an overly used phrase, but, you know, I think if they, if they believe that they are coordinated and aligned, and they trust each other, and that’s also ultimately what it comes down to, that’s where the transparency really gets to is like, “Do I trust this organization?
[00:17:34] Do I trust this management team?” And yes, I trust them. And the reason, one of the reasons I trust these is like, I, I see what is going on, and, and what I see is consistent with what I’m being told. And so, I think that’s, that’s a huge piece of that.
[00:17:48] Joe Michalowski: Makes a ton of sense. I wanna, I wanna drill down and get specific about, like, what this looks like at ChartHop. So, we talked a little bit about planning, but at the beginning you talked about, you know, making sure that people had access to the information, and knew where to find it. And, you know, just making sure that the, the right data was shared in the right ways.
[00:18:05] I’m curious, like, what that actually looks like day-to-day. If I’m an employee at ChartHop, and I’m saying like, “Wow, ChartHop is very transparent with me as an employee base.” What are some ways from an execution standpoint that you are making that clear to your employees?
[00:18:20] Matt Wolf: Yeah. I’ll give you a very specific example. So, we have a number of KPIs that we track across the company. Uh, we update them on a weekly basis, and our sort of cadence is that we have an exec meeting once a week. And then, following that, we have an all-hands meeting with everyone in the company, and we do this weekly, um, I think even just having a weekly all-hands that cadence, just increases the transparency, and they’re incredibly well-attended.
[00:18:42] So, that’s, that’s always great to see, but what we, to get back to your example, we have a shared file, uh, which we update every morning, or every week, excuse me, that we then comment on how we’re tracking towards a specific goal for a quarter for a year. We then talk about that in our exec meeting, and then we, then share that exact same sheet in the, in the all-hands meeting.
[00:19:03] Matt Wolf: And that sheet’s access, accessible to everyone in the company, um, at any, at any point in time. So, there’s never any question about what is our goal for the quarter? How are we tracking on a weekly basis? And what is management view of the current position relative to the end of the quarter? And so, I think that access, and there’s a number of KPIs,
[00:19:23] it’s not just a, it’s not a handful, it’s, there’s a lot, it’s really specific by team. You see who’s the owner of that, that goal, you see who’s responsible for tracking the data. And then, you see the evaluation that we have on a weekly basis. And that’s, that’s, that’s shared throughout the company.
[00:19:40] Joe Michalowski: Wow, that’s, be honest that, that’s intense. I, I’ve been at a handful of my own company, like you guys clearly commit to transparency, like that’s amazing. It’s, it’s great that you provide all this information. What’s the feedback like, I mean, I’m sure a lot of people come to ChartHop, and they experience this for the first time?
[00:19:56] They’re like, “Oh, like I have not been at a company that is so willing to share this.” Have you heard from employees about what they appreciate about this?
[00:20:04] On our sort of weekly, all-hands zoom calls as we’re going through information, I, I bet if we were able to pull the data from kinda the zoom chat while we’re doing it, the number one comment would be, “Thanks for the transparency.” They do respond to this, they see it on a, on a, on a weekly basis.
[00:20:22] And we really do let them into management decisions. Uh, as I said, KPI tracking, obviously, um, and really start to really try to explain why we’ve made a certain decision, and let them know that, you know, we’ve been thoughtful about how we’ve approached something. So, it isn’t just kind of a, a quick decision that someone made, there was a, there was a process behind it.
[00:20:43] And so, again, I, I think the, the response from employees broadly is, is, again, it’s, is an appreciation of that transparency, and you get comments to your, to your point exactly, which is “I’ve never seen this level of transparency at an organization before and thank you for that.”
[00:20:58] Joe Michalowski: Yeah, that’s amazing. Love that. I want to, uh, I don’t wanna go too negative because this is a really positive conversation, and I will get to benefits and kind of advice that you might have for people trying to set this up, but before we get there, I want to take it from another side, which is like, are there any challenges you experience because you are so transparent?
[00:21:19] So, I’m guessing like if there’s a skeptic that is listening and they’re like, we need to be kind of this company that is a little more buttoned up, you mentioned it earlier, people that are, uh, not willing to share kind of that information. What are some roadblocks you’ve hit, maybe tough questions
[00:21:34] you’ve had to answer, things that have come up because you are so willing to share this information.
The Roadblocks toward Strong Organizational Transparency and Financial Storytelling
[00:21:39] Matt Wolf: Well, and I think it’s, I think it’s just that it’s, it’s, it, there are tougher questions because you are sharing information, and people are interpreting that information. And as I said in the beginning, it, it forces you to kind of really tighten up the, the narrative around a certain decision around a number, whatever it happens to be.
[00:21:57] And so, that can be challenging because it’s things that, as a management team, sometimes you can just assume that everyone understands, and you can kinda move beyond it. If you’re sharing that more broadly, you need to be very, very kind of tight about how you are explaining something and be prepared for the fact that not everyone’s gonna have the same understanding, have the same perspective, the same background.
[00:22:16] And, and try to anticipate how people will interpret something. And so, as an additional level of sort of thought that goes into, “Okay, we’re gonna share this piece of information, how do we think an org will respond to this?” And so, I think for organizations that are looking to increase transparency, to be prepared for that, it’s not just, “Okay, we’ve made things available and now let’s see what happens.” Like, what’s gonna happen is you’re gonna get a bunch of questions.
[00:22:41] Matt Wolf: Um, because you’re, things that people may not have seen them in previous organizations, it may be something that people weren’t expecting. And I think as long as you are, as I said earlier, kind of sharing the thought process or explaining things, then it all makes sense. It’s, it, but it’s not enough to just share a piece of data
[00:23:01] ’cause at that point, it is just data. And what, what are people supposed to do with that inform, with that, with that data, and is there information there?
[00:23:08] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. It’s definitely kind of getting to that why behind the numbers, the same way you have to like make a narrative for your investors and
[00:23:15] kind of understand what the direction is, uh, doing that for the employees ’cause obviously, you know, if somebody came out of this and you’re like, “Oh, I should just share all the information with my employees,
[00:23:23] like, cool, here’s a dashboard, uh, there are the numbers guys, like, there you go, uh, enjoy.” That’s probably gonna be more harm.
[00:23:30] Matt Wolf: What, what’s interesting that’s you start to see where people kind of focus, and you get, you, you have this much broader sort of group of folks that are looking at, at looking at something and, and you start to see how certain people think about what number that may not be the, what you as a management team thinking about it ’cause you have a bunch of other context, or whatever. Um, but it really does then force you to think, “Okay, well, they’re looking at it this way, how are viewpoint investors, or whoever, or the board going look at something,” and, like, there’s a, that initial roadblock or the initial sort of speed bump to say, “Okay, wow,
[00:24:04] we really need to kind of think about how we explain things.” But once you get over that, that also just becomes part of the process. And that, I think, makes you as an exec team better at sort of explaining the company and its performance, or a decision.
[00:24:23] Joe Michalowski: That, uh, what you just said about kind of having those extra eyes and kind of getting all those different perspectives on the numbers. It’s, it’s really interesting. It kind of makes me wonder, have you adjusted kind of stra, but if we roll back to working with HR, are there things you’ve taken back because of like the, the additional questions you’ve gotten and tried to adjust, maybe, um, strategy around benefits or things like that,
[00:24:45] like, what has this brought to you as a company because you get all those different perspectives, I guess?
[00:24:50] Matt Wolf: So, I think there, there are two things. So, when you say taken back, do you mean, have we presented something, or said that we shouldn’t be showing it again, that.
[00:24:57] Joe Michalowski: No, no, no. I mean, like take back as in like you present some information, you get all this feedback and now, like, we are, we’re done with all-hands, and we take that information back. We discuss it internally.
[00:25:06] Matt Wolf: So, we, we do a lot of surveying of our employees to kind of get that, get that feedback for certain, for certain decision that we’re making. And it, it’s something that we do discuss as an exec team on a pretty regular basis. You know, feedback is taken very seriously. And I think the, you know, our employees would, would agree with that.
[00:25:23] You know, we have made adjustments to benefits, we have made adjustments to compensation, and all those things happen because we’ve got, we’ve gotten feedback. Um, and I think just understand the perspective of the employees in a, in a better way.
[00:25:38] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. Well, this is great. I, I didn’t, like I said, uh, wanted to talk about some of the challenges, maybe some of the skeptics that, uh, people are gonna bring up, but I don’t wanna leave it there. So, we’re, we’re gonna talk about some of the benefits. Like, if you’ve put all this time in, it doesn’t, like, the way you describe it
[00:25:53] it’s not, it’s not a small effort. Like, again, you’re not just putting numbers in a spreadsheet and then saying like, “Oh, we did this work, like here, you can see it.” Like, this is an intentional thing that you’re putting hours of your, your weeks into. And so, what has been, you know, we’re talking finance, what is like the ROI, I guess, for ChartHop of doing this, what do you get as a company aside from just like more perspectives about how we’re doing and how employees feel about it?
How Organizational Transparency Benefits a Company
[00:26:16] Matt Wolf: So, I think there were sort of two key, and I’ll start with maybe the more, the more obvious one is it just gives you a broader perspective around planning, uh, and, and more feedback. And so, you can just make smarter decisions, and you have sort of that like next-level set of impact, a sense of impact,
[00:26:31] it’s like, “Okay, we do this.” Yeah, I know what it’s gonna do, just kind of, kind of at the high level, but here’s kind of the, the trickle-down of that. And have, you know, a better sense of what the impact will be on the organization. I think this, the, the more important piece though, is that it helps, I believe, with retention of employees because they feel like they’re at an organization where they are trusted with information that maybe in other organization they may not be, and that their feedback is really being taken seriously,
[00:26:59] and that’s valuable to, I mean, to everyone, uh, you wanna feel like you’re being valued in an organization that your, that your opinion has, has merit, is being listened to. But not even just being listened to, it’s being considered, and you know that the management team is talking about it. And then that’s a company that you wanna stay with.
[00:27:15] Matt Wolf: Uh, I think we’ve been, we’ve been really successful in keeping our employees through what is, you know, a challenging, uh, historically a challenging employment environment in the last couple years. It’s, it’s really hard to find, retain talent, and we’ve done a really good job with that, and I think the transparency goes a long way in that.
[00:27:33] Joe Michalowski: Makes a ton of sense. I wanna, I wanna follow up on that employee retention note ’cause I, my, my job is writing content, and so, a lot of it is like, finding stats to throw in, and there’s, there’s a lot of like, just general wisdom around certain numbers. And one of them is that it costs like what, what’s the stats, like it costs five times more to hire an onboard a new employee than it is to, like, retain a new one.
[00:27:58] Or I think it’s usually in the context of customers, but there is one that, uh, is similar for like employee retention versus churn. I’m curious, what, what your experience has been, like what is the difference financially of kind of having really strong retention versus, you know, if you’re not transparent, you’re kind of dealing with that constant revolving door?
[00:28:18] Matt Wolf: Yeah, it’s hard to put a number on because the roles are obviously very different.
[00:28:22] Joe Michalowski: Yep, it’s impossible.
[00:28:23] Matt Wolf: Um, and that sort thing, but I think you, the way to look at it is, one, there’s a cost of recruitment, which is just kinda like, understudied, it takes a while to bring people on. So, you have a gap in productivity, or there may be a function that’s not being covered while you’re looking to fill a role.
[00:28:38] I think if you lose people institutional knowledge goes out the door, um, and that may be impossible to replace it, maybe, so, and so did this, now no one need rebuild that again. Um, never quite rebuilt in the same way, it’s never transferred, and that sort of thing. And then I think there’s a, there’s morale hit on, on teams also when people leave, it’s like, oh, that, that, you know, if you’re in an organization where
[00:29:00] Matt Wolf: people generally really get along well, and because we are all remote, we, you know, when we get together, it’s, um, you know, there, there are real bonds that are formed. And when, when you lose people, you, you feel that. And so, I think, you know, there, there are kind of a number of ways that, that retention sort of mitigates all of those, all of those issues and helps you grow faster.
[00:29:23] It helps you maintain that culture. You know, It’s the, the earliest employees that have been kind living and breathing the culture since the, since day one or, or day whatever. They continue to kind of spread that around the organization. And, and as an organization sort of cycles through employees and you bring in new people who may have not been there for x events, or, you know, something that was done or said, or the way the product used to be and kinda can share those stories.
[00:29:48] That all kind of becomes the fabric of the organization, and that as you, if you cycle through people, that starts to really kind of get. And so, I think those are all ways that, that retention, and, and keeping in order, in order together and adding to it, you know, really benefits the org financially because there’s, there are, there are monetary costs to it.
[00:30:09] And then kind of that, that, um, intangible way of kind of what, how are we maintaining culture, how are we continuing to sort of cultivate and enhance it, really.
[00:30:19] Joe Michalowski: Yeah, well, I’m, I’m really glad we, we spent this time discussing this because it’s really, it gets down to what you said at the beginning where finance is like being a more strategic partner. It’s just really interesting to hear how finance can impact all of these things. It’s not just, oh, employee retention makes, I don’t know, x amount of dollars saved over y amount of time.
[00:30:41] It’s really thinking about the business and the health of it from, you know, from the HR perspective, from the people perspective, and also the financial perspective. So, really cool. I have a couple more questions. One of them is, you know, building a culture, not a static thing. So, you’re, I, I know you’re constantly working on this.
[00:31:00] You have weekly, these weekly stands or all-hands meetings. Uh, this is not something you just put in place today, and it’s all set tomorrow and for the next few years. So, is there anything you’re working on to continue to improve this culture of transparency at ChartHop, any new projects coming up, any things that are top of mind for you as you keep this going?
[00:31:19] Matt Wolf: I think what we are constantly trying to do is finding ways for, for us to engage our employees and for our employees to sort of engage with each other. Uh, and that’s largely born out of the fact that we are an all-remote organization, um, everyone’s working from home. And so, we, we do a lot around, employee engagement and making sure people are connecting,
[00:31:40] whether it’s, hopefully, not unseen all the time. Um, but finding people, you know, in certain, is there critical people in certain cities we do get, we do get the entire organization together for certain events, and it’s, it’s really finding ways to make the most of, of the, of that time. And cultivating ways for people to just engage in ways that are beyond sort of their, their kind of everyday
[00:32:04] work responsibilities. And so, we’re, whether it’s, you know, kind of simple stuff and kind of obvious stuff like, you know, happy hours or whatever, or it’s putting in place certain programs where you can, you know, nominate someone, or, uh, for you know, something they’ve done and they, there’s a, there’s a gift they can get and they can kinda go do something with that.
[00:32:22] Um, and they feel really appreciated. And I think that’s, that’s sort of what we, what we try to do. We, we’re always looking at new ways to that. We also look at ways that we can engage with our communities, as well. Um, and so kinda give back, and so there’s service opportunities. We’ve, we’ve done a number of different sort of donation matches and things like that, but it’s really, uh, sort of taking it a step beyond just the actual core business and, and really building that sense of community, both within the company and then also with, with our external communities, as well.
[00:32:51] Joe Michalowski: Gotcha. Love all that. I, I think it’s great, it’s great to hear you talk about it, like I said, um, just really gets to the heart of kind of the, the reason we wanted to put the show together. It’s kind of getting finance’s role to kind of move forward and to be about more than just financial modeling, all, all those, all that stuff is really important.
[00:33:08] But, yeah, so really great. Love it. I, I have one last question. We’re, we’re coming up. We’ve been talking for a bit, and I ask everyone that comes on, it is, I say this every episode, uh, people probably sick of this by now should stop saying it, but it’s selfishly my favorite question ’cause I don’t have, I’m not in a finance role, so it kind of zooms us out, and uh, thinks about it in general.
[00:33:25] So, last question is, what do you know now that maybe you wish you knew at the start of your career? Or what’s one thing, you know, now that maybe you wish knew at the start of your career, I’m sure there’s a lot of them?
[00:33:33] Matt Wolf: Yeah, no, that’s a, that’s a great question. And I think, you know, what I, what I know now and what I’ve, I think so, at the beginning, is so, it’s, it’s moving finance from being that sort of very numbers focused and hard-line sort of approach to one that takes into account the strategy of the business, and all the constituencies of which, which really includes,
[00:33:54] or is, you know, as a primary, uh, constituency is the employees. I think that’s, that’s sometimes overlooked because it can look at like, oh, that’s just a cost and everyone knows it’s not, that’s actually the, the DNA of the company, people that are in it, is the most important asset. And that’s that ultimately what drew to ChartHop is that was kind of the philosophy and the approach of the product.
[00:34:14] It was, it was very aligned with sort of how my view of finance and strategy sort of has evolved over time. And so, it, it was a, it was a very good fit. And so, that’s, uh, I think is what I wish I had known earlier, might seem obvious to me now, and to people now. I think also the, I think things are also changing, the approach, the local market is changing, products like exist.
[00:34:38] And so, you know, that, that’s probably the, well, at least one of the things that, that I think about it’s like, If I have known this before, probably some, you know, different decisions that would be made, um, but ultimately here we are, and this is right time for it.
[00:34:52] Joe Michalowski: Yeah. Love that. I think, uh, I usually say this I, there’s nothing you do about what you thought in the past, but I, I would love at some point to turn the same question that we ask into like, a little career advice book for finance people, or something, ’cause there’s obviously people coming up behind you that, you know, if they can start out and they can know some of these things, um, ahead of time, maybe they’ll be in a, a better spot.
[00:35:14] So, love that answer. I think it’s a good one. But I wanna, wanna leave with one last thing and just wanna say thank you again for, for joining, taking the time. I know the life of a CFO it’s not, not a quiet one. So, just wanna say thank you, and wanted to give you a stage to let people know where they can connect with you,
[00:35:30] find out more about ChartHop, anything that you, uh, have for people to go find, let ’em know.
[00:35:35] Matt Wolf: Totally. Yeah. So, um, for ChartHop first, uh, you know, it’s, it’s charthop.com, charthop, uh, .com, and generally find me on, on LinkedIn as the, uh, as the CFO of ChartHop there.
[00:35:48] Joe Michalowski: Cool.
[00:35:48] Matt Wolf: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:35:50] Joe Michalowski: Awesome. Uh, well, thanks so much. Appreciate you being here, and, uh, it’s great to have you on The Role Forward, and maybe we can do it again sometime.
[00:35:55] Matt Wolf: Absolutely. Thanks. I appreciate it. Thank you.
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