US Survey Shows Private Companies Reluctant to Share Financials with Staff

Staff members at US privately held companies are less likely to receive information from management about how the business is performing than employees at publicly traded companies, according to a survey of 1,300 chief financial officers (CFOs) by Robert Half Management Resources.

The survey found that 76% of the CFOs of private companies polled said their companies do not give quarterly or annual financial updates to all their staff. In contrast, public companies are required to disclose their financial performance every quarter to investors and the information is easily accessible to employees. Only 17% of the CFOs surveyed said they share financial information with select employees, while 7% said they share financial information with all employees.

“Private companies are not obligated to publicly issue financial results, but providing at least some indication to employees of how the organisation is faring could ease any uncertainties that may exist,” said Paul McDonald, a senior executive director with Robert Half, in a statement.

“Financial data is sensitive and complex, but choosing a few basic metrics to share can help staff develop a better understanding of the business and the challenges it faces, and build stronger team focus. Organisations that are proactive in offering insight on what is driving performance are more likely to create stronger staff engagement. The more employees at all levels understand how their roles fit into the big picture, the more invested they’ll be in their work.”

The recruitment firm recommends using staff and department meetings to share business trends and put them in perspective. While financial executives may not be able to provide detailed results, if revenues increased during the previous quarter, they should explain why. More importantly, they should show employees how their daily work contributes to companywide growth.

The firm also believes that CFOs resist the temptation to hold back information when the news is bad, or employees may jump to their own conclusions. While financial executives may not be able to give a complete financial report, they should consider sharing information that could rally the team to turn things around. CFOs should also foster an ownership mentality, encouraging company staff to adjust their priorities and activities given the company’s overall business situation.

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