The Seismic Shift in Finance, and How Workday’s CFO is Capitalizing

In the face of automation and technology, accounting and finance teams are being challenged to see beyond the traditional confines of their job description. The shift is seismic – from number crunchers to strategic business partners and data scientists – and the opportunities are endless. For Robynne Sisco, CFO of Workday, she’s long seen her role as more than just “numbers,” and she challenges her team to think the same. I spoke with Robynne this month to learn more about her unique approach to being a CFO, the importance of company culture, and how technology is changing the game in accounting and finance.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Jeff Thomson: Corporate culture doesn’t typically fall under the purview of the CFO, but you’re heavily involved. Why do you see value – and necessity – in a CFO’s involvement in this aspect of the company’s operations?


Robynne Sisco

Robynne Sisco: Whether intentional or not, all CFOs impact the culture of the company – good or bad. But there are multiple ways a CFO can positively impact culture.

The first is how we make decisions about where we’re going to invest in the company. For example, what do our facilities and workplaces look like and how much money should we invest in making those places employees want to work every day? What employee programs, benefits or other such investments should we make?  These types of investments can positively or negatively impact the culture of a company and the value the employees feel the company places on them. I work very closely with all of our executive leaders to make sure we are widely investing in all of the areas that impact our employees, so we can maximize the benefit of those investments on employee culture in a beneficial way.

Second, CFOs have a responsibility to attract and lead a team that will positively contribute to a company’s culture. This can be done by establishing a finance organization that is easy to do business with and helps employees more easily procure goods and services so they can do their job. But it’s also about how you treat other employees and the example you set. As a senior executive of the company, all CFOs are watched by other employees to see how you interact with and treat others. If you treat others with respect and are easy to do business with, it can have a ripple effect throughout the organization and positively impact the culture.

Lastly, I would mention access to data. We’re obviously on our own financial and HR system, so I have access to a lot of really rich data around employee retention and pay parity, among other such things. I can look at that data and understand what’s going on with our employee population and if there are things we need to do differently as a company, or I need to do differently as a CFO to impact those trends.