Guest Comment by Darren Cran
For Generation Z, seamless online experiences have been the norm from an early age. Whether it’s banking, shopping, communications or watching video content, this generation are used to having everything they need in the palm of their hand.
With this, younger employees have become adept at finding the easiest way to get things done. This efficiency is good news for businesses wanting to onboard recent graduates.
However, on this basis, organisations within the finance sector may find themselves struggling to attract and retain younger employees. While digital transformation is an ongoing process within most sectors, finance has long been held back by technology that only gets the job half-done.
Manual, time-consuming processes that go against the expectations of digital natives can create frustration and resentment. Consequently, if finance organisations want to attract and ultimately retain this up-and-coming generation of workers, it’s time for to tackle those technology challenges head-on.
Unlike previous generations, these employees know what they want and aren’t afraid to move on if they don’t get it. Whereas Gen X stay an average of five years in a job and Baby Boomers tend to stay for eight, Gen Z employees stay in a new job for just two years and two months.
They prioritise upskilling and promotion opportunities, alongside fairer distributions of work, while many depart if they believe that they aren’t getting enough recognition and respect from senior leadership. In many businesses, these changes in the employee-employer dynamic are sparking positive change as companies attempt to adapt to and provide what this new generation of employees want.
Collection, in particular, is likely to involve the use of disparate, offline spreadsheets and inadequate software – not exactly the cutting-edge tech young employees expect to make use of in the workplace
It has also raised the requirement for organisations to future-proof their finance function to deter younger staff from walking away. A clear place to start is implementing the tools which allow them to excel and forge a clear career path. Data entry and manual workarounds won’t wash for graduates who have just spent three years researching, exploring, calculating and thinking.
Among the labour-intensive tasks holding employees back are data collection, reconciliation, data analysis and reporting. Collection, in particular, is likely to involve the use of disparate, offline spreadsheets and inadequate software – not exactly the cutting-edge tech young employees expect to make use of in the workplace today, especially as cloud solutions are so ubiquitous in their personal lives.
In a recent survey by my company, 60% of young finance professionals said they are still having to heavily rely on time-consuming spreadsheets as their primary tools, and 75% of them spend up to a quarter of their time on manual tasks such as data collection.
Young workers in finance are also likely to baulk at the sheer number of tools they need to use on a daily basis. Alongside spreadsheets, they may encounter other platforms, such as accounting software, to complete a multitude of tasks, suggesting there’s no one catch-all solution that fully meets the unique requirements for finance functions.
Not only can this manual work with existing solutions be frustrating, but even despite the best efforts, it can also create opportunities for errors, often due to a lack of automation. In fact, analysis from the UHY Hacker Young group of chartered accountants revealed that resisting the transition away from manual processes is even potentially damaging to an organisation’s profit margins.
By upgrading and consolidating legacy tools which aren’t fit for purpose, organisations can send a clear message to graduates that they are committed to meeting their digital expectations
A shortage of well-qualified personnel is also contributing to errors within the finance department. Without implementing automated solutions to alleviate the workload of these employees, organisations run the risk of exacerbating the problem. Furthermore, other qualified staff may be encouraged to leave as they become increasingly frustrated with the mounting challenges. Addressing the error conundrum could be the difference between keeping the best talent and begrudgingly watching them walk out the door.
With younger employees having greater impetus to jump ship if they become frustrated enough with their role, finance leaders need to take action to both attract and retain the brightest new talent.
The myriad frustrations with manual work can be eased through the use of a consolidated platform that can capture and automate the processing of accounting records. Taking this approach would allow Gen Z employees to avoid the irksome, routine data-aggregation workload they often find so unappealing and even more complex tasks can be handled, such as consolidating accounts across a group. It’s a shift away from clunky spreadsheets that encourage errors and don’t meet the expectations of up-and-coming industry professionals.
In a world where many demand instantaneous online communications, this technology can also foster collaboration between individuals. For example, raising purchase orders remotely via the cloud for finance teams to approve and process can lead to more streamlined ways of working. Role-based user profiles can allow colleagues across an organisation to access dashboards with relevant and appropriate accounts information to make more informed decisions.
By upgrading and consolidating legacy tools which aren’t fit for purpose, organisations can send a clear message to graduates that they are committed to meeting their digital expectations. Once they’re onboarded, it’s about leveraging these capabilities to boost their job satisfaction and ward off competitors looking to poach talent.
This is where automation of mundane tasks can offer several benefits, such as giving young professionals more time to provide strategic insights to senior management and put themselves in the best position for career progression. Additionally, the time saved from automating these tasks, can help employees to achieve an improved work-life balance, thereby also helping to create positive changes in workplace culture.
Darren Cran is COO of AccountsIQ
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