There’s a Richard Branson quote that’s passed into common use in management circles: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to.”
When it comes to finance teams, it seems this advice has never been more important.
New research from leading finance recruitment agency Robert Half found that 69% of CFOs are finding it hard to fill vacant roles and 80% of CFOs say this is posing a direct threat to business growth.
The research concludes that the competition for top talent is intensifying within the accounting and finance sector. It says that the war for talent, combined with the low unemployment rate, has drained the market of candidates with desirable skill sets.
Automation is Driving the New Skill Sets
So what are the skills that are most in demand? The research is very specific: “New finance skill sets can be attributed to the rollout of automation, digitalisation and digital transformation projects across finance departments in the UK.”
The research found that companies that have invested in finance automation and digitalisation increasingly recognise the value of their team and how important it is to keep them. These companies are making additional efforts to retain employees, with benefits such as flexible working being offered.
The Benefits of the New Skill Sets for the Finance Team
Robert Half says that automation and digitisation projects are driving new, more collaborative ways of working.
In doing so, it enables businesses to focus on the areas that matter to them most – increasing productivity, staff training and improving career development and morale.
London charity Thames Reach switched from a paper-based AP system to Concur Invoice. Paul Jackson, the charity’s Head of Finance, thinks his team are as busy as they were before, but that the work they do now in following up invoices and training new members of staff on the system is much more fulfilling.
Technology company Atech Support made the same switch. Andrew Simcock, Finance Director at the company says: “The finance team love it and wouldn’t want to go back. One team member has jokingly said they’d leave if they had to go back to the paper-based process.”
The Wider Benefits of Automation
Aside from helping businesses attract and retain highly skilled staff, automation also delivers wider business benefits.
Our research found finance teams that use automated T&E solutions report a 15% reduction in the time spent processing expense reports. Invoice management users report a 16%-time reduction. This time saved is being used to analyse spending trends, find cost saving opportunities and more – activities which all support business expansion goals.
It also gives finance teams better visibility into company cashflow so they can be more strategic about financial management. More than half (54%) of companies find that improved analytics is an important benefit of an automated solution.
Then there are the financial benefits.
The Cliché of Your Staff Being Your Most Valuable Asset
It’s a cliché to say your staff are your most valuable asset. But in a climate where talented people are in demand, you ignore it at your peril, as the figures from Robert Half show.
If you have already embraced automation, what else could you being doing to retain staff who now have exceptionally marketable skills? And if you’ve yet to embrace automation and know you have a team that feels demoralised, could it provide the solution you’ve been looking for?