Darren Cran of AccountsIQ examines how a lack of tech advancement in the financial services sector runs the risk of creating talent retention issues
Generation Z is the first truly digital generation. Seamless online experiences have been the standard from an early age, with banking, communications and video content available at the touch of a screen. This environment has fostered the ability for younger employees to find the easy way of doing things. The good news for businesses looking to recruit fresh graduates, is that Gen Z is accustomed to efficiency.
Unfortunately for the finance sector there’s an elephant in the room standing in the way of this good news. Whilst every industry is constantly undergoing digital transformations, finance in particular 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. It’s time for the field of finance to address its technology challenges head-on to both attract and ultimately retain, the best up-and-coming generation of workers.
Embracing Gen Z’s higher expectations
The relationship between employee and employer has shifted. Young professionals want upskilling and promotion opportunities, alongside fairer distributions of work – and they’re not afraid to move on if they don’t get what they want. For many companies, this is forcing change in a positive way. On average, Gen Z employees stay in a new job for two years and two months. It’s a significant dip from Gen X (five years) and Baby Boomers (eight years). Many also depart for pastures new if they believe that they aren’t getting enough recognition and respect from senior leadership.
It has raised the requirement for organisations to future-proof their finance function so that younger staff aren’t encouraged to walk away. A clear place to start is implementing the tools that allow them to excel in their roles 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. Failing to address this issue will lead to lower performance, increased staff turnover and higher recruiting costs.
Labour-intensive tasks weigh heavy
So, what specific tasks are holding employees back? Data collection, reconciliation, data analysis and reporting are four prominent examples. Collection in particular, is likely to involve the continuing use of spreadsheets and inadequate software. But offline, disparate spreadsheets aren’t exactly the cutting-edge tech that Gen Z employees are expecting to make use of in the workplace today, particularly when cloud solutions are so ubiquitous in their personal lives.
Young workers in finance are also likely to baulk at the number of tools they need to use in their organisation. Alongside spreadsheets, they may use a number of 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.
Manual work with existing solutions is not only frustrating, but also creates opportunities for errors. It’s an unfortunate consequence of human involvement, despite the best efforts of organisations to minimise them. Frequently, a lack of automation is the top reason as to why this is the case. In fact, analysis from the UHY Hacker Young group of chartered accountants revealed that resisting the transition to manual processes is even potentially damaging to an organisation’s profit margins.
Another significant contributing factor to errors within the finance department stems from a shortage of well-qualified personnel. Without implementing automated solutions to alleviate the workload of these employees, organisations run the risk of exacerbating the problem. This may lead to the departure of the remaining qualified staff, 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.
Creating a culture change
With Gen Z employees more readily prepared to jump ship if they come across enough frustrations in their role, finance leaders need to take action to both attract and retain the brightest new talent.
A consolidated platform is a unique approach that can capture and automate the processing of accounting records, helping to ease the frustration associated with manual work. Gen Z employees can avoid the irksome, routine data-aggregation workload that proves unappealing to them. 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 Gen Z members 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 their purpose, organisations can send a clear message to graduates that they are committed to meeting their digital expectations. Once they’re enrolled in the business, it’s about leveraging these capabilities to boost their job satisfaction and ward off competitors looking to poach talent. Automation of mundane tasks can lead to several benefits in this area. Young professionals have more time to provide strategic insights to senior management and put themselves in the best position for career progression. They can also achieve an improved work-life balance due to the time saved from automating these tasks, which can lead to positive changes in workplace culture.
Laying the groundwork for the future
As Gen Z emerges as the digitally native and expectant workforce, it’s crucial for organisations to sit up and take notice of the impact technology has in attracting and retaining young professionals.
By addressing labour-intensive tasks, finance leaders have an opportunity to revolutionise the finance function and put the department in the driving seat when it comes to business strategy. Automation not only minimises errors, but also enables employees to engage in these more strategic endeavours, enhancing job satisfaction and development. Businesses that are slow to act will have no chance of retaining the best our newest generation has to offer.