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Automation in Accountancy & Finance – How can you succeed

By Karen Young, Director of Hays Accountancy & Finance 

Automation technology holds the key to potentially revolutionising the accountancy and finance profession. It acts as an alternative to manual processing, unlocking opportunities for professionals to reduce the workload of administrative tasks and instead add greater human value, analysis, insight and creativity to their role.

It’s therefore unsurprising that our What Workers Want Report 2019 shows that the majority of accountancy and finance employers say they are either already investing in automation within their functional area or are in the planning stages of doing so.

Reduced admin, greater human value

The primary aim of this investment in automation is to improve productivity and benefit from more efficient processes. This is reflected in the job areas currently seeing an investment in automation technology, which includes admin-heavy tasks such as data gathering for financial reporting as well as financial reporting itself. Looking to the future, these tasks are named by employers as the top areas that would benefit from further investment in automation.

Credit management and staff payroll have so far been largely untouched by automation investment, but this may change in the future, as just under half of employers think these areas would benefit from an investment, and indeed some employers are already underway with projects such as automating cash allocation, for example, using proven technology suppliers to the credit industry.

Sharpen skills to successfully implement automation

Although there are strong plans for automation uptake across the accountancy and finance profession, implementation is not without its challenges. Almost two fifths of employers say that a lack of skills from their current staff is a barrier to the implementation of automation. Employers are also facing a shortage of the right skills to make the best use of automation technology, with both technical and soft skills being in short supply.

Most accountancy and finance respondents believe it is the responsibility of employers to suitably equip their staff with the skills needed to derive the most benefit from automation. Despite this, over a third of employees do not believe that their employer is helping them to prepare for digital transformation in the workplace.

Employees taking training upon themselves

With this in mind, it is perhaps no surprise that accountancy and finance professionals are taking matters into their own hands to upskill themselves to be able to work effectively with automation. Of those upskilling in either technical or soft skill areas, only just over a third say their training is supported or funded by their employer, with the rest taking it upon themselves to undertake their own development. 

So, what can you do to prepare your skillset for automation in the workplace?

Embrace lifelong learning

To make the most of automation in the workplace, employers and employees alike must ensure they view training and development as lifelong learning. Employers should focus on building a culture suited to this approach, and support employees’ development so they do not feel forced to upskill themselves in isolation and without proper guidance.

Employees must also take the initiative. Proactively speak with your manager to understand the direction your team is taking to then together come up with a training plan. This is not purely restricted to formal learning – don’t forget the benefits of using online courses, attending free events and reading appropriate articles to broaden your knowledge and keep up-to-date with an ever-changing digital landscape.

To discover further insights into how automation is impacting jobs and the steps you can take to prepare, get your copy of the Hays What Workers Want Report 2019.

About this author

Karen is a Director and recruiting expert at Hays Accountancy & Finance. She provides strategic leadership to a team of 400 accountancy and finance recruitment professionals across 100 UK offices. With 20 years of finance recruitment experience, Karen has a track record of recruiting top finance talent for businesses across a range of industry sectors, and is a trusted industry voice on career planning and market insights.

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