The digital transformation of the finance function is top of mind for chief financial officers (CFOs). Not only do they want to drive growth, but amid economic headwinds and a tight labor market, they’re also looking for opportunities to create efficiencies. In a recent AvidXchange survey of finance professionals, 70% of respondents said investing in technology is a medium to high priority for their organization in 2023.
The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, as many as 85 million jobs could be impacted by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines. As a result, 97 million new jobs might emerge. Today’s workforce must adapt and learn new skills to maximize the potential benefits of digitization.
While more finance departments are investing in their technology stack with artificial intelligence (AI), cloud and automation technology, savvy finance leaders are identifying ways to maximize return on these digital transformation initiatives. In many cases, this involves boosting the digital skills of employees within their organization.
Below are five ways organizations can promote learning and nurture staff to ensure they have the skills they need to thrive in a digitized workplace, ultimately giving finance leaders a greater return on their technology investment.
1. Acknowledge Digital Skills Gaps
An Information Technology & Innovation Foundation report showed that 31% of the U.S. workforce have “none” to “limited” digital skills despite 70% of jobs requiring mid- to high-level digital skills. The disparity between the skills and knowledge that employees possess and those required to operate technology is known as the “digital skills gap.”
In order to maximize tech investments within their organization, finance leaders must first identify where specifically the skills gaps exist within their teams. Gartner recommends that organizations prioritize immediate skill needs. Once those are addressed, leaders can plan for longer-term goals related to future tech rollouts.
2. Upskill Employees
Upskilling refers to training and development opportunities provided by an organization to help employees expand their job-related skills and knowledge. These programs can take many forms, including online courses, in-person training and on-the-job learning.
Providing technical training for existing employees is more cost-effective than hiring externally, which is difficult in today’s tight labor market. Plus, educational programs help retain existing employees and attract new talent. A recent Gallup study indicates that upskilling is becoming an essential piece of many employers’ benefit packages. Workers ages 18-24 rated it more important than paid vacation when evaluating a job opportunity.
Most importantly, upskilling empowers employees to maximize the potential of their organization’s digital transformation efforts.
3. Apply Reverse Mentorship
A lack of digital skills in senior finance leadership could trigger 50% of unwanted staff turnover by 2026, according to Gartner. Finance leaders must become familiar with the assets their staff value so they can advocate for the tools they need to succeed.
Younger workers are digital natives accustomed to using technology to communicate, collaborate and access information. Reverse-mentorship programs allow more junior employees to gain exposure to senior leaders and show off their tech knowledge. Both parties can learn from each other and gain a better understanding of different perspectives.
Gartner found that the most successful upskilling programs are those in which senior leaders play an active and visible role. Their participation in reverse mentorship promotes learning, collaboration, innovation and leadership development.
4. Communicate Benefits
Change is difficult. Sometimes, despite an organization’s investment in technology, staff resist using new tools in favor of tried and trusted methods. One way to encourage employee buy-in is to clearly articulate the benefits in an accessible and relatable way.
In our 2023 AP Professional Career Satisfaction Survey, we found 78% of those surveyed said they “welcome modern technology that allows my team to work more efficiently.” Only 3% said technology “makes me anxious because it handles portions of my job and lessens my contributions.”
It’s natural that some employees may fear advanced technology like automation and AI at first. It’s important to reassure your staff that these tools are designed to help with the tedious parts of their job so they can focus on more fulfilling work.
5. Foster a Culture of Continuous Learning
To encourage innovative thinking among staff, companies must nurture a culture that values learning and a growth mindset. In a rapidly evolving business environment, it’s critical that organizations commit to progress and development to remain competitive and in-touch with the latest tech advances.
Some ways businesses can support a learning culture include inviting expert speakers to present to staff, offering rewards for process improvements, providing a stipend for continuing education classes and creating social channels where employees can collaborate on problem-solving.
Companies with a learning culture can more quickly adapt to changing needs, increase productivity and reduce staff turnover.
In addition, learning opportunities garner positive sentiments from most employees. In our recent survey with IOFM, 84% of AP professionals said learning/skills development is “moderately” or “extremely” important when considering a job opportunity. Nearly 60% of respondents have been working in AP for 10+ years, proving that even tenured staff are interested in professional improvement.
As businesses continue to invest in the latest technologies that promise efficiencies, it’s essential that they also commit to educational programs to teach employees to use these new tools to their maximum potential.