Half’s new report, Digital transformation and the future of hiring has found that digital processes will be extended to manual, data entry tasks such as financial modelling (41%), generating financial reports (40%), project management and reporting (38%) within the next three years. As a result, payroll (37%), financial planning (33%), accounts payable (38%) and accounts receivable (32%) are expected to be the roles impacted by automation by 2022.
Digitalisation has already emerged as a business priority and is set to impact the future of business by offering new technologies to address threats and opportunities for a competitive advantage. Overall, 87% of executives have recognised the positive impact that the growing reliance on technology holds for organisations.
“Digitalisation will offer a new approach where labour and time-intensive processes can be shifted to allow for more value-added work to take place,” explained Matt Weston, Director at Robert Half UK. “Automation is impacting traditional business functions in a big way. Finance is no exception and professionals will need to be prepared to hold a more prominent and integrated influence on the wider business, gaining new skills that will see them through the technological shift.”
The main benefits that businesses are expecting, or already achieving from digital transformation, include improved efficiency and productivity, better decision-making and employees taking on more value add work leading to more fulfilling careers in the long-term. Overall, finance executives believe digitalisation will increase the productivity of each individual (59%), enable employees to focus less on data entry and more on the execution of tasks (53%), providing opportunities to learn new capabilities (51%).
“While a technical understanding will remain the core competence that provides professional credibility, it will need to be enhanced with soft skills,” added Peter Simons, head of future of finance, CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). “We are already seeing this move occur within the finance department with the shift from technical to commercial skills. In the future, financial insights won’t just come from financial analysis but collaborating with other areas of the business. Traditionally labelled ‘professional services’ executives will need to engage with people, ask questions, have empathy and communicate in a compelling way to make informed business decisions.”
Responding to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s new strategy for tackling gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps, Dr Jill Miller, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments:
“The EHRC’s recommendations on the changes needed to address pay gaps in Britain are timely for many businesses who are preparing to report on their gender pay gaps. We welcome the breadth of their new strategy, Fair opportunities for all, which looks at gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps, and agree a greater focus on flexible working opportunities across the labour market would enable disadvantaged groups to both ‘get in’ and ‘get on’ in work.
“While the right to request flexible working is available to all UK workers who have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks, it is yet to be recognised as such in practice. To make flexible working the norm it’s crucial that organisations challenge assumptions of who it is for and encourage far greater uptake. HR professionals have a critical role in questioning workplace cultures and busting the myths around what flexible working means to encourage businesses to act differently. Through recognition that flexibility is not just about the hours people work and challenging traditionally rigid job design, organisations can create ‘people-shaped jobs’ that enable those with a range of circumstances to access and reach their potential at work, while boosting long-term productivity.”