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Automation in Accountancy & Finance - Are you prepared?

By Maureen Lynch, Director of Hays Ireland

Investment in automation technology has the potential to unlock innumerable opportunities for the accountancy and finance profession. Automation enables the reduction of administrative tasks and manual processing, allowing those working in the profession to dedicate more time to analysis, insight, strategic thinking and creativity.

Automation investment is high on the agenda for many organisations. Our What Workers Want Ireland Report 2019 shows that just under four fifths of employers say that digital transformation is a primary or secondary focus for their organisation, and a similar percentage say their functional area is investing in automation or has plans to do so.

Automation offers improved productivity

The top benefits respondents expect to gain from automation in the workplace is improved productivity and greater process efficiencies. For the accountancy and finance profession, this may encompass the automation of admin-heavy tasks such as data gathering for financial reporting as well as financial reporting itself. Manual processing tasks in other areas of accountancy and finance, such as within credit management and staff payroll, may also see productivity benefits in the future thanks to greater automation.

Lack of staff engagement must be overcome

Although plans to invest in automation are strong across organisations of all sizes, employers are facing wide-ranging challenges when trying to implement new tech. Employers identify a lack of engagement and support from their current employees as a major barrier to the implementation of automation. Costs are also an issue, with almost a third of employers saying additional budget is needed.

However, the largest barrier that 60% of employers face when implementing automation is a lack of skills from their current staff. Further to this, just under a third of employers do not believe they have the right expertise in place to exploit automation to the full, highlighting gaps in both technical and soft skills.

Employees not feeling supported

From an employee perspective, just over a quarter believe they are being failed by their employer in helping them to prepare for digital transformation, despite 57% of employers and 58% of employees agreeing that the responsibility for equipping staff with appropriate skills lies with the employer.

As a result, 59% of workers who are enhancing their technical and soft skills in order to work with automation are doing so through their own training and development, with only 41% being supported or funded by their employer.

So, what can you do to overcome skills gaps and prepare for automation within accountancy and finance?

Develop a culture for lifelong learning

To make the most out of automation investment within accountancy and finance, both employers and employees must ensure they embrace lifelong learning. Focus on building a culture within your team which is suited to this approach, and which supports employees’ development so they do not feel the need to upskill themselves without proper guidance.

Be proactive – make sure your staff understand the direction your team is taking and together come up with a training plan. As well as formal learning, in the increasingly mobile world in which we operate, you can also take advantage of bite-sized resources that facilitate self-learning. Don’t forget the benefits of using online courses, attending free events and reading appropriate articles to broaden the knowledge of yourself and your wider team.

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

Maureen joined Hays in 2000 where she specialised in Senior Accounting and Finance recruitment. With over 17 years’ experience, Maureen is the Director for Cork, Limerick and Galway along with over overseeing the Banking and Construction & Property operations in Cork. She also provides training expertise in the area of candidate screening and interviewing.

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