In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, record numbers of workers are quitting their jobs in Europe and the US. The challenge for finance leaders now is to find innovative ways to attract new staff and retain the top talent they have. Automation is an important, but often overlooked, way to make work more rewarding, free up employees to focus on the things that matter to them and encourage them to stay in their current roles.
Beginning in early 2021, The Great Resignation (also known as The Big Quit) has seen record numbers of employees leaving unfulfilling jobs or seeking more rewarding careers. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many feeling that they want to make a change after two years on pause. Others are feeling burnt out, or that the time is right to reassess what’s most important in life. Vacancies are at a record high and a quarter of UK employees are actively planning to change jobs in the next six months (Guardian). With workers feeling confident they can find new opportunities, they’re more willing to leave roles if they don’t feel satisfied.
Workforce churn brings uncertainty. That’s why The Great Resignation has pushed staff retention up the list of concerns for CFOs. In one recent study, finance leaders ranked talent as the number one internal risk to their businesses for the coming year (Deloitte). That’s because doubt around employee retention affects company-wide budgeting, planning, and forecasting. Without knowing the right people will be in the right place, business continuity, succession planning, and overall company strategy are all threatened.
For many businesses, attention has turned to how best to keep their brightest people. Finance leaders recently revealed that this year, “retention, retention, retention” is the resounding refrain (Deloitte). If businesses are to prevent further resignations, they first need to understand what attracts people to, and keeps people working for, specific companies.
The benefits that finance professionals are looking for are changing. Stability and a steady wage are being superseded by flexibility, a good work-life balance, and hybrid-working models that support individual wellbeing. Candidates are increasingly looking for respect, responsibility, and the feeling that their work and time is valued. Rewarding work with principled businesses is also high on workers’ lists of requirements. While wages are rising as businesses seek to find the best candidates, many are looking beyond a pay cheque to learn new skills or challenge themselves.
Repetitive tasks and tedious admin can make even the most promising job roles feel unfulfilling and frustrating. Too often, company ambitions of innovation, empowerment, or collaboration are let down by the everyday experience of time-consuming manual processes. That could mean waiting weeks for equipment, wasting time getting team get-togethers signed off and paid for, or spending hours filling in forms to get reimbursed for a training course. And specifically for finance teams, manual processes can mean unstimulating data entry or endless reconciliations.
“When people don’t feel like they’re finding meaningful work at work, they’re going to be looking for something else to do” Jeannie de Guzman, CFO of 1Password
Imagine what a difference you could make to employee experience if you replaced lengthy expense reports with a couple of easy clicks, swapped endless receipts for a quick photo in an app, or gave individuals smart fuel cards rather than asking them to pay out of pocket. Automating company spending improves employees’ everyday reality and frees people up to do the job they were hired to do – giving them a credible reason to stay in their current roles.
“It’s a symbiotic win-win relationship if you can help people to move away from doing the manual stuff. I think all finance functions should automate a lot of that basic, functionality, because why wouldn’t you?” Paraag Amin, CFO of dotdigital
Without inconvenient, unclear, and time-sapping procedures to worry about, people can focus on the most rewarding parts of their roles. That could mean managing their own budgets or seamlessly travelling to see clients in different countries. Because Soldo syncs with major accounting software, teams can reconcile expenses and receipts in minutes. For talented finance professionals, this is particularly important as it means they can move away from processing expense reports to more high-level analysis that adds value.
But it’s not just the day-to-day which is improved, accounting automation also frees up time so individuals can focus on their long-term career goals. Rather than spending time on spreadsheets, they can clear their calendars for additional training, mentoring, or finance role-specific courses.
That’s before considering the improvements to visibility – with up-to-date data meaning analysis and forecasting are more accurate. The contributions of the finance team become anchored in the here and now – in a fast-moving climate like that of the last few years, that’s a competitive advantage. In real terms, that could be the difference between surviving and thriving.
“If you can automate the manual processes that just take time but aren’t really adding value…then allow your team to learn more around forecasting, around looking at the data…interacting more with other parts of the business and growing as a person, as an employee and helping the business…ultimately that works in everyone’s favour.” Paraag Amin, CFO of dotdigital
More engaging roles mean top talent is more engaged, and when people believe a company is invested in them, they are more likely to stay. And the business benefits from more highly skilled finance teams. That’s a win-win for CFOs.
Spending automation also accommodates more flexible working – and flexible working is a big draw for employees, in many cases a key consideration for people seeking out new roles. As working from home becomes the norm, employees’ equipment needs are changing. Gone are the days of setting up rows of desks and computers in a static office where everyone’s there from 9-5. Instead, it’s home-office workspaces that need urgent set-up with furniture, equipment, or software. A people manager might now have to deliver a high-end computer to one employee’s home or an ergonomic chair to another. And a delay could mean a frustrating first week for a new starter who can’t get stuck into their job. Automating the process with Soldo’s one-off virtual cards means employees can make their own purchases quickly and securely online for pre-approved items, cutting out the tedious admin and time-consuming waiting.
While remote working is now the preferred option for many finance professionals, it’s not completely free of problems. For employers, managing expenses manually for staff in different places, or even different countries, could result in spiralling admin. For employees, who may feel disconnected from the office, it could be even trickier to navigate expense requests or reimbursement processes. While tracking down an approver or asking a colleague for advice is time-consuming in the office, doing this remotely could result in lengthy email conversations or multiple phone calls. With Soldo you can mirror the set-up of your existing company structure and set different permissions for individuals or projects. So, managing spending across different countries, currencies, or remote teams is fast and flexible.
The Great Resignation is largely being driven by Millennial and Gen Z workers who are more likely that Gen Xers or Baby Boomers to change jobs. One of their considerations is that the company they work for has values that align with their own (Forbes).
While company values of innovation, collaboration, and valuing employees may attract new starters, outdated, paper-based processes won’t meet modern workers’ expectations. If the day-to-day realities of a job undermine a business’s bigger ambitions, younger employees are likely to vote with their feet.
And employees are now more vocal about their need to feel appreciated. While showing workers they are highly regarded can be as simple as a sincere thank you, gifts, parties, or Friday-afternoon snacks are often appreciated. While many managers may be used to paying out of pocket and battling through lengthy reimbursements, Soldo’s smart company cards make boosting morale much simpler. What’s more, delegating spending or budget management builds trust with employees, demonstrating that they are valued while they become more valuable to the business.
“Accounting has a reputation of being kind of mundane. I think there’s an exciting wave of new technology and all these other things that are happening inside of the world.”
Craig Foster, CFO of Picsart
The 4Q21 CFO Insights Survey reports that a vast majority (92%) of CFOs see opportunities in embedding technologies and automation into their organisations’ operations. That means your competitors could already be reaping the rewards of automated spend controls. As The Great Resignation increases the competition for employees, now’s the time to unlock automation to attract the best new talent and retain your brightest people.