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Ready for change: The automation upskilling imperative

In our latest blog series, we are revealing insights and exploring industry findings from our Are Friends Electric? survey analyzing attitudes toward financial automation among 500 finance and accounting professionals in the US, UK, France, and Germany. You can find the first three parts of our series here:

In our first exploration of this report, we noted that respondents were bullish on the potential of financial automation to improve their work lives. In part 2, we took a deeper dive into their reasons for believing this. In our third entry in the series, we looked at how financial professionals feel about the notion of financial automation taking over for their supervisors. Today, in our final installment, we’ll analyze employers’ attitudes toward upskilling and investing in automation.

Faced with labor shortages and an unmanageable workload, finance chiefs are hastening investment in finance automation initiatives to better manage their companies’ finances and operations.

In our own study, 45% of frontline finance workers had seen the level of investment in finance automation within their department accelerate over the past 12 months, and 52% thought that investment would accelerate further over the next 12 months.

Change is happening fastest among US employees. While our research shows that most US respondents see financial automation as a significant benefit, respondents were also more likely to agree that the rate of technological change was moving faster than they would like.

Business leaders should be wary of the pitfalls of forcing change on staff too quickly. A recent study by Boston Consulting found that 70% of large-scale digitization projects fail to achieve their objectives, with poor internal change management a significant hurdle.

While 45% of frontline finance workers we surveyed felt their employer was very committed to education and upskilling employees to cope with change, it’s concerning that nearly a third (29%) gave their employer low marks here.

Just as concerning was the 17% of employees who said they had no plans to stay up-to-date with changes in technology that could impact their job role. In Germany, one in five employees says they are not engaged in any formal or informal training to keep up with technological changes impacting their industry.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of upskilling and training when it comes to preparing workers for a future that will see many traditional, manual tasks replaced by automation. The sheer pace of change can feel daunting at times, but technology can also play a part in ensuring this transition takes place at a pace workers are comfortable with.

For example, Tradeshift allows users to select from different automation levels depending on their comfort level. As users start to see the benefits, an automation dashboard allows the user to model the impact of higher levels of automation and see the potential impact before they take the plunge. Early adopters of the system have reduced manual coding interventions by an average of 60%, with one top-performing customer saving nearly an entire week’s worth of work (35 hours) in a single month.

Key takeaway

Financial automation may seem like the answer to any number of challenges. But despite all its promise of enhanced efficiency and reduced cost, deploying the technology is the beginning of the journey, not the end. Business leaders must think carefully about how to bring employees on that journey at a pace that suits them. Similarly, frontline workers that ignore the need to adapt and learn new skills do so at their peril.

Survey parameters

Respondents to our online survey ranged from junior employees to mid-level managers within the finance department at medium to large-sized companies. All respondents had a high level of understanding of their company's investment in technologies related to automation in their current job.

Put simply: these respondents know what they’re talking about and are beyond qualified to provide their personal opinion on widespread financial automation implementation. This can be a controversial topic. After all, we’re discussing significant changes to many people’s careers and livelihoods.

Tradeshift keeps its finger on the pulse of the market by conducting extensive research and surveys to understand the sentiment of today’s workers and better grasp what the future of work looks like.

Our findings, paired with our advanced supply chain solutions, help organizations better plan, prepare, and react to the shifts in the workplace. Want to discover more findings from our latest surveys? Be sure to read through our full report, Are Friends Electric? available for download here.

You can find the first three parts of this series here: Automation: threat or opportunity, The upside of automation, and Could financial automation replace your line manager?

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