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Is Automation Part of the Cure to the Finance Skills Gap?

May 20, 2019

With unemployment at an all-time low, a talent gap in finance and accounting and increased focus on employee engagement and satisfaction, employers face a continued battle to find qualified workers and keep the ones they already have. Today, we would like to share some of the ongoing trends in the “war for talent” and discuss how an enterprise resource planning (ERP) change could be one tactic to keep employees engaged and increase retention.

A War on Multiple Fronts: Talent Crisis and Low Unemployment

What happens when a field is growing fast, but the talent pipeline is lacking? Those who are skilled can name their price, and it takes longer than ever to find the right people.

Underprepared Pipelines

It’s likely that you already know that there is a “talent crisis” in the accounting world. Considered an open secret by those familiar with the matter, no matter how you look at it, few potential hires have the right skills, motivations or mentalities to succeed at your company. A CPA Journal article noted that both at the entry- and mid-level, undergraduate programs fail to prepare talent to enter the workforce, and those who are qualified often move toward consulting and advisory roles.

APQC research from 2015 found that 90% of CFOs were having trouble finding the right talent, and many applicants lacked the technical skills to do the job, noting that planning, budgeting, forecasting and decision making were often absent.

Low Unemployment

Employers, especially those who need accounting and finance talent, don’t just face a challenge developing an employee pipeline — they have to do so with unemployment numbers at an all-time low and an expected 10% employment growth in the number of accountants and auditors between 2016 and 2026, faster than the national average, per BLS analysis.

Combined, this lack of readily available employment and market growth creates an environment in which the employees you have could leave at any moment and the time and expense to find a replacement continues to rise.

Four Ways ERP Helps You Win the War for Talent

Finding new talent is hard. Finding new talent who is able to “hit the ground running” is even harder. Knowing this, you may think that adding the stress and headaches that come with an ERP replacement may be too risky and might drive away people. However, with the right planning and execution, the move to upgrade ERP can make employees’ lives easier, increasing satisfaction and keeping them on board.

Automation Frees Up Employees

Employees want to feel valued; they want to feel like they are making real contributions to the company. However, one of the biggest problems with entry-level accounting software or legacy ERP is that it is filled with manual, paper-based processes. When an employee has to spend half of his or her day scanning documents, working in spreadsheets or buried in paper, the tedium can become overwhelming.

By choosing modern ERP to automate some of the most laborious and time-consuming processes that exist in finance, you can free up employees to do more interesting, strategic and valuable work or participate in additional training.

Fewer Late Nights Mean Increased Happiness

While some employees may hate the laborious and time-consuming tasks because such tasks are “below them,” others dislike the long hours — BLS data states that one in five accounting employees work more than 40 hours a week. Work-life balance continues to be a key driver for employees, and those who feel like they are putting in too much work for not enough reward may be the first out the door.

Access for the Mobile Generation

Delivering high levels of employee satisfaction may require you to take different approaches to creating a work environment. With more and more employees looking for opportunities to work remotely, the promise of anytime, anywhere access to software makes sense and is one of the key reasons many businesses have moved to the cloud.

User-Friendly ERP Makes Training Easier

Sometimes, an employee’s decision to leave is inevitable, and nothing will change his or her mind. Knowing that is the case and knowing how hard it is to find an accounting or finance employee nowadays, an easy-to-use ERP solution can ensure that if you do have to make a new hire, they can learn the software quickly and be ready to use it with fewer hassles or questions.

Sage Intacct and Wipfli: Elevating Your Business

At Wipfli, we are leading providers of Sage Intacct and other ERP solutions for the modern business. While ERP is by no means the cure-all for your financial talent woes, it could be one way to show employees that you value them while giving them more power to provide business-driving analysis and recommendations.

We invite you to learn more about our software solutions here, download the Buyer’s Guide to Cloud Accounting Software, and contact us for a free demo.


Shereen Mahoney, CPA
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