From Wellbeing to Digital Dexterity, Here’s What’s on the CFO’s Agenda for a Post-COVID World
July 20, 2021
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes
As we reach the halfway mark in a second tumultuous year, certain signs of promise and progress have emerged. The time to develop long-term strategies to take advantage of the predicted COVID-19 economic rebound has arrived – and according to research, the financial industry is set for major transformations. Despite the internal and external risks facing CFOs, including the demand of losing talent to the ‘Great Resignation’ wave, their outlook appears to be improving overall and shifting upward.
Here’s a look at some of the expectations and sentiments within the finance industry as the world emerges from a crisis-hit economy.
The impact of wellness
The combination of working overtime, being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 routine, and the stress of helping remote team members had a detrimental effect on accountants’ mental health. 93.5% of finance professionals experienced higher than normal levels of stress last year. And based on a recent study, employees that are burning out are three times more likely to quit.
Accountants are expected to take on more responsibilities as businesses return to normalcy. 54% of finance professionals highlighted that the increase in demands from the leadership team is higher since the beginning of the pandemic. Another 26% indicate their teams have grown and now have an expanded functional role, for example more individuals reporting to them. With the demands piling up, it’s no wonder CFOs and finance professionals are looking for the best organization that understands their need for a healthy work-life balance.
93.5% of finance professionals experienced higher than normal levels of stress last year. And based on a recent study, employees that are burning out are three times more likely to quit.
Some organizations have turned to virtual tools. For example, Salesforce has made meditation apps available to their employees. A major player in the meditation industry, Headspace reported that interest from companies has increased by more than 500%. Zoom and Starbucks are outsourcing virtual therapy and counselling. Others such as Infosys expanded their existing wellness programs with new digital options focused on physical, emotional, social, and psychological wellbeing.
The rise of automation
Mid-year survey results indicate that finance teams are ahead of their C-suite colleagues in the shift to automation. 84% of respondents agreed that the finance department is identifying opportunities to utilize new technologies, such as AI, quicker than other teams.
The inspiration for the move is obvious. Not having access to a physical office and important documents rendered finance departments ineffective. As well as a need to adapt quickly, automation was critical to ensuring teams could continue to work together. According to EY, 62% of finance professionals agreed that adapting to continuous change was the most important requirement for future accounting.
“Our monthly close is extended now by over a week. We want to close the books faster. Every month of data we can get in this new normal will help us forecast.” Rob Goldenberg, CFO, 6sense
A new way of working
Companies of all sizes felt the crunch in the ‘distance economy’. Rob Goldenberg, CFO of customer engagement software company 6sense described his experience saying: “Our monthly close is extended now by over a week. We want to close the books faster. Every month of data we can get in this new normal will help us forecast.”
With the rise of big data, AI and ML, today’s CFOs have access to more information than ever. They need a system that can unpack and repack data in a streamlined fashion. Accounting software such as Beanworks, which integrates all accounts payable (AP) workflows on a central platform, allows companies to lead a data-driven digital transformation. It removes almost 83% of AP data entry and uses AI to offer more than 99% accuracy. A digital trail of all workflows means information is secure from risks such as fraud.
75% of businesses admit that “traditional back-office behaviors and mindsets in finance are slowing the modernization of the function.” For many companies, the goal is to reskill their existing teams fast enough to meet the changing needs. In a recent Deloitte report, CFOs indicated data analytics and forecasting skills as most critical. Expertise in technology and automation was the next most-desirable skill.
Before launching an initiative company-wide, focus on a narrower base at the initial stage. This could be department heads or key influencers that motivate others to use new tools. For example, accelerating invoice approvals by accepting them through a mobile app.
Whether you’re looking to train your staff remotely or in the office, here are some options you may want to consider:
- Mentorships: This program can be highly effective in transferring knowledge and skills between more seasoned and less-experienced employees. Video conferencing tools can make it easy for a mentee to interact with their mentor on the job.
- Pilot within a segment: Before launching an initiative company-wide, focus on a narrower base at the initial stage. This could be department heads or key influencers that motivate others to use new tools. For example, accelerating invoice approvals by accepting them through a mobile app.
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) learning: If a certain tactic or tool is working well for a particular employee, you may want to implement it across the department or company. For example, if an accountant attended a webinar on how to identify external fraud, they can share the learnings with others via video conference or a workshop.
- Focus on digital tools and a hybrid way of working: accounting teams are now finding themselves building and maintaining vendor relationships virtually. To ensure a smooth long-term relationship with suppliers, accounting teams need to know the latest tools and tech that best suit their different needs. For example, knowing how to use various payment options such as e-checks, virtual credit cards, ACH/EFT etc.
What’s on the horizon?
Based on the research, it is clear that the accounting industry is poised for a shake-up. In the next six months, we’ll find out which companies had the best strategies in place, and the finance and accounting landscape will undoubtedly look different than it does today. This is a time of change, a time of transformation, a time to learn from the past and create a better future for finance. COVID-19 may have caught the world off-guard but planning for future unexpected events is now vital to becoming more resilient.
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