According to research from IDC, by 2021, the world’s digital economy will account for more than 50 percent of the world’s total economy, and in China that ratio will exceed 55 percent.
Emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), are changing the nature of work — and opening the door to greater employee productivity. And accounting and finance functions are feeling this wave of change acutely, as China’s spending on AI is expected to reach $7.5 billion by 2022.
For finance leaders, the opportunity — and challenge — is to make the best use of talented team members who will have more time to devote to more important, strategic and value-adding work for the business. Advanced technology tools are already helping to free many workers from the burden of routine and time-consuming tasks. That’s why it’s critical for finance leaders to take action now to upskill their staff.
The good news: You’ll likely find your employees are ready and willing to grow their skills and knowledge.
Types of tech many finance pros may need to learn
Some examples of the technologies that finance and accounting professionals will soon be working with, if they aren’t already, include:
- Robotic process automation (RPA) tools
- AI software that adds a “human” element to tasks such as risk assessment or fraud detection
- Machine learning (ML) or self-editing software
- Natural language processing (NLP) programs that translate documents and speech into data
Also, don’t forget about technologies that many accounting and finance functions already use — which your team may not yet be working with or could learn to use at a more advanced level. Big data and advanced analytics are a prime example.
How to upskill your finance and accounting employees
The following approaches can be effective, as well as budget- and schedule-friendly for digital upskilling efforts:
Upskilling doesn’t have to mean months-long courses and new certifications. It can be done gradually. Start with a 10-minute video tutorial on a cool new feature of a program that employees already use, for example. Then add more experiences like this throughout the year.
2. Virtual training
Pulling employees from their to-do lists to sit through tedious lectures or workshops can lead to frustration and deflated morale. Instead, offer hands-on training via an online platform that workers can access remotely on their own time.
Do some of your employees already use new technologies? Pairing them up with other team members through mentoring arrangements or offering job shadowing opportunities is an easy yet highly effective approach to upskilling. As a bonus, your tech-savvy employees may be able to teach their mentors a thing or two as well.
4. Peer-to-peer (P2P) learning
Building on the last point: You may want to give P2P learning a try at your firm. P2P learning has long been used in the academic world, but in recent years, has been embraced by many leading businesses as a cost-effective tool for upskilling workers. P2P learning is informal, and takes many forms, including employee-led workshops and team projects.
5. Providing financial aid
Despite the value of the methods described above, not all new technologies and skill sets can be mastered in a quick session or through an online tutorial. If you know your finance team will eventually require certification or in-depth study of a new subject, consider offering tuition reimbursement or assistance.
Don’t forget about soft skills
Machines can’t replicate everything — especially uniquely human qualities like the ability to show empathy.
Future workplaces will be highly collaborative, and many businesses will expand their use of remote teams. That means excellent communication skills will be even more important than they are today. Try to connect your team members with professional development options that will help them to build and master abilities such as written and verbal communication, emotional intelligence, and leadership.
Upskilling your team is just as important to your company’s long-term competitiveness as is investing in new technologies. Upskilling can also enhance staff retention, if you do it well.
Don’t make your employees come to you first. Approach them and explain the digital journey your organization is embarking on — or plans to pursue soon — and the role they can play in it.
Proactively encouraging your team to consider professional development around new technologies shows you are invested in their success — and support their efforts to future-proof their careers.