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By Hannah Wright, Director, Sage People

From a financial perspective COVID-19 has indisputably flung many businesses off course – particularly in terms of hiring new talent. Though, among the gloom, challenging times like these highlight the importance of attracting and retaining top talent.

With the full effects of the coronavirus pandemic still to be understood from a business perspective, strategies to rebuild and promote resilience are in motion. Valuable finance orientated talent that has been raised alongside the rise of today’s most innovative technology, known as digital natives, can offer the skills needed to drive businesses forward. In an age where we rely heavily on technology it is shocking that 59% of employers lack workers with soft digital skills, such as project management, and 51% are experiencing a shortage of hard digital skills, for instance AI integration and application.

However, grasping their attention can be challenging. To fully comprehend what Generation Z and some of the latest graduates, those born between the 1990s and 2010s, want from a workplace, businesses must consider the modernisation of their finance function and company infrastructure.

Promoting a flexible working model

Despite many people currently looking for work, attracting the top Gen Z talent still has its challenges. In the accountancy sector, 84% of professionals believe younger generations have progressive expectations, attitudes and talents that will need to be nurtured in order to attract them. An important part of this is making sure those attitudes are already reflected in the business.

Today’s bright new graduates value support from their place of work and strong career development programmes. Even though times are tough, it’s important for businesses to show young employees that they are invested in their future to make them feel valued. The initiative should be taken by finance teams and particularly the CFO. For example, from day one, a personalised training programme could be set up to develop their core skills and interests.

Hannah Wright

Hannah Wright

However, young employees are also entering the workforce during an unprecedented time, where the basics of work have been turned on their head. Even as COVID measures wax and wane, ‘Generation Remote’ will expect a more flexible working environment, with the ability to work changeable hours and from the safety and convenience of their homes. They’ll expect a supportive working environment that puts an emphasis on mental wellbeing and allows them to ‘switch off’ at the end of the day.

Despite the pandemic, not all businesses have culturally made the move to a more flexible working model. While it may be difficult, finance leaders should reconsider whether the traditional nine-to-five, desk-bound culture is still serving the business successfully. If not, they may be depriving themselves of valuable talent and could look to adopt a more flexible approach. For businesses wanting to attract the best talent, flexible working conditions are no longer a nice to have, they are an essential feature on every employee contract.

Building a tech-savvy environment

Though, Generation Z expect more than a people centric culture and a flexible working environment. Innovative technology that supports and empowers employees in their roles is equally critical. The widespread use of old, disparate systems not only stifles agility and innovation – it can scare away young talent.

Many businesses still struggle with outdated technology, divided into disconnected data silos. These can be daunting and counterproductive for new-starters, who have developed their skills on new consumer-grade platforms and technologies in their personal lives. Training new workers how to use old systems is costly and hardly an attractive prospect for someone just starting their career.

Fortunately, by creating an integrated, efficient and modern tech-savvy environment, businesses offer young workers a welcoming hand and the tools they need to perform at their best. Cloud-based technology provides access to the latest tools, meaning young workers don’t need to struggle with outdated technology. Instead they can access systems whenever and wherever they want, something vital for today’s remote work world.

In this way, the introduction of new technology has a cyclical effect on innovation. New technology attracts new talent, which in turn brings more fresh ideas, perspectives and capabilities to a business. This is especially true of artificial intelligence: 40% of Gen Zers use AI in their working lives compared to only 28% of Baby Boomers.

Introducing young finance professionals to an organisation can help businesses keep up with the latest tools and platforms that are appealing to their generation. With this comes the rise of the ‘intelligent organisation’ – one able to leverage technology to understand and make optimal decisions based on data insights. This provides a detailed look into the current state of a business, giving employees an insight into organisational health. While giving the business insight into areas of success and avenues for development, using data to transparently communicate important information to employees will build trust and can make employees feel valued. This is key in a time where our environment is unstable, and the pace is constantly changing.

Generation Z is a crucial part of the workforce when it comes to implementing technology, maximising innovation and digitising workflows to reduce admin tasks. Evaluating finance processes to attract and retain top talent not only adds value to the organisation, it also helps businesses to meet client needs and keep up with the pace of today.

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