By Hannah Wright, Director, Sage People


Across the world finance professionals are tackling the effects of the pandemic. They are working to understand the immediate implications to society and the economy, whilst looking ahead to the long-term problems that may affect the financial industry. Financial expertise is needed to navigate businesses through the current climate and ensure survival  and resilience.

A new generation has arrived in the workplace offering a valuable and fresh financial perspective on the COVID-19 fall out. So, meeting the needs of Gen Z is more important than ever. Attracting and retaining young finance professionals is key to future survival, whilst embracing technological innovation. However, today 59% of employers lack workers with soft digital skills, like critical thinking, and 51% are experiencing a shortage of hard digital skills, such as coding and data analysis.

Fresh out of education and filled with enthusiasm, Gen Zers have much to offer businesses as they are digitally native by nature and comfortable getting to grips with with the latest data and analytic solutions. However, companies face stiff competition in getting their attention and delivering on their expectations. To fully understand what attracts the brightest young graduates’ firms must shake up their finance function and workplace culture.

A new approach to creating a workplace environment

Despite a large pool of people looking for work as a result of the pandemic, attracting young people is still a challenge. 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. Showing those attitudes reflected throughout the business is a crucial aspect of this.

The prospect of a flexiable career, driven by the support of an organization, is very attractive to Gen Zers. 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 and secure. Tailored training programmes for financial professionals should be considered with the aim of developing essential skills needed to push young people forward in their careers. This initiative should be encouraged by a firm’s CFO, whilst being supported largely by the finance team.

Nevertheless, the working world as we know it has been completely changed and young people are entering businesses at a time when “what’s next?’ can often be a question. 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. A working environment that puts people first, by promoting a work-life balance and an emphasis on mental health wellbeing, will be expected.

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. Flexible and supportive working conditions can no longer be offered as an extra ‘work perk’ for employees. Instead, they are expected and are now essential to retaining talent.


Promoting a tech-savvy workplace

However, Gen Zers need more. A supported and flexible working environment isn’t the only building block to attract and retain top talent. Alongside flexible work policies, 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 who’s expectations are akin to that of consumer lives

Furthermore, as many businesses continue to use outdated technology, they cannot reap the benefits that modern data and analytical insight has to offer. Such outdated systems 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.

Because of this, adopting technology has a strong 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 where we see 40% of Gen Zers using AI in their working lives compared to just28% of Baby Boomers.

Fueled with technological knowledge, employing a younger finance team can be of great value to a business. These individuals can take advantage of the latest tools and technologies that are so appealing to their generation. With this comes the rise of the ‘intelligent organisation’ – one able to leverage integrated technology to understand and make optimal decisions based on data insights. Real-time insight into the situation of the organisation offers company-wide visibility of the bigger picture and creates opportunities for increased agility. This is highly valuable at a time when our environment is evolving quickly.

Understanding what matters to Gen Z is critical to attracting young finance professionals both now and in the future. This generation is a crucial asset when it comes to technological innovation, whether that’s employing new cloud-based software, automating admin tasks or reaching new business opportunities. Employing Gen Z talent enables businesses to keep up with technological advances, meet ever changing client needs and equip the overall workforce with the tools they need for efficient and purposeful working.



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