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Attracting and retaining ‘Digital Natives’ in the finance industry

Two sides of the same coin: Financial and digital inclusion

By Hannah Wright, Director, Sage People

The impact of the global pandemic is not yet known, but many businesses have plans underway to recover, rebuild and eventually grow – including hiring. Digitally native talent is becoming increasingly sought after as business leaders become more aware of the importance of  data and analytical skills when it comes to business survival. Shockingly, research shows that 59% of employers lack workers with soft digital skills, such as problem solving, and 51% are experiencing a shortage of hard digital skills, for instance financial modelling .

Projecting the future of the business through financial forecasting is now one of the most critical business functions in the current climate, causing financial talent to be in high demand. The latest generation of young graduates enter the finance industry and begin their professional journey. However, their attention is notoriously hard to grasp. To attract, and importantly retain these young professionals, businesses must rethink their finance function to be considered as a potential employer for them.

Nurturing a flexible, supportive and encouraging environment

Despite the vast amount of people looking for jobs at the moment, attracting younger generations 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. But the good news is that this can be achieved by reflecting these attitudes across the business.

Those looking to hire Gen Zers, need to understand that personal support and career development prospects play a major role when it comes to attracting and motivating this generation. 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 motivated. The initiative should be taken by finance teams and particularly the CFO. From the outset, employers should offer tailored training programmes to each new starter, that help to develop the core skills they need to fulfil their role, develop professionally and progress in the business.

Generation Z are graduating from education and entering the workplace at a very uncertain time. 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 workplace culture that prioritises mental wellbeing and a work-life balance isn’t just a nice to have, but an expectation..

Surprisingly, not all businesses have embarked on this flexible cultural change that has been encouraged as a result of the pandemic.  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 working is no longer a ‘work perk’, it has now become a staple feature that is expected from businesses who want to attract the brightest talent.

Using technology to empower young professionals

However, it doesn’t stop there. Generation Z want more than support in the workplace and flexible working initiatives. 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.

Outdated technology is commonplace within businesses today, as many companies fail to prioritise the benefits that data and analytics can bring. Yet, spending valuable time training beginners on how to use outdated software is a costly process and is hardly an exciting activity for someone just starting in their role.

By nurturing a tech-savvy environment with a focus on integration and productivity, businesses can equip young people with all the tools they need to achieve and thrive. 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, effectively facilitating  today’s remote working 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 where we can see 40% of Gen Zers using AI in their working lives compared to only 28% of Baby Boomers.

Employing a finance team who are fresh out of education allows your business to utilize the latest technology and tools that appeal to their generation and come so naturally to them. With this comes the rise of the ‘intelligent organisation’ – one able to leverage technology to understand and make optimal decisions based on integrated data insights. Ongoing visibility into the state of the business enables employees to be more adaptable and to grasp new practices when necessary, this is vital when the pace of change is moving quickly.

Young people have always sat at the center of society, influencing trends both inside and outside of the workplace. The skills within the Gen Z bracket are now more crucial than ever whether it is implementing cloud-based solutions, digitising workflows or finding technical solutions. Attracting and retaining talent amongst the latest graduates adds real value, encouraging businesses to keep up with the pace of evolving technology and client demands.

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