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Attracting the top Generation Z finance talent

Covid-19 has clearly thrown many plans – including hiring – into flux. However, downturns also highlight the importance of great talent, writes Sage People director Hannah Wright

As organisations continue to judge the pandemic’s impact, and put plans in place to build resilience, financial talent is in high demand.

Yet, it is not just financial acumen that businesses should value. They need talent that is at home with technology, digitally native, and comfortable with the latest data and analytics solutions. Indeed, 59% of employers lack workers with soft digital skills, and 51% are experiencing a lack of hard digital skills.

The latest generation of young graduates – among the earliest of Generation Z to enter the finance profession – have much to offer businesses. Yet companies face stiff competition in getting their attention. So, to understand what appeals to the best and brightest young talent, companies need to take a hard, honest look at their finance function and infrastructure.

Welcoming environment

The job market may be challenging, but attracting the top Gen Z talent still will not be easy. 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.

Gen Zers place a premium on personal support and career development. Even though times are tough, it is 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.

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 will expect a supportive working environment that puts an emphasis on mental well-being 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.

Platform for inclusion

However, there is more to a great workforce experience than just flexible working and supportive people 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.

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 do not 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.

A younger finance team can help businesses 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 technology to understand and make optimal decisions based on data insights. Ongoing visibility into the state of the business enables employees to be more adaptable and to pick up new skills where needed – crucial at a time when the pace of change is accelerating.

Whether it is implementing cloud-based solutions, digitising workflows, finding technical solutions, or reaching new business opportunities, Gen Z is a crucial asset. Making changes now to attract and retain new talent not only adds value to businesses, it helps them to keep pace with ever-evolving client needs.

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