Home Recruitment Automation not so bad for finance workers and jobs: survey

Automation not so bad for finance workers and jobs: survey

Automation of Australia’s workforce may not have such a negative effect on jobs and employment, according to new research which shows that more jobs are expected to be created — especially in finance — by automation.

According to an independent survey commissioned by recruiter Robert Half, while several functions within finance departments are already automated or are expected to be automated within the next three years, almost half (46%) of Australian chief financial officers are planning to expand their permanent financial headcount to help implement their company’s automation efforts over the next 12 months.

And, the survey reveals that more than one in three (36%) CFOs are planning to create new roles for temporary or contract professionals over the next year.

Robert Half also says that in terms of job loss, the survey reveals that the majority (86%) of CFOs agree workplace automation does not imply a reduction in finance employees in their team – but rather, it requires a shift in the necessary skills.

And more specifically, CFOs say the top skills finance professionals need to focus on as a result of automation are problem-solving skills (56%), strategic vision (46%), commercial acumen (44%) and communication (37%).

According to David Jones, senior managing director of Robert Half Asia Pacific “increased automation within Australian workplaces is not about destroying jobs, but rather, adapting to change – which, in turn, leads to new opportunities”.

“The modern day business demands diverse skillsets, resources and assets which will equip companies to be able to respond quickly and flexibly to challenges like automation and digitisation. Not only will companies need to bring in additional expertise to lead this change, they will also need to focus on staff training to ensure their workforces have the adequate skills to leverage the benefits brought by existing and future technology.”

According to Robert Half, the positive jobs sentiment revealed by the survey is reflected in a recent speech by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard University when he said “while automation will eventually replace some jobs, it is up to millennials to create new ones”.

Robert Half also points out that according to the research, some of the finance functions that are either already automated or likely to be disrupted within three years include data collection (88%), invoicing (85%), financial report generation (84%), data entry (77%), and credit management (77%).

And David Jones says that “finance professionals will need to develop skills that complement and leverage the capabilities of automation – rather than simply hand over control".

“More advanced technology requires additional, well-developed skills, such as advanced data analysis, interpretation skills, and decision-making skills.

“While automation may diminish some routine manual roles, it will lead to faster decision making, reduce the risk of errors, and eliminate stresses associated with laborious task-management responsibilities. These benefits are available to those companies who embrace workplace automation rather than resist it.

“Australian businesses are operating in a time of rapid transition, where adaptability will be key to surviving the disruptive effects of automation and digitisation for both companies and their staff. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that people must find ways to combine their own skills with the capabilities of technology – not only to drive better results for businesses in a highly competitive landscape, but also to further their own careers,” Jones said.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).