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Four Strategies to Attract and Retain AP Professionals in Your Organization

To find top AP talent, adopt these four savvy strategies to attract and retain AP professionals for your organization including the adoption of AP automation and more.

With the introduction of new technologies and the continuing automation of business processes, the daily work life for AP professionals has changed rapidly during the past years. With a transformed professional environment comes new responsibilities and the need for new skills. So, what are the key strategies accounts payable executives and HR representatives must implement to attract and retain AP talent in the future? Using the tips from Forbes Coaches Counsel’s article 14 Ways To Find Valuable Candidates In The War For Talent, Untapped explores key components of a successful future accounts payable talent strategy.

# 1 – Automate Your Accounts Payable Process

By 2030 the hyper-connected, tech-savvy generation of millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. This generation brings new attitudes, motivation drivers and characteristics. For AP, to appeal to this generation of top talent there is no other place to start than with process automation. Millennials will not put up with ineffective manual processes or constraints when it comes to using the best technology available.

When Forbes Coach Counsel’s Lizabeth Czepiel share her thoughts on attracting talent in the future she encourages us to “Think longer term.“ High performers want a challenge, a voice, and to contribute to growing an organization. Attract them by communicating the value of the current role but also the various hats they potentially could wear over the years.  

An automated accounts payable process provides unlimited opportunities for top talent to grow and develop long term. Automation is the critical enabler in transforming the AP department from a traditional transactional oriented back-office function to a strategically important intelligence hub. Where do you think top talent rather work? Shuffling paper and chasing suppliers or supporting business stakeholders with critical financial data for efficient cash flow management and/or optimizing working capital?

# 2 – Define the Future AP Skills that Your Organization needs  

The top tip from Christopher Williams at High Level Wisdom for New Generation Leaders is: “Stop hiring task masters.” For your business to grow, you need thinkers. Thinkers ask why, push back and are brilliant at efficiency. On the same topic, Rose Cartolari adds “Recruit for learnability.” With changes in organizational structures that require agility, collaboration and communication, it's critical to find people with creative mindsets who can innovate, and adapt to changing working conditions. 

Traditionally, AP professionals needed capabilities to secure an accurate and efficient accounts payable process. Structure and attention to detail were fundamental, as well as expertise in accounting regulations and data entry skills. However, with the implementation of automation, skills such as data interpretation, business analysis as well as business stakeholder and management communication become increasingly important to learn, develop or recruit.

With the rapid development of machine learning and AI within AP, it is not unlikely to assume that accounts payable organizations will need more technical oriented capabilities in the future.

# 3 – Invest in Your AP Talent and Find New in Unexpected Places

Forbes Coach Counsel’s Kristy McCann, GoCoach propose that a company's biggest mistake is to believe there is a war on talent. Her recommendation is to “Seek to develop talent.” Investing in training, coaching and continuous feedback are how you hone AP talent. According to McCann, too much time and money are being thrown away on constant talent acquisition. Donald Hatter echoes this idea with his tip “Evaluate existing talent first”. Too often, companies ask for candidates to be far more qualified than current employees. Realize that you attract what you are. If you want top talent, make sure you increase the talent level among current employees.

With the accounts payables new position as an intelligence hub supporting strategic financial reporting and optimization of working capital, there are great opportunities to invest some of the freed-up money in developing your AP talent with skills needed for the future. Aligning the accounts payable talent strategy to this transformation also means investing in top talent with new skills that are less common within the fields of accounting and finance.

Oliver Cooke Executive Director, Head of Selby Jennings North America foresee that the future top talent within finance is found in Silicon Valley. It certainly makes sense, as the new skills required with accounts payable need another type of background than the traditional finance industry.

According to findings based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, "financial analyst" is the third-most-popular occupation for millennials. Current projections reveal this finance-friendly mentality will only continue to grow within the next few years. Oliver Cook believes the tech industry is reaching a tipping point when it comes to the war on talent. More companies within finance are adapting company culture to mimic the casual attitudes of the tech industry. Relaxed dress codes, flexible work hours and better compensation rates help to attract candidates seeking the culture of the tech industry with the added job security that can come with working in finance.

# 4 – Create a Collaborative and Flexible Work Environment

When Forbes Coach Counsel’s Gaurav Bhalla, shares his thoughts on attracting talent in the future his top tip is “Clean up the culture.” The biggest challenge companies face in finding good talent lies within themselves. Create a work environment that is free of egos, make the work meaningful and relevant, cut out the politics and narrow the gap between intention and action.

The future top talents demand a less selfish and more collaborative work culture. Automating accounts payable with cloud-based technology means real-time data that is up-to-date, for everyone to view, discuss and work on together. With the introduction of gamification elements, AP professionals get instant feedback on how the organization collectively work to reach company goals as well as individual performance scores.

Research from Deloitte shows that a flexible workplace and opportunities for professional development are strongly linked to improved performance and employee retention. For example, those in organizations that offer a high degree of flexibility in working arrangements seem to be rewarded with higher levels of employee loyalty. In highly flexible working environments, the difference between those who see themselves leaving within two years (35 percent) is just two points above those anticipating to stay beyond five years (33 percent). Among those in the least-flexible organizations, there is an 18 point gap (45 percent versus 27 percent). The difference is significant.

For accounts payable, cloud-based automation makes it possible for the entire staff to telecommute. AP automation gives employees access to relevant data and systems from both desktop and mobile devices so that they can fulfill their daily tasks from anywhere in the world. Business users working remotely can easily approve invoices on their cell phones and communicate with AP staff through comment and chat functions.

Flexible work arrangements have also proven beneficial for increased gender diversity. Accountants were notoriously overworked in years gone by, sleeping in their offices and spending days away from the family. The culture is changing to be more family-friendly, and as a result, more women are continuing in their career path rather than facing interruptions associated with having and raising a family.

This is Your Accounts Payable Talent Strategy for the Future

The winning strategy for recruiting and retaining accounts payable top talent in the future can be summarized in the execution of four key initiatives.

As a first step, automate your accounts payable process. By supporting various business initiatives with critical financial data, accounts payable can transform from a transactional back-office department to strategically important in business decision making, and provide a working environment that attracts top AP talent.

Secondly, automation brings the need for new capabilities and skills. Working more strategically with the identification of savings opportunities will release cash that can be invested in developing these new skills within your account’s payable talent, and personal growth is something top talent value.

Thirdly, think out-of-the-box when souring to find the skills you need. Your future AP professionals may very well have a background in tech rather than finance.

Lastly, automation is a key enabler to secure a collaborative and flexible workplace environment, another valuable driver in attracting the future top talents.


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