Future of the Finance Profession
A challenge like no other: How to prepare for the future of work

By Lawrence Goldstone, PwC’s Lead Partner – Future of Work and Sam Lobley, National Leader - CFO Advisory

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In the recent G100 Future of the Profession webcast,  we focused on the future of work and how finance leaders can equip their people with the skills to manage the effects of technological acceleration.

While COVID-19 has shaken what we thought we knew about the future of work, it’s not the only driver of change: emerging technologies, changing demographics and global megatrends are also modifying how, where and when we work – which in turn affect how we interact with businesses, brands and employees.

What’s shaping the future of work in finance?

Skilling as a differentiator

Businesses have a significant opportunity to form a cohesive workplace strategy that is future-fit by investing in skills and technology.

Finance teams are facing extensive challenges to up-skill and re-skill their people. Businesses are now prioritising and putting further emphasis towards complex problem-solving, technology and human skills. For most organisations, it’s a transition that will involve collaborative efforts, whether with the government, higher education, industry bodies, peer organisations, or other industries.

The focus is both on human skills and technical. Eight out of 10 skills of the future are human skills. These include learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility, according to the World Economic Forum.

Technology is empowering the finance profession to automate  laborious tasks. Intelligent automation is helping organisations define debt collection models, manage non-performing assets, reduce losses, monitor communications, and generate valuable commercial insights. The outcome is improved efficiency and a better experience for employees, business partners and customers.

Maintaining training and investing in your workforce is critical. PwC's 24th CEO Survey  found that for 78 per cent of Australian CEOs, the availability of key skills is a top threat to business growth. 

Companies can’t wait until skills become an issue. It is far cheaper to prepare your workforce for the future by re-skilling and up-skilling than it is to lose people. 2022 is forecast to be the year of the ‘great resignation’ with 40-50% of the workforce considering changing roles in the next 12 months.  

Thus, organisations need to put data and technology at the forefront in order to up-skill their staff for the future. That will help them optimise performance while focusing on transformation, cloud capability and partnerships. 

The office: Dead or alive?

The pandemic has accelerated the rise of non-traditional employment models and virtual and remote working options. 

Gen Z employees will make up more than half of the workforce by 2030. If you ask someone in that age group how and where they want to work, it is unlikely they’ll say full-time in an office. 

Recent PwC research, Hope and Fears,  found that 74 per cent of Australians want to split their working week across home and the office. Only 10 per cent want to return to the office five days a week.  

It’s now a question of why to come to the office. Companies need to ‘earn the commute’ if they want people to return. They also need to redesign their workplace strategy to be ready for people to work across the office, home and third space of their choice. 

The office is now a space where employees want to be. Since no technology can replace face-to-face communication and team collaboration, organisations need to consider how their workspace can support a different need with less single desks and more social spaces to connect and work in small groups.

Australia is facing a role reversal as employees move to the driver’s seat. No longer is it the business deciding whom they want in their workforce. It’s now the individuals choosing where, how, and why they want to work for a company.

Mental health at the forefront

Leaders are the ones who design and steward workplace culture and define policies and empower connectivity. Therefore, they have the resources to create a positive working environment that puts people first.

Organisations need to invest in skills at the formal executive level and liaise with informal leaders like project managers and supervisors who are more attuned to workplace sentiment. 

This includes providing tools to promote and support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and training to build skills like empathy, emotional intelligence, and diversity and inclusion. It requires organisations to embed mental health awareness. 

How to plan for the future today 

We have an opportunity to reimagine leadership and embrace change. To move away from the traditional corporate model toward one based on choice in time and place, focusing on strengths-based work and decentralised decision-making. The 9-5, Monday to Friday model might be on the way out.

Investing in new software, leading with innovation and taking note of employee and customer’s needs will help the finance industry play a notable role in the future.

Knowing where to start to make the most of this reality can be difficult. But there are steps that financial leaders can take to make sure they’re heading in the right direction. Here are considerations across three horizons to help plan your future of work:

1. Rebuild: The return to the office: While the change will still be frequent and significant, there are short-term actions that can optimise workers’ return to workplaces, such as policies and providing tools to allow people to work where, when, and how they want.

2. Redefine: Working in a COVID normal: Experimentation will be needed as we redefine and redesign the future of work as borders, businesses, and people settle into a new normal. For example, organisations can experiment with collaboration zones, hybrid spaces, Zoom rooms, and changing their office lounge footprint to suit the new world of work.

3. Reimagine: Empowering future growth: A strategic view of the long term is still needed to shape organisational growth. Businesses need to seize the opportunity to reimagine and redesign the future. 

Australian businesses have a chance to recreate a future of work that’s better for everyone by future-proofing their teams and reinventing leadership. It’s time to realise that although change is complex, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

The Future of the Profession series

* PwC Australia is collaborating with the Group of 100 to deliver the Future of the Profession series to help organisations on their digitisation journeys. Over the course of the series we’re taking deep dives into a range of topics designed to arm CFOs and their teams with the tools and knowledge to adapt and upskill, recruit skilled talent and transform their finance functions.

You may also be interested to read these articles which are reflections on our previous webcasts: Your finance transformation can flourish when you prioritise people’s growth3 pillars for successful finance transformation  and 5 leadership takeaways for digitising finance

 

Lawrence Goldstone

Partner, Consulting, Sydney, PwC Australia

+61 424 299 014

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Sam Lobley

Partner, Assurance, PwC Australia

+61 401 814 721

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