AvidXchange logo
Close this search box.
Close this search box.
Resources   /   Blog

Are AP Pros Happy at Work? The Answer Might Surprise You 

December 15, 2023
net 30 podcast logo

Accounts payable (AP) is a challenging job that demands professionals to juggle numerous tasks simultaneously, from data entry to account reconciliation to monthly reporting. It requires meticulous record-keeping, effective communication and project management skills.  

Our recent AP Career Satisfaction Survey, conducted in partnership with the Institute of Finance & Management (IOFM), found that a majority (51%) of AP professionals are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their current role. Yet those who work in departments with outdated technology and a reliance on manual processes feel less positive towards their organization.  

On our “Net 30” podcast, host Chris Elmore, AvidXchange’s chief evangelist, discussed the results of this survey with Jeanne Dion, vice president of value experience group at SAP Concur. With decades of AP experience between the two, they shared insights and anecdotes about the importance of, and challenges faced in the AP role.  

Continue reading for a summary of their conversation or click below to listen to the full episode online. You can also download the “Net 30” podcast on your favorite streaming platform, including SpotifyAppleiHeart and Pandora.     

Evolution of the AP Role

Elmore and Dion noted that as Millennials start to take on leadership roles in the workplace, AP is experiencing a “changing of the guard.” With technology handling some of the more manual, tedious tasks, AP pros can follow their passions and apply their strengths to more strategic work within the organization.  

Dion explained that AP professionals formerly had a set of monthly tasks that revolved around entering data and checking it over. Now, they’re able to use their talents to solve problems in the organization. 

“They’re looking at strategy, they’re making decisions. They’re having information come to them that they can act upon, rather than having to wade through all of it. Instead of searching through the haystack for the needles, [they’ve] got something that brings the needles.”

Investing in Yourself

Elmore shared some notable survey results, which included that 36% of AP pros are learning a new skill to prepare for a potential layoff, and only 22% used their full personal time off (PTO) allotment in 2022. Despite this, seven out of ten said they are confident in the stability and future of their organization.  

Dion suggested that all AP pros should be lifelong learners, picking up new skills to prepare themselves for the future, whether or not that involves a potential layoff. She also recommended that AP pros take their full PTO and other opportunities to reset.  

“The idea of people not using their full PTO, as somebody who manages people, this makes me crazy. Especially in such a high-stress environment as AP … if you don’t take that time away from your desk, even if it’s just eating away from your desk every day … it means that you’re not fresh for me. You’re not coming up with those great ideas … It’s an old way of doing things, where you had to be in front of your manager all the time to prove your worth.”

Technology Influences Satisfaction

In our AP Career Satisfaction Survey, we found that AP pros whose departments had automated processes felt more positive sentiments towards their leaders and the organization as a whole. Additionally, those with fully automated AP systems were 11 times more likely to work on strategic initiatives daily.  

Elmore shared an anecdote that suggested most AP pros used to fear that technology would take away their jobs. But after seeing how technology has transformed other roles in the organization, their feelings have shifted. Our survey found that 94% of AP pros said they would welcome technology that automated the repetitive parts of their job.  

Dion said she’s seen a similar shift in AP pros’ attitude towards technology. “If I have time to be able to contribute more strategically, I will have the opportunity to grow my career and, at the end of the day, that’s really what all of us want to do,” she said.  

“Automation is coming in throughout the entire organization, not just AP. And it’s expanding people’s horizons. They’re seeing people around them being promoted, getting more complex and more interesting assignments, and it’s helping grow their careers. And so why wouldn't you want to be part of that, right?”

Elmore and Dion wrapped up the conversation discussing the new opportunities AP professionals have for career growth and strategic input. “AP is really the heartbeat of the organization … It’s one of the few places in a company that you can touch every single department, division and leader because they depend on you,” she said. “You have a broad view of how everything’s working. And when you can think strategically, you become an incredibly valuable asset to every single division.” 

To listen to the full podcast, click on the player below. If you’d like to hear more from Elmore and Dion, check out the SAP Concur Conversations podcast, where the two talk about how AP automation can optimize operational efficiency in your organization.  


Complete Transcript

Please note: The “Net 30” podcast is designed for audio consumption. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. 


Hi, my name is Chris Elmore. I am AvidXchange’s Chief Evangelist and I’m the host of the Net 30 podcast. On the Net 30 podcast, we meet with industry leaders to unpack problems and solutions and talk about innovations that are impacting financial professionals. The best part about this? We’re going to do it all within 30 minutes. So let’s get into it.  

We’re talking with Jeanne Dion. Jeanne, how’s it going?  


It’s going great, Chris. How are you today?  


Good. Okay. So here’s the thing I’ve known you for awhile. And one of the things that I love about this podcast is that we get to talk to passionate people. I’ve got to say that you’re one of the more passionate ones. 


What’s that about?  


I am passionate about accounts payable, which sounds really crazy. I’m a big nerd about it, but I think it’s the heartbeat of a corporation. Uh, it’s what keeps the corporation moving and running. I know every department feels that, but at the end of the day, when you’re in charge of the money, you are the ones that keep it going. 

And so the idea of having processes around that and really using the resources that we have to do more than just data entry or track down invoices is really important to me. I see it as the heartbeat of the organization.  


Tell me about your background. Let folks know kind of what you’re doing and what you’ve done. 


I currently work at SAP Concur. So, uh, we’ll go backwards from there. I currently work with our value team. I’m the vice president of that team. And basically what my team does is uses data-driven insights to help customers with, you know, positive business outcomes. Prior to that, I actually worked in the implementation side of the house. 

So implementing all of our tools, whether it was travel expense or the invoice processing tools for all our customers around the globe. But prior to that, I was a customer for 20 years. I worked at a large biotech company and I worked as in the corporate accounting operations group where I helped manage at various times AP, AR, time collection, grant management, payroll, and then the T&E program as well as P Cards.  

Uh, so that’s where it comes from. That’s where that passion comes from. It was not my formal training. I will tell you, I was a broadcast journalism and international relations major way back when in college, but I think it prepared me for the role because it helped me listen to my customers. 

And ask leading questions of them to find out how to alleviate the pain they were feeling in whatever process or product or just day-to-day work task that they were feeling. And I have a real passion for that. 


I understand the correlation between your, your SAP Concur, your, your corporate experience and broadcast journalism because in my opinion, it’s all communication and the clearer you can communicate, the better off you are just every period. Yeah, absolutely. What drew you to broadcast communication?  


For those of you in the audience who aren’t old enough to remember, there was this television anchor named Jessica Savage. 

And she really was one of the first female anchors and one of the first respected television reporters on a national and international level. And I really wanted to be able to tell stories. So all of it leads back to storytelling. And I think AP is a really great place for storytelling as well. My entire life has been based on storytelling. 


All of that to say this, our topic today, I can kind of chunk it into three things, is that we’re going to talk a little bit about accounts payable professionals, job satisfaction, and we’re going to talk about AP pros, how they view their leadership. And lastly, we’re going to talk about good old technology. 

Today’s statistics were collected by the second annual accounts payable professional career satisfaction survey. Uh, conducted, uh, with IOFM and AvidXchange, and the data was collected on March of 2023, and there were 461 respondents. And so what I thought I’d do, Jean, because of your, your, kind of your background and experience, is I thought I’d rattle off a couple of the statistics from the report. 

This first one is, uh, we found that 51 percent of the people that we surveyed, accounts payable professionals are either very or extremely satisfied with your, with their current role. So what’s kind of your reaction to the 51? We have a majority.  


Yeah, I’m glad to hear there’s a majority. You know, I think as I look at the AP profession, it’s in a bit of, um, a change. We’re changing the guard. We’re changing guard across all every organization, every department in every organization. But I think what we’re finding is as new employees come into that AP space, there’s so many more places for them to go with their talents and their curiosity and their career pathing that I think it makes sense that they are satisfied or extremely satisfied in the role.  

You alluded to something around technology, and I think it’s that idea of if we can use technology to take away some of the more manual, tedious efforts, we find that people get really satisfied with what they’re doing because they’re using their big brains, right? 

They’re looking at strategy, they’re making decisions, they’re having information come to them that they can act upon, rather than having to wade through all of it. I like to talk to it about the idea that Instead of searching through the haystack for the needles, you’ve got something that brings you the needles, and you can actually solve problems. 

And I think that’s really where our AP professionals are. They’re problem solvers. They’re professional problem solvers.  


Has that always been the case?  


No, no, no. I don’t think it’s always been the case. I think they’ve been looked at as kind of like almost like a set of manufacturing where they had very specific tasks that they had to do at different times of the month and you were just looking at them to enter in data and just to kind of give it a quick glance to make sure that it’s correct. 

And I think now that we’ve been able to take some of that manual piece out of it, we understand that they have a significant amount of talent and a really great idea of how to solve problems for the corporation that has not previously been tapped into.  


I was just about ready to say that, and you alluded to this, the millennials are taking over as that millennial generation has gotten older and moved into leadership. One of the dings that millennials got early on, I remember this, is that they, they don’t see formal structures. Every single one of them wants to be the CEO without having to pay any dues. They just are bombarding the current leadership with this idea and that idea and this idea and they just won’t stay in their place. Now, here’s the thing. I love that. I do too. I love that because that’s when things get done.  


Mm hmm. I’m at the tail end of the boomers, right? So, in a few more years, I’m going to be out of the workforce, and that’s okay. You know, I figure I’ll stay for like another 10 years or so, and you know, really enjoy the new environment. 

I love it when people come up with new ideas. I love it when people think about better and more efficient and more effective ways to work, and I think our Millennials and those that came after them, Gen Z, Gen X, um, Gen Alpha, I think they’re getting a bad rap. Uh, but I also think this has been the case, right? 

You know, in the 50s, it was like, those crazy kids, I think that they are here to change the world for the better, not for disgruntling the rest of us.  


Kind of with that lens, I have a couple more stats. The first one, by the way, it was a little shocking to me, I’ll just say that, is that we found that 36 percent of AP pros are learning a new skill to prepare for layoff, 22 percent don’t use their full PTO, that was in 2022, and 7 out of 10 pros are confident in the stability and the future of their organization. 


What do you make about all that?  


I think it kind of aligns, right? If only 36 percent are preparing for new skills for layoff, but the rest of them seem to be pretty excited about the stability in future, I think that kind of plays off of each other, quite honestly. But I’m surprised that there are fewer that are learning new skills to prepare for a layoff. 

I personally think everybody should be lifelong learners. Everybody should be learning new skills to prepare themselves for the future. And if layoffs happen to be part of that future, so be it. I mean, I’ve been laid off multiple times in my life. I think everybody should be preparing. It’s a little surprising to me that that number is so low, preparing on those new skills.  

I also think that idea of people not using their full PTO, as somebody who manages people, this makes me crazy, especially in such a high-stress environment as AP, because AP is a very high-stress environment. If you don’t take that time away from your desk, even if it’s just eating away from your desk every day, but if you don’t, Step away from that desk. 

It means that you’re not fresh for me. You’re not coming up with those great ideas. You’re not refreshed to be able to look at things with a new lens. It’s concerning to me, and I think that group that’s not using or is unable to step away from their job at any point in time, I think that points to me that they really are nervous about the stability and future of their organization.  

It’s an old way of doing things, where you had to be in front of your manager all the time to prove your worth. I’m hopeful, because it’s only 22 percent that didn’t use the full balance. I’m hopeful that this is something that is getting faded out.  

I want you to work well. I want you to do your job. I want you to work smarter, not harder. And if we can take away some of those manual processes, you will see AP professionals maybe at some point in time be able to enjoy, oh, I don’t know, 4th of July or the week between Christmas and New Year’s or maybe even Thanksgiving. 

You know, I can remember having to work all those times and working my life around those. And so, I think that ties into it, and the more we can automate some of these manual processes to bring maybe around a continuous close process, where it doesn’t matter if it happens at the end of June. It’s already been continuously closing, so the 4th of July is open again. 

I think that’s really where we need to start looking to move forward, and I think that will bring a lot of satisfaction to our AP professionals.  


Let’s pivot into technology. Some of these statistics as it parallels with technology equates directly to job satisfaction.  


I think this ties back to some of the changes that are happening in the AP professional space where, when you’re looking at that automation, it’s something that people expect. And so you’re expecting it out of your job. So, if you have that, that’s really positive.  

I think the other piece of it is, We all know how brutal it is to go through a check audit on check run day. And the idea of having to set aside one whole day where you lose that day to other tasks to just go through hundreds of checks is really distracting if we can automate that process so that it’s no longer I’m sitting and running through and matching everything together, but that it can come to me matched and I can push that out.  

I’ll have a huge amount of satisfaction. I can work on things that are really important to me and to the corporation when it comes to that point. Not to say that auditing checks isn’t important, but when the majority of our AP teams are still using checks versus some of those automated payment processes, it, it starts to become kind of a death sentence for your job. 

It’s one of those things that’s like, uh, nobody likes to do those little manual things.  


That’s one thing that people don’t know about AvidXchange is that we, we have a system that automatically reconciles all of the payments. You’re exactly right. The amount of time that it takes, uh, to, to do all that. 

So I have a couple of statistics for you. Three out of four AP pros believe automation technology will have a positive impact on their long-term career. However, one out of five AP pros with no automation feel quote-unquote extremely connected to the purpose and mission of their organization. And then three. AP professionals who are fully automated, have fully automated systems, are 11 times more likely to work on strategic initiatives daily. Where do you go? What statistic do you go to first?  


The one that I really love is the three out of four pros believe that automation is going to have a positive impact on their career. 


I felt like that was a little on the high side. 


It felt high to me. But I also know that we’re in this change of AP teams, you know, most AP teams are my age or older and so they’re moving out of the, out of the workforce and so you’ve got this whole new group of people coming in who are like, automation is the thing.  

I have other things I want to do. This is something that I can really contribute. If I have time to be able to contribute more strategically, I will have the opportunity to grow my career and, and at the end of the day, that’s really what all of us want to do. It’s the days of people staying in the same role for extended periods of time or even staying with the same corporation for extended periods of time are long gone. 

I mean, those days are way past us so we have to start thinking about that. Our people are going to be moving from job to job. Um, they’re going to be growing with the organization. And so I love that. It seems high to me, but I’m really, I’m here for it, right? I am definitely here for it.  


It’s been a while since I’ve been kind of on a main stage at a conference. It used to be, the first thing that I would ask is, I’d say, raise your hand if someone comes into a meeting and says, “Hey, guess what? We’re going to automate.” Raise your hand if you believe you’re going to lose your job. And all hands would go up. Yep. This statistic flies in the face of that.  


Well, I think because they’ve seen automation in other areas of the corporation as well. And people haven’t lost their jobs in those areas. We’ve created some new types of jobs. That’s right. It’s kind of like what you have talked to me about previously, you know, when, when you look at manufacturing, the idea that when you automate some of the manufacturing areas, yes, some of those jobs are not the same. 

But they morph into other, more fulfilling, more interesting jobs, and they create even new jobs that weren’t there before. I think that’s part of what we’re seeing. Automation is coming in throughout the entire organization, not just AP. And it’s expanding people’s horizons. They’re seeing people around them being promoted, getting more complex and more interesting assignments, and it’s helping grow their careers. And so why wouldn’t you want to be part of that, right? Why wouldn’t you want that? 


I love that. The advice that I hear is open up your eyes, see what else is going on in other departments. And you know, and networking is powerful. people who are fully automated and they’re 11 times more likely to work on strategic initiatives. Now I think that impacts their career.  


Absolutely. It not only, it impacts the organization, right? Because the more people you have thinking strategically, the more voices at the table there are in growing the business. But it also brings you to a different audience and they see you in a different light. different way.  

They see you as a strategic partner. They don’t see you as, and I hate to use this term, but they don’t see you as that worker bee who’s coming in every day and just filling in the honey cell. They see you as thinking on a broader perspective. 

Where are we going to put the honey hive? Where is it going to be closer to where we need to be from a pollen perspective? You know, if we got a successor to the queen, all those different pieces of it. Now start to put you in a different light. They make you a strategic partner in the organization. And I think that that ultimately grows your insights to bring you to anywhere.  

Because as I mentioned before, AP is really the heartbeat of the organization. You touch every single department. It’s one of the few places that in a company that you can touch every single department, division, every single leader because they depend on you. So you have a broad view of how everything’s working. Yeah. And when you can think strategically, you become an incredibly valuable asset to every single division.  


Inside and outside of the organization, too. Inside and outside. To give you some insight to and pivot to a little bit, is that… 


But in the survey, our desire was to try to figure out how accounts payable professionals viewed the leadership of their organizations. Those leaders that heavily invested in technology were viewed as leaders that people were more willing to work for versus those that were just having to do manual stuff. Uh, and there’s no investment, and so it, it kind of culminates in this statistic that one out of five, uh, feel extremely connected, as far as leadership is concerned. 


The way I internalize that, being somebody who has managed teams, when they don’t feel connected – there’s a lack of value that has been communicated to them that they are only X and they fit in this small box and they don’t get to move inside or out of that box and they don’t see the connection to it. 

Back in the day, I worked in the AP team, and we kind of felt like, you know, we were a bit of a machine, like I was talking about. It was manual, it was very manual at that point in time. We had just gotten Excel spreadsheets, so we were all automated with Excel spreadsheets. But we kind of felt like we were just kind of tactical.  

We had no strategic thought process around it. We didn’t feel connected to the company’s mission. This was a biotech company that was creating therapies for people who had orphan diseases, what they call orphan drugs. So these are diseases where a very minute percentage of the population has these diseases and the drugs for these patients were, you know, highly complex and they were something that somebody was gonna have to take for the rest of their lives. 

And we just kind of were sitting in the AP department, you know, stamping things, opening up mail, and we never really felt connected. And our CEO actually went out of his way to tell us how we were connected to the business. The idea that if we don’t do our job in AP, that means that suppliers don’t get paid. 

If suppliers don’t get paid, we don’t have the materials to make those drugs and to do more research around those diseases. If we don’t have the ability to do that, then we don’t have the ability to create a difference in somebody’s life. it’s the difference between life and death. 


And so that idea that every time we were to enter in an invoice or match a check or call a vendor because the unit pricing was incorrect – every time we did something like that, we were actually contributing to the wellbeing of a human. And we were part of the company’s mission. And I’ll tell you, our organization had a different point of view of who we are. 

And who we were after we understood that. And so I can see why. And that’s why I make that connection. If you’re not feeling connected, are you actually valued by your organization? What is your leadership telling you about who you are and what you contribute?  


And that connectivity manifests in investing. Correct. Whether that’s PTO or technology or additional continuing ed. Yep. Just to kind of continue on with the CEO of the biotech. What prompted that? 


Part of it was, you know, we would sit in these meetings and we’d hear about all the great things that everybody else was doing. Right? You hear about that because, you know, if you’re working here, if you’re in a company where, you know, sales is fueling everything, you hear about that. 

If you’re in a company where the, you know, the manufacturing line is, you know, really critical to the success of the organization, you’re going to hear about that. Nobody ever talks about accounts payable in an all-hands meeting. The only time you ever get finance is around the stock price, right?  


Well, I thought you were gonna say, ’cause our good friend Rhonda Green. Yes. 


The mutual friend. Yeah. She always says that accounts payable is, is only talked about when something goes wrong. Correct?  


Correct. Yeah. The only time you’re ever brought to – so-and-so said they didn’t get paid. Vendor X said you, you know, you’re holding back on the checks, so you know, we never got that notice. 

And so the ability to tie us to that. It was that, you know, that idea of we just don’t feel connected to the rest of the company. We’re here. We’re working with you every day. We’re doing these things, but what do we actually mean to you? And so to have that put together for us was really helpful because nobody’s ever gonna stand up there and say, “And this month Department of the Year is Accounts payable, because they’re so awesome.” Because  nobody does. 


I thought you were going to say, and by the way, all the bills got paid. Correct. Yay. 


Got paid correctly. 


Yeah, correctly, there you go. So a couple more things. You know, we’re talking about all of this technology and how it, it correlates to job satisfaction, or at least that’s the way the pros told us through the survey, what, in your opinion, makes good tech? 


It’s a lot of things, but mostly it’s that idea that it’s complementary to the process or the job that we’re doing, that we have taken a look at what the tool can do. And then we have looked at the process we currently have, and we have made it so that that tool complements our process. And I think a lot of mistakes that, that companies make are they buy a tool expecting it to fix everything. 

Yeah, magic. It’s just that. It’s a tool in a toolbox, and you wouldn’t hammer in a nail with a screwdriver. I think that’s what makes technology successful. You view it as a complementary addition to your process. It’s not the process. It’s a complement to how you do your work.  


The final stat is 94 percent of AP pros were surveyed, would use a tool to automate. most repetitive parts of their job. Again, that seems awfully high because you’re basically working yourself out of a job.   


But are you, I mean, if, if you think about what we’re doing now and what we’ve been talking about today and what corporations need from you, they don’t need somebody who is manually doing these jobs and causing actually, you know, more work down the line because we’re humans, we’re fallible. 


You know, I am one of those people who, when I’m looking at my keypad and I’m punching it in, I might be transposing a number. And that transposition means that there’s more work for somebody down the line. And I’m also spending a lot of time entering things in, but I have a pretty big brain, and I have a lot of ideas and opinions and experience that could be helpful to the organization as a whole.  

You’re not using all of me. To your point, it seems a little high, but honestly, if somebody came to me and said, I could automate all of the manual things you do in a day, would you be interested in it? I’m like, sign me up. Sign me up, because I am there for it every single day, all day. 


I’ve worked myself out of plenty of jobs. And the other thing is, to me, is that when you work yourself out of a job, in a sense, that’s a little negative, it pushes you to do more, and you become more valuable. Yeah. I’ve definitely seen that. Yeah.  


I don’t think you worked yourself out of a job. You worked yourself into the next job. And I think that’s the… point of view that we really need to have within the AP group. You’re not working yourself out of a job. You’re working yourself into the next level, the next phase. That’s true. The next approach. You’re working yourself into the future.  


One last thing is that you, we have SAP Concur and Avid Exchange on a podcast together. And a lot of, a lot of folks think that we’re competitors. It’s one of the more fascinating stories, I think. But what’s, what’s your opinion of the relationship we have?  


So I think about AvidXchange as, you know, a partner. They’re a true partner. I think of us almost like colleagues, quite honestly, even though we’re in separate companies. 

But. AvidXchange, and Concur together are like that whole symbiotic relationship of bees, flowers, and a honey hive, right? You’ve got, you need the bees, you need the honey, you’re looking at making this beautiful honey, and I think that’s what we make together, right? It’s that full end-to-end lifecycle and solution. 

So when we think about AvidXchange, I think about things along the lines of payments, which is something that is really complementary to the SAP Concur invoice processing. So we’re partners hand in hand. We’re very synergistic and symbiotic in how we work. It’s a complete ecosystem for our entire AP solution. 

So AvidXchange and SAP Concur kind of belong together.  


There you go. Well, I, I completely agree. It’s been, we’ve been working together for a while now and it just seems to get better and better and better. So Jean, where can folks find out more about SAP Concur?  


Well, thank you for asking that, um, you can go out to the SAP.com site and look for Concur out there. You can also listen to our SAP Concur Conversations podcast, which you can find in any, um, any of the major podcast platforms. Um, or if you are a Concur customer, please reach out to your account teams and you can learn more about the different products and features that we’re, we’re bringing out to market even now. 


Thanks, Jeanne. Thanks.  


Thanks for listening to the Net30 podcast presented by AvidXchange. I desperately need to know what you think about this. Leaving a five star review would be fantastic. You can subscribe to the channel too, and oh, by the way, while you’re waiting for the next episode, head over to avidxchange.com. 

One more thing. If this conversation has somehow piqued your interest, which I really hope it has, about accounts payable automation from AvidXchange, there is an additional link to get a demonstration of our solution. I always say it shows way better than it tells. So click on that link, fill out the information and someone will be in contact with you. 

So thanks again for listening to the Net30 podcast and we’ll see you really soon. 

A female and two male co-workers looking at a tablet.

Featured Download

Addressing 6 Common AP Pain Points with Data

Leveraging data analytics to drive accounts payable efficiency

We use cookies to improve your experience, personalize content and analyze our website’s performance. For more information on how we collect and use this information, please review our privacy policy.