Despite operating in an increasingly complex business environment, finance leaders can be hesitant to embrace innovation and adopt new tools. They worry their staff will be fearful of powerful tech like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and automation or simply resist change.
However, advancements in finance technology, including accounts payable (AP) automation, are game-changing tools for organizations, helping navigate economic uncertainty, solve persistent labor challenges and strengthen profitability.
Finance pros are missing out if they are stuck with outdated manual processes and antiquated tools to do their jobs. Automated solutions can improve the speed and accuracy of their work and empower them to do more with less while increasing job satisfaction and opening opportunities for advancement.
To find out how modern finance professionals really feel about the state of their work environment, career outlook and their use of automation, we partnered with the Institute of Finance & Management (IOFM) to issue our second annual AP Professional Career Satisfaction Survey.
We surveyed more than 450 finance professionals, and what they revealed is anything but hesitation or fear of technology. In fact, our survey results were consistent with last year’s findings—the more automation AP professionals have, the more satisfied they are in their careers.
Here’s a closer look at five key takeaways from our 2023 survey:
1. Automation Leads to Greater Job Satisfaction
This year’s survey revealed exciting news—AP pros are more satisfied with their job this year than they were when we surveyed them last year. In fact, 51% of AP pros are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their current role.
Consistent with last year’s findings, the more automated a department is, the more satisfied survey respondents are in their roles. AP pros with fully and largely automated systems are almost twice as likely to be “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their roles compared to those who are reliant on the old ways.
Employee engagement is an important part of job satisfaction. Employees in a modernized AP department feel valued, cared for and more connected to their organization’s greater purpose. In fact, two out of three employees with full automation feel “extremely” connected to the mission or purpose of their organization, as opposed to only one in five AP pros with no automation.
2. Striking a Work/Life Balance Remains a Challenge for AP Departments
As organizations strive to do more with less and keep costs in check, AP staff are taking on larger workloads—77% of them are working 40+ hours per week to get the work done.
The long hours are impacting their personal lives—only 22% of AP pros used their full PTO balance in 2022. Fortunately, those with automation are finding better balance: 83% of those with fully automated systems manage to find a healthy work/life balance compared to 45% of those who are dependent on time-consuming manual processes.
3. AP Professionals Want to Learn New Skills
Have you heard of career cushioning? It’s the cautionary process of beefing up career skills or looking for a better job while still employed. Sadly, the AP department is no stranger to it.
It’s understandable as 60% of those we surveyed never or rarely work on strategic initiatives. Our survey also shows that 29% of those with manual systems feel undervalued by their direct supervisor, which doesn’t help retention.
The good news is that automation can help. In our survey, not a single person with full automation feels undervalued. Those with fully automated systems are 10 times more likely to work on strategic initiatives than those who are saddled with manual processes. And more than two-thirds of AP pros in fully automated departments recognize room to grow within their current role (as opposed to only 20% of those without automation).
4. The Future of AP Looks Bright
While some AP pros might be keeping an eye open for future job possibilities, our survey revealed a sense of optimism, as 71% of survey respondents said they are confident in the stability and future of their organization.
Despite news of layoffs, especially in the tech industry, 78% of AP pros are not worried about getting laid off in 2023. In fact, 43% said they are not compelled to do anything at all in preparation for career-related what-ifs.
Their optimism is understandable. They’ve been freed from time-consuming, cumbersome work and empowered to add greater value to their organizations. By doing so, they’re able to elevate not just their department and their business, but also their own careers.
5. The AP Department Welcomes Automation
Our survey shines a bright light on the perceptions around automation. It shows that regardless of whether their department has automation, AP pros recognize technology’s ability to elevate their role and aid their long-term development.
When asked if automation could positively impact their current AP role, 71% of those we surveyed said yes. In addition, 78% said they welcome the use of modern technology because it will allow their team to work more efficiently and a whopping 94% of those surveyed said they’d use a tool to automate the most repetitive parts of their jobs.
In addition to empowering them to do more with less and reducing mundane, manual tasks, AP automation also creates more opportunities for career advancement. Of the survey respondents, 75% said they believe automation technology will have a positive impact on their career, long term.
Are You Ready to Enhance Your AP Team’s Job Satisfaction?
It has become abundantly clear that the old way of working is no longer cutting it. Organizations need faster, more efficient ways of doing business and more effective ways to retain and attract talent. Finance professionals are ready for a better way, too. They want more fulfilling work, work/life balance and room for advancement.
Our survey shows that the solution lies in modernizing the AP department. AP automation can strengthen the AP department and career satisfaction, in turn strengthening the entire organization.
For a deeper look at our survey and more information about how automation can fortify your AP department, download our whitepaper, “9 Stats that Define the Modern AP Professional.”