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Driving Digital Skills for Real Estate Finance Staff 

July 13, 2023
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The real estate industry is experiencing a digital skills gap. There is a disparity between the skills and knowledge that employees possess and those required to thrive in a digital-first economy. This skills gap is especially pronounced in finance departments, where automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are driving efficiencies, yet only 18% of staff demonstrate digital competency, according to Gartner.  

Finance professionals must have a deep understanding of data analytics, machine learning and other technologies to keep up with the demands of an evolving function. Real estate businesses have become reliant on complex data to inform decision-making and strategic planning, especially as the commercial real estate sector continues to feel the effects of the pandemic and residential sales decline. Many organizations in the industry also benefit from software that centralizes invoice and payment tracking.  

Technology is Transforming Finance Functions

Whether automating manual tasks or enhancing data analysis, finance leaders across the real estate industry are implementing new technologies to help their teams work more efficiently and impactfully. In a recent AvidXchange/IOFM survey of finance professionals, 70% of respondents said investing in technology is a medium to high priority for their organization. 

Gartner says 40% of finance roles will be new or significantly reshaped by 2025 due to technology. It’s undeniable that emerging technologies like machine learning, automation and AI are changing the way we work. It’s unlikely that these tools will replace human workers. However, today’s workforce must adapt and learn new skills to maximize the potential benefits of digitization.  

NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, found that the rate of digital transformation within real estate is outpacing the growth of technical talent. To keep up with these changes, employees must hone their digital skills.  

Employees Embrace Digitization

There’s a perception that finance workers are against the digitization of their roles. However, most of the AP professionals AvidXchange and IOFM surveyed in our 2023 AP Professional Career Satisfaction Survey are receptive to automation technology.  

Many finance professionals view automation as a way to streamline processes, reduce errors and increase efficiency. The value of digitization in AP departments may not have always been clear but given the current economic conditions, labor shortage and push for remote work, it’s time to embrace technology rather than resist it.  

Leveling Up with Upskilling

Upskilling programs are one of the most compelling ways to bridge the digital skills gap in real estate. Upskilling refers to training and development opportunities that help employees expand their job-related skills and knowledge to advance their career path. These programs can take many forms, including online courses, in-person training and on-the-job learning. By investing in upskilling programs, organizations can help their employees develop the skills they need to succeed in a digitized workplace.  

Employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from upskilling programs. Investing in these educational initiatives ultimately benefits the broader organization by increasing productivity, improving employee engagement and driving innovation.  

Employees who receive training are better equipped to take on new challenges and are more likely to stay with the organization long-term, which is essential in real estate where turnover mitigation is a challenge. Additionally, upskilling programs can help organizations identify new opportunities and ways to streamline operations, leading to business growth without additional headcount.  

Most importantly, employees want it. Upskilling is becoming a sought-after benefit. Our recent AvidXchange, IOFM survey found that 84% of AP professionals said learning/skills development is “moderately” or “extremely” important when evaluating a new job opportunity. Nearly 60% of respondents have been working in AP for 10+ years proving that even tenured staff are interested in continuous professional improvement.  

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

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