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Best Practices for Digital Upskilling Programs

August 14, 2023
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Creating an autonomous finance function is a priority for many CFOs. By implementing cutting-edge technologies, finance departments can deliver real-time reporting and insights to help solve problems and inform business decisions. Autonomous finance can also help create valuable efficiencies amidst today’s economic headwinds and tight labor market.  

While investing in technology is no doubt beneficial for finance teams, without the proper digital skills, employees may not be able to take full advantage of new tech tools. Savvy businesses are introducing upskilling programs alongside technology rollouts to ensure teams can leverage these tools to their maximum potential.

The Info on Upskilling

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, organizations can help their employees develop the skills they need to succeed in a digitized workplace. Upskilling programs are shown to increase productivity, improve employee satisfaction, drive innovation, boost efficiency and grow profitability. 

The Benefits of Upskilling

Upskilling programs deliver benefits for businesses and employees. In a recent Gallup poll, 69% of business and financial staff said they were “very interested” in upskilling opportunities. The results of our 2023 AP Career Satisfaction Survey conducted alongside IOFM echoed this. Eighty-four percent of AP professionals said learning/skills development is “moderately” or “extremely” important when considering a new job.

graphic illustrating statistics from The American Upskilling Study

The same Gallup poll indicated that upskilling is becoming an essential piece of many employers’ benefit packages. Workers ages 18-24 rated it more important than paid vacation when evaluating a job opportunity. In our survey, nearly 60% of respondents have worked in AP more than 10 years, proving that even tenured staff are interested in continuous professional improvement. 

Offering technical training to existing employees is more cost-effective for businesses than hiring externally, especially in today’s lean labor market. Employees who undergo training are more equipped to take on new challenges and are increasingly likely to stay with the organization long-term. Plus, educational programs help organizations attract new talent. Most importantly, upskilling allows businesses to maximize ROI on their technology investments. 

Upskilling Checklist

If your organization is ready to build an upskilling program, consider these best practices.  

✅ Emphasize learning as part of your corporate culture

IDC’s Digital Resiliency Framework suggests that a culture of continuous learning, including upskilling, helps organizations prepare for a digitized work environment. 

✅ Create immediate and future plans to invest in technology within your department

Gartner recommends identifying immediate and long-term skill gaps within your team that align to your plans for technology integration. This will ensure the skills employees learn are put to practical use.

✅ Invest in internal and outsourced training as needed

If you don’t have the internal resources to train employees, consider tuition reimbursement programs or contracting with a qualified educational vendor. 

✅ Allow employees to participate in upskilling programs during work hours

Gallup found the two biggest employee barriers to upskilling are time and money. Therefore, employers should offer free programs during work hours. 

✅ Ensure support from the CFO and other senior finance leaders

According to Gartner, the most successful upskilling programs are those in which the CFO is “personally visible and involved in the coursework.” Consider reverse-mentoring where skilled junior staff teach leaders about technology. 

✅ Commit to technology with a long-term view

When choosing which digital tools to bring to your department, don’t pick solutions piecemeal to solve short-term problems. Select tools that will scale your business and integrate with existing and future systems.

✅ Partner with full-service technology providers

Work with tech companies that ensure your organization can make the most of its tools by delivering top-notch service, implementation and education programs. 

As more finance departments deploy technology to create efficiencies and improve data analysis, it’s important to also support employees with training opportunities. Upskilling programs help teams stay current by introducing the latest digital skills required for their jobs. Without proper training, employees may not have the knowledge or context necessary to utilize new technologies.  

An investment in upskilling not only helps businesses realize tech ROI, but it can also play a powerful role in improving employee retention and attracting new talent. Results-focused finance leaders will establish a digital upskilling program in tandem with their finance automation efforts.  

Learn more about closing the digital skills gap with upskilling in our whitepaper, “Closing Digital Skills Gap Propels Finance Transformation.”

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