Australian CFOs plan to hire more robots and automate the office

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The robot is on is way to the finance department.

A survey of Australia’s CFOs has found almost half (46%) plan to expand their permanent staff headcount to help implement their company’s finance digitisation and automation efforts over the next 12 months.

The research commissioned by specialised recruiter Robert Half found 86% of CFOs agree workplace automation will not cause a loss of jobs, but a shift in required skills is needed.

The top skills finance professionals need to focus on as a result of automation are: problem-solving (56%), strategic vision (46%), commercial acumen (44%) and communication (37%).

The research shows CFOs expect more jobs to be created than replaced by automation.

More than one in three (36%) CFOs are planning to create new roles for temporary or contract professionals over the next year.

David Jones, of Robert Half Asia Pacific, says automation within Australian workplaces is not about destroying jobs but adapting to change, which in turn leads to opportunities.

“The modern day business demands diverse skillsets, resources and assets which will equip companies to be able to respond quickly and flexibly to challenges like automation and digitisation,” he says.

“Not only will companies need to bring in additional expertise to lead this change, they will also need to focus on staff training to ensure their work forces have the adequate skills to leverage the benefits brought by existing and future technology.

“Finance professionals will need to develop skills that complement and leverage the capabilities of automation, rather than simply hand over control. More advanced technology requires additional, well-developed skills, such as advanced data analysis, interpretation skills, and decision-making skills.”

Jones says automation may diminish some routine manual role but it will lead to faster decision making, reduce the risk of errors, and eliminate stresses associated with laborious task-management responsibilities.

“Australian businesses are operating in a time of rapid transition, where adaptability will be key to surviving the disruptive effects of automation and digitisation for both companies and their staff,” he says.

“It’s becoming increasingly apparent that people must find ways to combine their own skills with the capabilities of technology – not only to drive better results for businesses in a highly competitive landscape, but also to further their own careers.”

The annual study was conducted in January this year for Robert Half by an independent research firm, surveying 160 Chief Financial Officers and Finance Directors in Australia.

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