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5 Ways the Millennial workforce is changing the finance function

Over 50% of the UK workforce are Millennials, meaning they have a huge impact on the way businesses operate. Jenny Himsley, ARKK’s CFO, explores the way that Millennials are transforming finance teams.

Within any organisation, the finance function is a crucial department that manages the money within the business and plans the expenditure of funds on assets. A reliable and consistent function within businesses that doesn't usually lend itself to change.

However, there appears to be a shift within recent years. Finance teams across the country, and globally, are adopting new technologies and ways of working and the accelerated rise of the FinTech industry within the UK signifies a definite transformation. One factor that is likely impacting this change is the Millennial workforce. The ambitious, digital-native cohort continually challenges the status quo and desires more from a job than a standard 9 to 5.

Here are 5 ways that the Millennial workforce, a.k.a Gen Y's, are changing the finance function.


Increasingly high expectations

It previously would have been no surprise to see entry-level finance staff photocopying docs and files and doing admin jobs for the majority of their time during their first year, it was almost a right of passage. However, times have changed.

The expectation that junior staff will spend any significant amount of their time photocopying and doing administration has all but disappeared, replaced with an active drive for involvement within more value add duties.

Younger staff now want higher-level involvement early on in their careers and admin takes up a much smaller portion of their time. 


Digital native and IT literate

Having grown up through all their adult life and most of adolescence with the internet and other consumer electronics, Millennials are generally IT literate and savvy.

If there are outdated systems and processes in place that Millennials perceive as trivial, they'll find the quickest and easiest way to get these done. If they can find a tech solution to solve issues, they will push to adopt this within an organisation. This is likely, in some part anyway, the reason for a transformation in finance.

Archaic end-point solutions are no longer being tolerated as newer consumers demand more from platforms in term of user interface and experience in both personal and professional capacities. Functional finance software is no longer enough, users not only want to enjoy working with a platform but also be able to use it to enhance their processes and make their jobs more efficient. If they aren’t able to achieve this, they will quickly abandon the software or become frustrated if unsatisfied. 


Questioning everything

Millennials are usually more comfortable questioning why things are being done a certain way if they think there's a better, more efficient way to do it. Not content with how things are, a workforce that questions why things are done a certain way and can provide a solution, is in a much better position to advocate change. 

There is a downside to this. Although Millennials may question why something is being done and push for new technologies, if tax and finance are apprehensive it can slow or even halt adoption.


Greater work-life balance and job satisfaction

Millennials don't just want a job that pays the bills, they want to feel as though the job they are doing provides them with fulfilment. This means spending less time on admin and being involved in larger, more sophisticated and challenging roles. Where finance teams may not have previously had innovative solutions in place, Millennials are now almost demanding it.

Even before COVID, the push towards flexible working was taking place. Now with the global pandemic, remote working is a way of life and something that outdated, non-cloud-based solutions struggle to accomplish. Online solutions, such as for:sight, mean finance teams can collaborate and communicate remotely.

Also, if Millennials are unhappy with a workplace, they'll have no reservations about moving to seemingly greener pastures. In a recent study by Gallup, 21% of Millennials say they've changed jobs within the past year, which is more than three times the number of non-millennials. If the finance function wants to retain talented staff, they need to ensure that they have the correct infrastructure in place.


Unburdened from historic actions

Finance, along with tax, is inherently complex. Data is pulled from several different sources around the business which makes compiling and reporting difficult. Due to its nature, the finance department can be risk averse. The numbers need to be accurate and once a process and system are set up that achieves the desired result, why change it?

This type of mindset is damaging in the long run, as it limits exposure to alternatives that may actually be better. Doing things because that's the way they've always been is not a long term strategy.

Millennials have entered the workforce, unencumbered by the historical notions of the past. The main question they want to be answered is, is this performing the task to the best of its ability today? 

These changes in perception and expectations from Millennials is shifting the finance function out of its reliable but somewhat stagnant position, to one where they are increasingly becoming exposed to digital technologies and the benefits they offer. 

In the long term, it benefits everyone. Finance teams gain the advantages of a digital-first approach in addition to attracting and retaining highly skilled staff, while employees can automate repetitive admin tasks and focus on the bigger picture.