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Business leaders need to invest in tech and people to survive and thrive in 2023

by | Feb 2, 2023

Global companies that maximise their tech options will reap the rewards, finds a new industry report. Marianne Curphey explores what is working for leading tech organisations and how international teams are identifying new markets.

The Future: Investment In Technology and Talent

In the past, when recession hit companies with a global workforce, leaders were inclined to cut down on spending, with the IT and HR departments hardest hit as managers tried to reduce costs around systems, recruitment and benefits.

The pandemic has changed those parameters, with executives now keenly aware that they cannot skimp on investing in technology and talent. In this new landscape, the companies that will survive are those that are nimble enough to pivot into new opportunities. The key pillars supporting success are agile management, new talent, and sophisticated technology. Managing cashflow, using data to make more strategic business decisions, and employing cloud accounting services to view the balance sheet in real time will all be essential to survival and will become key skills for the chief executive and finance director.

“In the past, the response would be: I’m going to slow down and I’m going to get rid of anything that looks like it requires additional expenditure,” says Barry Brunsman, Principal, CIO Advisory, KPMG. “Spending was deferred to save costs. The 2020 lockdown showed that was not really an option, because you still needed to find a way to reach customers, suppliers and your employees.”

Rather than reducing the spending on technology, smart companies are using the analytics capability that comes with deep data to identify new markets and opportunities and automating time consuming tasks. KPMG’s Global tech report 2022 identified seven key characteristics of digitally-mature and resilient organisations. These are:

• a commitment to tear down silos so the voice of the employee can be heard between departments

• employing mentoring and providing a wealth of career opportunities across different departments to help solve the talent crisis

• building airtight alignment between cloud stakeholders and optimising ways of working

• ensuring cyber specialists have early involvement in tech selection and staff education and making cyber security a key part of ongoing staff training

• allowing the voice of the customer to guide emerging-technology strategies and working out whether technology is delivering what the customer wants

• being prepared to switch platform providers to enhance customer experiences

• not being afraid to experiment wisely and have a business model that is flexible and can adapt

The report also found widespread appetite across business for new and emerging technology platforms. Leaders of 67% of businesses expected to embrace emerging platforms such as crypto, the metaverse, Web3, NFTs, quantum computing, VR/AR, 5G, and edge computing within two years. The research revealed that 57% of businesses are engaged in transformation to improve customer experience and 88% of businesses are advanced in their adoption of cloud technologies.

TALENT RETENTION AND RECRUITMENT

KPMG’s report highlighted the importance of different departments working together to nurture talent and to ensure ideas can be exchanged readily.

“The talent crisis is not going to resolve itself, especially when it comes to in-demand skills in new and emerging technologies,” the report states.

For technology teams, the short term challenge is likely to worsen as businesses review their hiring plans to mitigate the impact of economic uncertainty and consider putting a freeze on new hires.

“Progressive businesses are recalibrating their approaches to hiring and training specialist talent from the ecosystem,” it explains.

“Long-term talent strategies should encourage organisations to widen their perspectives and expand the universe of talent.”

As older workers retire, middle managers consider the Great Resignation, and younger employees are attracted to new industries such as technology and FinTech, many companies are struggling to find the right talent to lead and innovate.

There is a talent shortage globally and it is important for companies to identify, attract and retain that talent, says Sim Hall, Founder of Populus Select Recruitment, a headhunting firm.

Analysis shows that diversity and inclusion can meet stakeholder targets and promote better business performance.”

Sim Hall, Founder of Populus Select Recruitment

“Companies are trying to improve and provide counter offers to retain talent via retention programmes and added benefit schemes,” he says. “This has made talent management a more candidate-centric business process and means that there are better packages on offer with a greater emphasis on career progression.”

Employers are also becoming more flexible in the contracts they draw up for staff and prospective candidates, he says. This could mean looking in non-traditional places and considering a wider range of candidates.

“There is a great interest in spotting talent early on and actively promoting a more diverse and balanced shortlist,” he says. “Analysis shows that diversity and inclusion can meet stakeholder targets and promote better business performance.”

There are particular challenges in finance industry due to start-ups and FinTechs offering exciting job opportunities to younger employees.

“Our latest research shows that almost one in five UK finance professionals leave between seven and eleven months into their new job, which is almost 10 percentage points higher than any other country surveyed,” says Anders Fohlin, CFO of Medius, a provider of AP automation and spend management solutions.

“Across the globe, the average tenure in finance teams is 30 months,” he says. “This is a problem, as Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) need to have stable teams when aiming to deal with inflation and the frequent churn of staff impacts on resourcing and continuity of processes.”

USING DATA TO ENHANCE DECISION MAKING

In a global survey of executives and finance and accounting (F&A) professionals commissioned by BlackLine, respondents said the three biggest challenges they will face in the coming year are:

• Increasing regulation and scrutiny

• Being able to provide accurate data quickly enough to help the organization respond to market changes

• Attracting and retaining talent

“Company leaders across the world will be carefully considering how their organisation can respond and remain competitive, agile, and resilient in the coming months,” says Marc Huffman, CEO of Blackline.

“There is no doubt that those who are using robust and comprehensive data to make rapid, intelligent decisions will be in a stronger position to adapt.”

There is no doubt that
those who are using robust and comprehensive data to make rapid, intelligent decisions will be in a stronger position to adapt.”

Marc Huffman, CEO Of Blackline

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However, in the rush to hire new specialists, HR departments should be careful in how they interview and take on staff, says Daniel Callaghan, CEO of global pre-employment screening platform Veremark.

“We’re largely wise to the benefits of global and mobile access to talent, but are we as wise to the evolving risks?” he asks.

“Companies looking to expand their teams in 2023 should be alert to the growing risk of hiring fraud. Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in their methods: the FBI has warned of individuals using deepfakes in remote interviews, along with stolen personally identifiable information to apply for positions, and there have been stories circulating of individuals showing up for work who were not those interviewed for the role.”

The best way to mitigate this risk? Tighten up pre-employment screening: first, to make sure candidates are who they say they are and, second, to check they have the skills and experience they claim to have, he says.

 

UPSKILLING STAFF AND MANAGING RISK

Technology can save time and provide real-time insights into new market opportunities, but it can only yield these dividends if the staff understand how to harness and use the data it provides.

“It’s clear to those of us who’ve been in the industry for a long time, that just turning on a new technology doesn’t result in cost savings,” says Barry Brunsman of KPMG. “You also need to change the way that you work with those technologies and how you interpretation the information they provide.”
James Petter, VP & GM,

International at Pure Storage, a leading US technology company with a global workforce, says that for global managers and finance directors, 2023 will be the year that risk management becomes a corporate priority.

“Risk management is never far from discussions amongst CFOs and regulatory team, but in the economic climate of 2023, every senior leader, in every organisation, will have risk management front of mind,” he says.

“There’ll be a deep assessment of the economics within companies, and their financial structures and technologies.”

He warns that 2023 will not be the year to leave any kind of chink in the corporate armour.

“I think that while CEOs and CIOs and CFOs will focus on their usual remits, we’ll also see leadership teams that are far better versed in each others’ areas as well,” he says.

“There will be truly multi-faceted teams, where each member can appreciate and understand their colleague’s concerns and pressure points too.”

This links into KPMG’s report showing the importance of reducing silos and encouraging employees across different departments to collaborate and innovate.

GETTING VISAS AND EMPLOYMENT TERMS RIGHT

Attracting and retaining talent is also about ensuring that staff are given the support they need to work in the jurisdictions they are assigned to. Yash Dubal, Director of A Y & J Solicitors says employers with global teams need to pay heed to the immigration and visa requirements in the territories in which they operate and employ people, particularly when they move people between sites in different countries.

“Each country has its own work visa rules and there will be different visa requirements depending on what the employer is travelling to the country to do,” he says. For example, some countries will allow people in for business meetings on standard visitor visas, while others will require a work visa.

“Since the UK left the EU, free movement no longer applies and so UK nationals travelling to work in Europe must also meet the requirements,” he explains. “If, for example, a worker is travelling for business to Spain for up to 90 days in a 180-day period, they may be able to do some work-related things without needing a visa or work permit, such as attending business meetings as these are usually covered by the Schengen visa waiver. If they are going for certain other types of work, they may need a visa, work permit or residence permit.” Henry Clinton-Davis, Employment Law Partner at Arnold & Porter, adds:

“From a UK perspective, an employer can allow an employee to work remotely from overseas, subject to an immigration check to ensure that the employee has the right to work lawfully in the country concerned.”

LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR GLOBALLY MOBILE EMPLOYEES

Spryker, an ecommerce company which works with companies like Aldi and Toyota to deliver their ecommerce operations, has a fully remote global workforce, employing more than 650 people in more than 30 countries around the word. People & Culture VP Elise Mueller believes it is vital to tap into local expertise regarding laws and rights, and that being intentional about company culture is important in order for global teams to thrive.

“We employ people in more than 30 countries and can’t possibly hope to understand the local market in each, so it is essential to identify local needs with the help of third-party providers,” she says.

“Local needs do not only refer to the individual needs of employees, which can often be assessed via personal conversations or surveys, but also to the legal framework. These vary not only from country to country but also in some cases within a country, such as the US.

“The use of Employer of Records (EORs) is also vital when expanding globally. These thirdparty organisations take care of all the labour challenges in a particular country – from drafting contracts and offering the right and marketdriven employee benefits (especially healthcare) to labour and tax issues. EORs can help identify local standards in the respective country and make your job much easier.”

Creating a unified, global culture can be challenging, so she suggests that companies introduce central elements of the corporate culture when each new employee joins the company, especially during virtual onboarding.

“Internal comms takes on greater importance with a distributed workforce,” she says. “It must be clearly regulated, transparent, and comprehensible to all. It should include regular surveys among employees, which are central building blocks for ensuring that the culture is accepted, lived and carried forward.”