AP Automation: Your Tool to Survive The Great Resignation
Mark Brousseau June 14th, 2022
The Great Resignation. The People Shift. A once-in-a-generation, “Take this job and shove it!” moment. Whatever you call it, businesses are facing unprecedented challenges in attracting and retaining staff.
Workers are quitting their jobs for better working conditions, more fulfilling work, or higher pay. Some employees are drained from workday stress caused by the pandemic. In other cases, workers are retiring from their jobs earlier than they planned a few years ago to focus on other life goals.
A historically high 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in the United States in December 2021, closing out a record-shattering year when 47.4 million voluntarily left their jobs for greener pastures .
There is no let-up in sight to the hiring difficulties that U.S. businesses face.
Today, one-in-five employees, on average, is actively seeking a new job. But industries such as telecommunications – where a whopping 36% of workers are job hunting – are experiencing more pain. Only 65% of all employees plan to stay with their employer beyond this year.
And remote working makes it easy for employees to jump ship.
Hiring difficulties have become so prevalent that 74% of businesses are having trouble filling positions. This is unchartered waters for businesses. And it’s a big change from a few years ago when employers laid off employees because of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
The Impact on Accounts Payable
Turmoil in the labor market is having a ripple effect on accounts payable (AP).
Most AP departments aren’t equipped to handle the “brain drain” created by staff turnover. AP leaders are left grappling with how to do more with less. It is no coincidence that one-third of AP professionals are working longer hours these days . Some AP pros are working much longer.
AP leaders must act fast to address staffing challenges. Staff turnover can contribute to a drop in productivity, more errors, late payments, and missed early payment discounts. Suppliers may become frustrated by slower responses to their inquiries about the status of payments. And there is more risk of fraudulent transactions slipping through the cracks without seasoned staff to catch them.
AP departments have responded to the labor crunch by trying to entice job seekers with signing bonuses, higher salaries, flexible work arrangements, employee training, and development opportunities. Some employers have significantly expanded their geographic hiring boundaries.
Despite these efforts, many jobs remain unfilled.
What Else Can AP Departments Do to Navigate The Great Resignation?
A better response to today’s labor crunch is to transform AP into a function that employees will find more rewarding. Only 4% of AP departments are fully automated, with no manual tasks. In most AP departments, staff waste most of their workday on manual, repetitive tasks such as keying invoice data, pushing around paper and emails, chasing down information, fixing errors and mistakes, and responding to calls and emails from suppliers about the status of payments.
With all these manual tasks, it is no surprise that only 42% of AP pros are “very satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” in their current role. Almost one-third of AP pros are less satisfied in their role compared to two years ago. Dissatisfied employees are more likely to bolt for another job.
Automation eliminates the manual tasks that drag AP pros down. Optical character recognition (OCR) and other technologies extract invoice header and line-item data without the need for manual keying. Extracted data is automatically matched against purchase order (PO) and proof-of-delivery information residing in a system record. Matched invoices can be posted directly to a system of record without anyone having to lift a finger. Unmatched invoices or those requiring review are digitally routed based on pre-configured rules. And suppliers can be paid electronically, eliminating the need to print paper checks, chase down approvals, and manually reconcile transactions.
By automating how invoices are processed and suppliers are paid, AP pros have more time to focus on fulfilling, higher-value activities such as analyzing data to uncover opportunities to capture early payment discounts, collaborating with other stakeholders, and building relationships with suppliers. In the process, AP pros can sharpen the finance skills that can lead to career advancement.
What finance professional wouldn’t want to work in that type of AP environment?
Beyond The Great Resignation
The Great Resignation is an opportunity for AP leaders to rethink the way their department operates and to automate their processes to not only become more efficient but more fulfilling for staff.
Would your AP team like to take advantage of this truly unique and unprecedented time in history? There is a real opportunity to become one of the rare organizations that benefit from The Great Resignation. Building a happier and more engaged talent pool is achievable. Learn more about how to not only carefully navigate The Great Resignation, but to come out on the other side with a stronger and more fulfilled workforce.
MARK BROUSSEAU, President of Brousseau & Associates
Over the past 27 years, Mark Brousseau has established himself as a thought leader on accounts payable, accounts receivable, payments, and document automation. A popular speaker at industry conferences and on webinars and podcasts, Brousseau advises prominent end-users and solutions and services providers on how to use automation to improve document- and payments-driven business processes. Brousseau has chaired numerous educational conferences and has served on several industry committees and boards. He resides in Center City Philadelphia with his wife and three sons.