The surprising role of accounts receivable in talent management strategy

Ryan Frere
Ryan Frere
is EVP & GM of B2B at Flywire.

Hiring difficulties continue to weigh heavy on the minds of CFOs, as is clear from the recent results of the CFO Survey conducted quarterly by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Federal Reserve Banks of Richmond and Atlanta. For the second consecutive quarter, the panel of finance leaders said labor quality and availability was their most pressing concern.

It was pretty on point that how to attract and retain talent was the topic of choice at a recent CFO Leadership Council meeting in Boston. Lots of relevant advice was shared to that end. Something raised that I think Flywire does a great job at is ensuring that the candidate experience in some way echoes and amplifies what it’s actually like to work there. So do benefits, perks and more offered to employees. But what I took away overall, is that there are many areas related to talent worthy of investment, and the CFO’s role is to prioritize.

Let’s focus on one that might be a bit of a sleeper -- finance investing in accounting and finance.

Consider that some 52% of senior managers in finance and accounting said they are hiring for new positions in the second half of 2021, according to recent research from Robert Half. Among the most in demand roles, Robert Half’s 2022 Salary Report says, are accounts receivable/accounts payable specialists, and credit/collections clerks.

Here’s the flip side of a strong hiring market: some 43% of finance and accounting professionals planned to look for a new job in the second half of 2021.

The most in-demand soft skills tell us something about what potential job searchers want in new roles. Adaptability, collaboration, teamwork, and critical and independent thinking skills are all in high demand, along with tech skills like experience with cloud-based systems and data analysis.

The surprising role of accounts receivable in talent management strategy

It’s pretty hard to boost your collaboration skills when you’re in a spot similar to where we see many A/R professionals today. Keeping track of payments coming into the business in different forms -- credit cards, wires, checks, ACH and more -- reconciling them in a spreadsheet, loading everything (sometimes manually) into accounting software or an ERP system, is a pretty individual task that would be maddening to many of us. And, in a like manner, it’s pretty hard to gain any sort of critical thinking and analysis skills when you’re rushing to get everything in order every month for the critical and fundamental task of closing the books.

Have you considered whether your business’ A/R process itself -- as it may work within your company right now -- is working against retaining (and attracting) talented people?

There are different ways to boost A/R efficiencies we won’t get into at length here, but at their most basic level, automate much of the reconciliation process, get cash in faster, make information about it easier to access, and give people more tools and time to analyze it. Optimal cash flow and better information about it helps the business smartly execute against planned investments and jumpstarts decisions about where to make them.

So when considering finance’s role in strong talent management and acquisition, pay mind to your people and processes. By automating more repetitive finance and accounting tasks, your business gets paid quicker and has more visibility into payment patterns and trends, to inform where more investment is needed next. Your department can spend less time on getting the numbers, more time on analysis and strategy and enjoy the simple bliss that comes from not spending late nights and weekends at work with spreadsheets.