SAP Concur commissioned a whitepaper across 12 countries in APAC designed to equip organisations, including Australia and NZ Business leaders, with new knowledge on employee expectations, gaps in organisations’ expense management, business travel, and remote work processes as the impact of COVID in businesses unfold.
2020 has compelled companies to accelerate and embrace digital transformation to thrive in the new business environment dictated by COVID-19. Remote working has been part of the norm this year and is well supported digitally. As with the finance and administrative scenario, automation remains to be a challenge in most organisations in the Asia Pacific region.
The new SAP Concur survey conducted by Asia Insight, an award-winning market research firm in Singapore, entitled “Finance in the New World of Work” highlighted the impact of expense report and HR processes automation in the overall productivity and experience of employees. Surprisingly, about 40% of organisations in APAC including the large ones still run manual finance and administrative processes.
Conducted in May 2020, the study involved 2,012 respondents who are finance and expense users from organisations with over 250 employees across the Asia Pacific. Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand were featured in the study.
The respondents are from various industries such as financial services & insurance, retail, education manufacturing, public sector/government, healthcare, technology, professional services, and automotive industries. Of the 71% respondents with expense approval responsibilities, 18% are senior management, 41% are middle management, 24% are managers and 9% are officers/executives. Some 82% of respondents are business travellers, with 60% travelling for work one to five times a year.
In this article, we look into Australia and New Zealand’s survey results on expense management and employee experience items that would benefit and guide the A/NZ business leaders as they navigate the latter half of 2020.
Manual Reports Vs Employee Satisfaction
In the region, 38% of respondents said they still submit expenses manually and 49% revealed they are less than satisfied with their organisation’s expense claim process.
In the study, 60% of Australians and 51% of New Zealanders strongly connect job satisfaction to finance and administration processes.
47% of respondents from New Zealand still submit expense reports manually, not too far from China (46%) and Philippines (52%) figures.
The Value of Time
The study showed how much time is dedicated to manually submitting, reviewing, and approving expense claims. Despite organisations’ initiatives towards digitalisation, automating expenses claims seem to have been left out. The time spent on mundane tasks related to filing expenses could be the time spent on more productive tasks.
Respondents from Australia spend 3.4 hours per month for expense claims while those from New Zealand devote 4.3 hours, close to the APAC’s average of 4.5 hours per month filing expense claims. The APAC figure suggests that employees dedicate about half of a typical working or 2.3% of productive time every month on expense claims.
For managers, while Australian took the least (4.8 hours per month) time spent in approving expense claims, New Zealand managers took the most time at 6.9 hours per month next to India (7.3 hours per month), and Indonesia (9.7 hours per month).
The study revealed the potential economic backlash of inefficient finance and administrative processes across the Asia Pacific. It reported that 10% savings on the time workers spend on filing and approving claims translates to a gain (assuming the time saved is diverted to productive work) of US$21.5 billion for the region’s GDP per year.
What Automation Can Do
Much like the Aussies response, 65% of the APAC respondents agreed on the correlation of overall experiences of finance and administrative processes to their overall satisfaction of working for their organisations.
A separate study recently conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of SAP Concur also echoed the same findings as with Asia Insight’s. The Forrester study highlighted that improving tools staff use regularly is crucial to creating good employee experiences. Respondents in the survey named the two essential tools that can improve employee experience and these are travel and expense management software (63%) and accounts payable automation tools (68%).
Matt Goss, Managing Director, ANZ, SAP Concur emphasised the need for companies’ to create systems that would support the new world of remote working. This includes adopting cloud-based solutions to facilitate mobile productivity and automation to reduce the manual labour required for repetitive processes. He said:
“Doing so will help boost employee engagement and productivity by removing tedious, unfulfilling tasks from employees’ to-do lists.”
The results of this new SAP Concur study may serve as a guide to A/NZ business leaders on how to boost employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention towards a more resilient organisation.