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Accounting and finance recruitment and retention strategies are being impacted by workforce shifts

Updated: Sep 8

Changes in the way people work have created new problems for organisations as well as a realignment in the methods accounting and finance workers are recruited and retained.

According to a recent webcast poll performed by Deloitte's Center for Controllership, 82.4 percent of public organisations experienced accounting and finance personnel retention challenges in the previous year. Private companies have been hit as well, but to a lesser extent, with 68.9 percent experiencing retention issues.


More than 1,200 recruiting managers from public and private companies participated in the poll.

“When we work with chief financial officers and controllers and ask what keeps them up at night and how they prepare their workforce for the future, their responses and questions about process improvements revolve around getting the most from their team, adapting to new ways of working and remote work, and fighting for talent,” said Matt Hurley, a partner at Deloitte. “The poll results provided data that aligned with and supported what we are aware of and what we see when we work with our clients.”


According to the research, 57.9 percent of hiring managers in public companies and 46.2 percent of hiring managers in private companies claimed their talent is departing for higher compensation. Employees leaving for higher-level positions (18.7 percent public; 14.4 percent private) or to shift industries were also mentioned (5.8 percent public; 8.3 percent private). Only 10.3 percent of public responders and 24.7 percent of private respondents stated they had no retention issues.


“We have observed organizations are taking a hard look at how they have done things in the past, challenging themselves on what is working and not working, and coming up with innovative ways to differentiate the experience they provide or offer unique incentives for employees to join and stay,” Hurley said. “We were not surprised higher pay was at the top of the poll results for retention challenges, but companies can’t keep throwing money at the problem.”


In fact, Hurley sees employers adopting career development efforts and more work flexibility to retain employees in addition to money. Responses to retention concerns differ depending on the firm and the type of employee. However, there is an overarching need to change how employees work and daily routines.


“Remote work has led to changes and concerns with building needed skill sets for future leaders, transitioning roles, and maintaining institutional knowledge and company culture,” he said. “Employees are not sitting next to each other anymore to work, so all these areas are affected. Companies need a new strategy for how they build these in this different environment.”


Attracting talent in the coming year

In the next 12 months, 82.3 percent of public organisations and 73.7 percent of private companies anticipate to work more to attract and retain accounting and financial professionals.


Because of remote work and increasing flexibility, hiring has changed substantially, and businesses must be agile to respond to changing market demands for talent.


“Companies are facing a new struggle because they now need to differentiate their organizations and their work experience from other employers,” Hurley said. “They are now competing for talent globally rather than regionally because of changes in the location of employees they hire and the fact employees can now live anywhere they want.”


Hurley said he has seen organisations he works with that were once "the place to work" in their community struggle to attract and retain talent because those potential employees now have choices about where they work.


We must hire within the next 12 months.

In recognising the need of hiring accounting and finance employees in the coming year, respondents most frequently mentioned the following requirements:


More personnel in areas where workload is increasing (34.3 percent public; 38.6 percent private).

More technology expertise in areas such as cloud ERP systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic process automation (23.4 percent public; 20.5 percent private).

Attrition induced by talent changes as a result of the "Great Resignation" (21.9 percent public; 17.5 percent private).

Hurley observed that there has been a period of recent important accounting changes, such as revenue recognition, leases, and current anticipated credit losses (CECL), which has resulted in increased workload for accounting and finance workers. Furthermore, new technologies, notably the usage of the cloud and modifications in ERP in response to accounting and business developments, necessitate the acquisition of new skills.


“The work is not going away for accounting and finance professionals, as expectations are increasing and they are being looked to for more than debits and credits,” Hurley said. “Companies can’t automate fast enough to meet all the new expectations of their employees.”


While the study did not provide specifics on talent shifts, Hurley has seen accounting and financial professionals move from job to job in search of greater salary, a new title, or more flexibility.


“When people move, it causes a ripple effect, with a loss of institutional knowledge and the need for more training,” he said. “It is a lot more challenging than just finding another body.”

By fLEXI tEAM

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