The accounting industry is changing. In 2017, the number one challenge facing the accounting sector was customer acquisition. In 2018, the top challenge switched to finding the right talent to support that growth. Evolving client expectations, historically low unemployment, and emerging technology present a need for employee upskilling in the accounting space. Pressure to uphold historical compliance expertise in tandem with providing greater value through insights and predictive analysis present a unique challenge for professionals within the sector. Employment competition runs high as the industry faces historically low unemployment.
Only 39% of accounting employees under age 30 are engaged, compared to 55% of respondents over 30, according to a 2017 study.
Accounting employees want to be advisors and seek the challenge to strategically serve clients. They are more likely to stay and become involved with firms prioritizing advisory work over firms operating traditionally. They see automation replacing jobs and digital services making light work of tax filing. Clients want wealth management experts. They want guidance and financial best practices from the best CPAs. They can do their own taxes from their mobile device with SaaS apps like TurboTax.
Clients are growing to expect CPAs to take on long-term advisory roles. In order to effectively manage, mine, and interpret client data, accounting employees need access to training and development as software rapidly evolves and systems become increasingly sophisticated.
New skills in data analytics will be required for finance teams of the future, as discussed in a report from the CGMA and AICPA. In a survey of senior US finance professionals, 42% reported that the lack of this skill was an obstacle to transforming finance teams for the future.
Offering employees avenues to improve or add new skill-sets conveys a dedication to employees’ best interests. Offering continued learning initiatives in the form of access to e-learning sites or certification classes can keep employees engaged while also benefiting the organization.
Finance and accounting professionals are under constant pressure from the C-suite to elevate the strategic relevance of their function. At the same time, they are under day-to-day pressure to help their organizations stay ahead of audit and compliance requirements, report on financial results, and manage ongoing accounting activities.
Finance professionals indicated that cash flow forecasting, invoice processing, and payment receipt and reconciliation all remain inefficient, manual financial processes, according to a recent survey conducted by Bottomline Technologies and Strategic Treasurer.
“While 88% of corporate controllers expect to implement RPA by next year, we routinely encounter hesitancies when it comes to applying RPA to financial reporting processes,” said Dennis Gannon, research vice president in the Gartner Finance practice.
Gartner estimates that by implementing robotic process automation, an accounting team of 40 could save up to 25,000 hours of avoidable rework per year, freeing up time for higher value work such as analysis and forecasting while increasing engagement and reducing staff turnover.
Adopting emerging tech doesn’t just boost productivity (if implemented correctly)–not doing so can also negatively impact talent acquisition and retention. Over half (55%) of respondents to a 2018 study by Harvard Business Review, said that their company’s workplace tech factor into decisions by applications to accept job offers. Additionally, 51% said that “...outdated and inadequate technology impacts their ability to retain skilled workers.”
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