Manpower Group’s recent 2023 Workforce Trends report identified a workforce trend worth exploring in relation to the challenges with talent acquisition and retention in accounting and finance. The trend has to do with the expansion of individual choice and a search for meaning from work, particularly among Millennials. Manpower encapsulated the trend in the question, “A life full of work or a life fulfilled?” To answer it requires going back in history to the pandemic when employers had to enable remote working at an accelerated pace. This unprecedented shift ushered in new employee expectations around when, where, and how they did their jobs. Against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, employees also thought about what they value most in life, like personal fulfillment, learning, and growth, and how their jobs lined up with these goals.

IMA and Robert Half International’s recent research on global talent retention in the U.S. accounting and finance profession aligns with the conclusions of Manpower Group. According to IMA and Robert Half’s research, 89% of CFOs report facing unusually high employee turnover and 81% believed the labor shortage would harm revenue growth. In their online survey of over 1,200 accounting and finance professionals, the following were found:

  • Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents in the study reported leaving a company in the past 24 months.
  • Nearly a quarter (24%) expected to leave their current employer in the next 12 months, with the majority (i.e., 71% of those expecting to leave in the next 12 months) intending to leave within the next six months.
  • More than one in 10 (11%) of accounting and finance professionals in the U.S. intended to leave the profession within the next year.
  • Those ages 18 to 38 experienced the highest turnover (39%) in the past 24 months and are also most likely (26%) to leave their current employer in the next 12 months.

The reasons for leaving centered around five key themes – job satisfaction, perception of career advancement, work flexibility, employee engagement, and a sense of belonging. The report offers concrete strategies for employers concerned about retention, including offering a hybrid work environment and increasing investment in technology to minimize tedious, manual work that can lead to employee burn-out and disconnectedness.

As organizations transform to become digital-first enterprises, technology can be a tool to help retain star talent. According to Forbes, “leveraging automation technology can help both existing team members and new hires focus on higher-value work. This enables employees to elevate their skills, engage in more value-add activities and support strategic objectives in more meaningful ways.” Technology can address the issues outlined in the IMA and Robert Half report.

Employees feel engaged when their expertise is valued. Today, accounting and finance professionals’ domain specific knowledge is critical to organizations undergoing digital transformation initiatives. A recent Accounting Today article, notes that “understanding AI is not just the responsibility of data scientists or experts, and over-reliance on these people can set businesses up for failure. Although AI expertise is certainly required for success, too often, accounting and finance professionals see it as outside their responsibility to participate in the building of the algorithms. Without adding the specific domain knowledge, context, and expertise of an accounting and finance professional, the result has the potential to miss expectations.”

When accounting and finance professionals contribute to organization-wide transformations, they may derive a higher sense of purpose and mission. Transformations require cross-functional collaboration and knowledge-sharing, which can provide accounting and finance professionals with learning and development opportunities. The sense of belonging that is currently lacking in many accounting and finance professionals may be found in involving them in digital transformation projects.

The current challenges associated with talent acquisition and retention have direct links to the pandemic, but the digital transformation projects underway by most organizations present an opportunity to improve talent acquisition and retention. Changes in how employees work, interact, and find purpose are here to stay. Employers who want top talent to stay should consider the employee experience and figure out ways to facilitate “a life full of work to a life fulfilled” for their employees.

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