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. Evolved 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.
Only 39% of accounting employees under age 30 are engaged, compared to 55% of respondents over 30, according to a 2017 study. Regardless of age diversity, only half of accounting professionals are engaged.
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.
Attracting & Retaining Talent is a Top Concern
For only the second time in its 21-year run, Duke University’s and CFO Magazine’s survey of business and industry leaders identified “attracting and retaining qualified employees” as a top concern.
Accounting firms are struggling with retention, with turnover as high as 20 percent, according to the latest Inside Public Accounting annual survey. Given the proliferation of industry-specific job sites and LinkedIn, it’s easier than ever for employees to seek green pastures.
Recruiting is Difficult
Half of accountants surveyed find recruiting more difficult than retention and 45% reported paying competitive salaries as the biggest retention obstacle.
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.
The shift in how data is processed and used has evolved accountancy into a role that uses advanced analytics for assistance with key future decisions.
90 percent of the world’s data was created in the last two years alone. The addition of artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, robotics, and other automation tools are further transforming the workplace and the workforce by changing jobs that these technologies can automate.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA), sometimes referred to as "bots," within the accounting profession, is the use of software programs to automate repetitive, routine business processes. The use of RPA in business has increased dramatically in recent years.
“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,” Dennis Gannon, research vice president in the Gartner Finance practice says.
Leading firms have been using RPA for two to four years and apply a bottom-up approach. Employees are younger and more apt to jump on emerging technology. Leverage them for systems use cases and reward their efforts. Not only will they be a useful component of the firm’s future and save you QA costs, but also become intrinsically motivated to work to their best.
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.