Talent shortage continues to persist in many parts of the world including Asia. In Singapore, for example, the shortage of accounting staff is most felt by small accounting firms that struggle to compete with the Big Four accounting firms.
A Gartner survey of finance function employees revealed some interesting problems faced by both employers and employees in the finance function. “CFOs consistently rate talent challenges as one of their primary concerns,” said Shannon Cole, senior director analyst, research, in the Gartner Finance practice.
She noted that one of the biggest surprises of the survey was the attitude of employees in the finance team. “84% of finance employees (participating in the survey) have less engagement and less interest in going above and beyond than their peers and other functions,” Cole revealed. She conceded surprise in this regard since “traditionally, the finance and accounting roles include an expectation of working nights and weekends to meet quarterly reporting deadlines, as an example.”
Table 1: Top 5 Talent Attrition Drivers in Finance Functions Through 2Q23
|Future Career Opportunity
Source: Gartner (November 2023)
The survey also revealed the greater importance placed on compensation (Table 1). “We found it (compensation) to be a top attraction driver and a top attrition driver. Notably finance employees are looking for higher merit increases. Also, they're seeking higher paying increases for when they switched jobs,” she added.
To Cole, however, the bigger surprise is that finance professionals see career opportunities as a bigger reason for leaving, more than compensation. Despite the revelations of the survey, she is optimistic adding “There is certainly an opportunity to slow attrition in the function by addressing inadequacies in how their teams are managed.”
Attrition drivers – what these tell us
Asked if the top five attrition drivers revealed in the survey are as much a result of the legacy way of work, Cole suggested setting aside the issues of compensation and career opportunities – given these are common to other professions as well – but instead, look at the desire among finance professionals for respect (recognition) for how the organisation treats them.
“Finance employees place a very high value on feelings of respect in the workplace, likely influenced by the culture and profession of public accounting,” said Cole.
“Accountants are dedicated to their duty, which they show by working extra hours and weekends when needed to meet reporting deadlines. When these employees don’t feel respected within their companies, it very quickly becomes a strong driver for attrition.”Shannon Cole
Technology is no longer nice to have
Cole observed that in recent years data sources have expanded outside the corporate data stores to include places like websites, and devices. She also conceded that other functions are growing their skills at working with data – meaning finance is no longer the only source of data.
“Finance’s capabilities are now being compared against a new set of expectations,” she posited. “Respect in the past was aligned to positional power within most organisations and finance functions benefited from that. Additionally, the licensure of the accounting profession gives positional power.”
Greater expectations of leaders
Beyond the pat on the back, there are also greater expectations that finance leaders be effective in communicating with their teams.
“The primary dissatisfactions are that managers don’t communicate well enough, there is a perceived lack of manager interest in their development, and a lack of precise performance standards and objectives,” said Cole.
Click on the link to hear more from Cole as she expands on the results of the report and discusses the key issues both HR and finance leaders need to consider if they are to lessen some of the challenges, they face in attracting and retaining finance talent.
- What are the top takeaways from the survey?
- Would you say that these five attrition drivers are as much a result of the legacy way of working of the roles (in finance)?
- What can be learned from finance leaders who have excelled in their careers?
- Despite apprehensions around the inclusion of emerging technologies like AI into work processes, how should professionals striving to build a career in finance take advantage of these technologies to boost their career prospects?
- For HR and finance leaders, what should they do to modernise the finance processes to ensure improved employee morale?
- 2024 is just around the corner, any last-minute advice for those seeking to build a career in finance?