Difficult economic conditions have had a substantial impact on accounting and finance departments around the globe, according to a new survey.
Respondents reported that economic conditions have contributed to heavier workloads, higher stress levels and lower morale. The study also found that firms are adapting their management strategies to maintain productivity and alleviate the burden on their employees.
The global survey was developed by Robert Half International for the companys third annual Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor and conducted by an independent research firm. The study, focusing on hiring difficulties, retention concerns and other staffing-related issues, is based on a survey of more than 4,800 hiring managers in finance and human resources across 21 countries. This year, the report also examined the effects of the global economic downturn on financial teams around the world.
In the report, 32 percent of U.S. respondents, compared to 40 percent globally, stated that their finance and accounting departments had been affected by the downturn. Among that group, 49 percent of U.S. respondents have a hiring freeze in place, 47 percent have consolidated roles and 38 percent have experienced layoffs. Executives from Hong Kong and France (60 percent in each country), and Brazil (56 percent) reported the highest levels of personnel change.
Asked how current economic conditions have affected their individual employees, nearly half (48 percent) of U.S. respondents cited increased stress, compared to 39 percent globally. Managers surveyed from Australia and Ireland, along with those from the United States, reported the highest levels of stress among their financial teams (48 percent). The next most commonly cited effects, both globally and in the United States, were heavier workloads and decreased morale. Less than one-third of all respondents both in the United States (32 percent) and around the world (29 percent) said their accounting and finance teams have remained unaffected.
In response to the economic downturn and its impact on their employees, the majority of managers surveyed (62 percent in the United States and 70 percent globally) said they have taken some form of action to better support their teams. The most common measures employers worldwide are taking include redistributing workloads, increasing communication with staff and postponing projects. Increased communication was a particularly notable trend among firms in Ireland and Singapore, where nearly half (46 percent) of managers surveyed from each country cited this as a best practice.
Leaner teams mean that everyone is doing more work with fewer resources, which ultimately produces diminishing returns, said Robert Half International chairman and CEO Max Messmer (pictured). As a result, managers are rebalancing assignments in an effort to prevent overwork and ensure team members are focused on the most critical projects.
Despite slowing economic conditions, most managers (56 percent) worldwide said they were still having difficulty finding skilled job candidates for accounting and finance positions, the same percentage as in last years survey. Recruiting challenges have eased the most in the United States, where only 32 percent reported difficulty locating good people, down from 72 percent last year. Countries having the hardest time finding skilled workers are Hong Kong (87 percent), Brazil (79 percent) and Japan (73 percent).
Even in countries where recruiting is easier, retention worries remain. In the United States, 40 percent of respondents reported concerns about losing key staff to other job opportunities in the next year, compared to the global average of 53 percent. In New Zealand, less than half of the managers surveyed (44 percent) reported difficulty finding skilled job candidates, but two-thirds (67 percent) expressed concern about losing their top performers in the next year. Significant levels of concern over potential staff turnover also were cited by managers in Hong Kong (89 percent), Spain (87 percent) and Singapore (82 percent).
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