U.S. management-level accounting and finance employees work an average of 48 hours in a standard week, while non-management staff work an average of 42 hours.

Their annual report, Benchmarking the Finance Function 2013: The Inner Workings of Accounting and Finance, from staffing company Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Foundation, the research affiliate of Financial Executives International, focuses on six key areas: workforce management, accounting operations, financial systems, sourcing, internal controls and compliance. The results are based on a survey of the finance departments of nearly 200 public and private companies in the United States and Canada.

In Canada, the average workweeks for managers and staff are 44 and 39 hours, respectively. When hours regularly exceed their standard workweek, especially during peak workload periods, staff manpower is frequently supplemented with the use of interim professionals.

The median number of internal staff in U.S. finance departments is 11, while the median in Canada is 16.

Despite growth in the number of general ledger accounts, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of U.S. companies still reconcile accounts manually, placing a strain on staff and resources. Many companies are seeking solutions for automating the process of closing the books.

Eighty percent of U.S. companies and 86 percent of companies in Canada use an enterprise resource planning system. The use of on-demand software is increasing.

Payroll is the single most outsourced function for all respondent companies, followed by tax, the study found. Accounts payable is emerging as a possible candidate for additional outsourcing.

“The finance function is undergoing a transformation amid a competitive business landscape and new regulations,” said FEI president and CEO Marie N. Hollein in a statement. “To operate with precision and achieve optimal productivity, companies need to identify areas of improvement, measure themselves against peers and competitors, and address fluctuating needs and priorities.”

Larger companies are more likely to have an internal audit function responsible for compliance activities. At smaller firms, the compliance function most often resides with the financial reporting or general accounting departments.

“Financial leaders are taking a fresh look at how their departments can commit assets to achieve the most value for the company,” said Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald in a statement. “Shared services centers, new technologies and the increased use of interim financial professionals are among the many tactics being employed to allow executives to apply resources where and when they are needed most.”

Robert Half and FEI plan to host a webinar May 9, 10 to 11 a.m. PDT/1 to 2 p.m. EDT, based on the report findings, to enable accounting and finance executives to more easily measure their own operations and learn enhancements that can help improve department performance. The presenters include McDonald and FERF senior associate of research Thomas Thompson, Jr.

For more information or to register, visit www.roberthalf.us/benchmarking. The complimentary session qualifies for one unit of continuing professional education credit in the United States.

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