Businesses are facing a significant shortage of accounting and finance professionals who have data analytics skills, according to a new report.

The Institute of Management Accountants and the staffing company Robert Half polled nearly 500 finance executives and managers for the report. The survey found deficiencies in high-demand skills such as data and decision analysis, data mining and extraction, process improvement and the ability to identify key data trends.

“Management must support efforts to retain financial professionals with data analytics skills through attractive compensation and benefits, training, a supportive corporate culture, and an emphasis on work-life balance,” said IMA director of research Kip Krumwiede in a statement. “Of course, since the number of internal employees with these skills is limited, businesses must also encourage continuing education and ongoing training.”

The survey found that 44 percent of businesses are focusing on building their teams’ analytics skills by hiring from outside the company, while 39 percent of respondents are working with external consultants. Financial leaders need to remove obstacles such as a lack of competitive compensation and inadequate workforce planning.

“Many organizations are being hindered by an inability to find and retain accounting and finance professionals who can turn data analytics into actionable business intelligence,” said Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald. “To successfully build teams with the necessary skills, financial leaders need to establish a comprehensive recruiting process and professional development program. Finding accounting and finance professionals with in-demand skills is always difficult, but especially in a competitive hiring environment and when companies hamstring their own efforts through poor staffing strategies.”

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