The future of the accounting profession will be largely determined by its response to escalating talent shortages and other challenges of the post-regulatory-reform era, says a distinguished group of leaders in this field. The Robert Half International Financial Leadership Council recently met and recommended a number of strategies for addressing these issues. It’s all set forth in a new report, Charting the Future of Accounting, Finance and Audit Professions. The Council, which represents a diverse range of leaders from the corporate world, public accounting firms, industry associations, and top accounting universities in the U.S. and Canada, discussed the impact of changing workforce demographics on today’s accounting landscape and the recruitment and retention challenges associated with these shifts. Some of the key findings and recommended solutions are:
- Competition for the most skilled accounting, finance and audit professionals is growing at a time when the pool of candidates in many areas is shrinking or expected to soon. This requires new approaches for locating and retaining these individuals.
- New recruiting strategies could range from enhancing the branding of the professions in the media and on college campuses to showcasing professionals who have achieved a good balance between career and family.
- A particular challenge for employers is adapting to the attitudes, expectations, and values of Generation Y. Strategies to counteract career dissatisfaction among entry-level professionals and enhance retention could include offering more career guidance, projects that involving continual learning, and a better balance between routine and challenging assignments.
In preparing the workforce for the future, the report indicates that to succeed in tomorrow’s accounting, finance and audit environments, professionals need a wider range of skills than ever before and this goes for practitioners at all levels, not just students. Moreover, the report emphasizes that the ability to communicate effectively is one of the most essential interpersonal skills for both seasoned professionals and new entrants to the field. Technologies, the report notes, such as instant messaging and e-mail have actually increased, rather than decreased, the need for strong communication skills. It also points out that as financial professionals assume more strategic roles, they will need to become more analytical. They must be able to not only produce financial reports and perform complex calculations, but also identify and explain what is meaningful in their data or findings. In other words, they need to be able to answer the “why” behind the numbers. The report indicates that professionals can improve their ability to operate in today’s more global business world by increasing their cultural literacy, professional judgment, and familiarity with new financial reporting models. In addition, the Council says that global talent sourcing is not yet widely used by U.S. businesses but the urgent need for professionals with the right skills, wherever they may be located, may drive more companies to seek talent globally in the years ahead. For more information, visit www.financialleadershipcouncil.com.
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