The accounting profession is gradually becoming more diverse as firms try to recruit more widely to alleviate the talent shortage and as demographic trends continue to shift, but some accountants would like to see their employers look more widely in their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, according to a new survey.
The respondents who identified employee equality as their biggest work-related fear cited a variety of equality issues and concerns, including persistent biases and discriminations, and unequal career advancement prospects, as well as concerns over the existence of favored networks, nepotistic behavior, exclusionary cultural issues and workplaces exhibiting a lack of psychological safety. Just over one-third of respondents felt that social background remained a barrier to progression in their organization.
Among the respondents
The survey also questioned respondents about topics such as career development, compensation, artificial intelligence, mental health and hybrid work. Among the 9,889 respondents across the globe, 52% were fully office based, 7% were fully remote or home based, and 41% were hybrid. Hybrid working is slowly gaining traction, but there are major discrepancies between what employees want and what employers demand. Globally, 76% of employees said hybrid work is their preferred arrangement but many employers continue to insist on full-time office working arrangements. In North America, 58% of the respondents said they have a hybrid working arrangement, while more than two-thirds said they would prefer hybrid work.
Employers are excited by the opportunity offered by artificial intelligence, with 78% of the global respondents believing AI will enable finance professionals to add more value, but 54% don’t believe they have the skills needed for the future workplace. Just over one-third of respondents (37%) feel overwhelmed by the pace of change of technology (compared to 42% in last year’s survey). Just over half (51%) have concerns about the impact of AI on their own role.
“There is optimism about AI and technology enhancing accounting roles by automating routine tasks, allowing accountants to focus more on strategic advice,” said the report. “However, there are concerns about maintaining foundational knowledge and whether technology dilutes professional boundaries. Technology continues to transform how services like auditing are delivered, with entire audits now conducted remotely in some cases.”
The report demonstrates that professional accountants have endless career opportunities, with over half the respondents anticipating their next move will be outside their organization, making employee retention an ongoing puzzle for employers. Some 41% of the respondents are dissatisfied with the career opportunities they receive at their current employer, and 36% say the best way for them to develop the skills they need for the future is to leave their current organization.
“The shortage of talent and the many job opportunities available to professional accountants mean that attracting and retaining talent presents a huge ongoing challenge for employers,” said Jillian Couse, head of ACCA North America, in a statement Wednesday. “With 71% of North American respondents saying that a strong diversity and inclusivity culture is a key factor in choosing an employer, there’s a real opportunity for employers who are strong in this area to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. The rise of hybrid working continues to motor ahead, especially in the U.S., with two thirds saying hybrid is their preferred working arrangement, while 58% say that they currently enjoy a hybrid arrangement.”
Global economic strains are continuing to put enormous pressure on talent attraction and retention, with 58% of the respondents planning to ask their employer for a pay raise this year, but 50% expecting they will need to leave their organization to get one.
Mental health remains a big challenge, with 49% of North American respondents saying their mental health suffers due to work pressures, and over one-third (36%) still feeling their employer doesn’t consider mental health to be a priority. Nearly half (46%) of the North American respondents want more support in managing their mental health from their employer, and 33% have considered resigning from their current organization due to wellbeing issues.
“While the survey data does not show mental health as a top cited concern in these regions, the reality based on conversations with candidates suggests there is pressure and stress inherent in accounting/finance work,” said the report. “However, there is also increased organizational awareness and support resources being made available.”
An interactive version of the report is available
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