In recent years several acronyms - SOX, XBRL, IFRS - have served to make the work lives of accountants more complicated, but what happens when the economy becomes the key driver of complexity? Ajilon Finance, an accounting and finance specialty recruitment and career advisement firm, recently polled over 500 finance and accounting professionals as part of the Institute of Management Accountants' (IMA) Inside Talk Webinar Series to explore how those closest to the financial state of corporate America see the current economic uncertainty impacting their companies and the accounting professional as a whole.
A majority of respondents (65 percent) think the U.S. is currently experiencing a recession and just over half (54 percent) feel the economic uncertainty is making their jobs more complex. Other key findings of the survey include:
- Accounting Job Opportunities Remain Strong: As workload and complexity is on the rise, the vast majority of respondents (65 percent) think that compared to a year ago there are currently more or the same amount of job opportunities available for accountants, showing strength despite job losses in other portions of the economy. Further, just over one-quarter of those polled (27 percent) find it challenging to recruit qualified candidates for job openings on their teams.
- Soft Skills Increasingly Important: Given the increased pressure on accountants to take on a more strategic role in their organizations, it's no surprise that more than 8 out of 10 (82 percent) respondents cited soft skills as very important for accounting professionals, with no respondents claiming this skill set to be minimally important.
- Companies Thinking Smarter, Making Strategic Changes: Perhaps learning from previous economic cycles, more finance professionals (46 percent) see their companies implementing strategic changes for long-term benefits to navigate the current environment versus a much smaller 19 percent noting their company only making short-term changes and 21 percent seeing their company as focused solely on maintaining the status quo.
- Leaders Not Losing Sight of Sales or Hiring: Despite increased attention on company financials and cost cutting initiatives, a majority of finance executives (55 percent) don't think their organization is losing sight of other strategic goals such as sales or hiring.
"As feelings of economic uncertainty remain strong, it's certainly not surprising that finance professionals, who are the gatekeepers of their organization's financial health, find their job becoming more complex," said Janette Marx, senior vice president at Ajilon Finance. "Our survey revealed a very positive sign that more companies are making smart, strategic changes to adapt to the shifting market. The best and most successful accountants will echo this and take today's complexity and turn it into an opportunity to improve business processes and increase efficiencies to build a more successful finance team and organization for tomorrow."
For those accounting and finance professionals looking to further their value to their organization, Ajlion Finance has the following recommendations:
- Be a senior counselor and strategist: Good accountants can no longer be responsible solely for managing debits and credits. More and more, organizations are leaning on their finance teams for counsel and guidance on management and growth initiatives. Be proactive, voice your recommendations and show your internal stakeholders how you can translate financial analysis into actionable business improvements.
- Think about the big picture: During times such as these, cost cutting is clearly a big pressure as employers look to do more with less. Rather than just saying no when investment opportunities arise for your company, it's important to always be mindful of the big picture and be open to short term investments (new technologies, marketing spend, etc.) that will pay off and have real ROI in the long run.
- Don't sacrifice quality or standards: Keeping to ethical standards and maintaining the quality of your work, even if both work volume and complexity are on the rise, is paramount. Be vigilant and follow through on all assignments in order to not sacrifice you or your company's reputation and performance.