Survey Finds Career Growth Opportunities Lacking in Accounting

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By Jason Bramwell
 
Despite knowing that most employees leave their companies because of a lack of opportunity for career growth, only 14 percent of hiring managers in accounting and finance said they are willing to negotiate employee development opportunities during the hiring process, according to a recent survey from staffing firm Accounting Principals.
 
What hiring managers are most willing to negotiate are salary (39 percent); flex time (11 percent); vacation time (11 percent); device benefits, such as phone bill reimbursement (7 percent); and title (4 percent).
 
"It was interesting to see that despite knowing that employees are leaving due to a lack of employee development, companies are not likely to negotiate around these opportunities," Jodi Chavez, senior vice president of Accounting Principals, said in a written statement. 
 
Accounting Principals polled more than 500 US accounting and finance hiring managers for its latest Workplace Insights Survey. More than one-quarter (26 percent) of respondents said a lack of career development opportunities is the most common reason employees leave a company. Other top reasons include leaving for a better work-life balance (21 percent) and for increased salary/compensation (21 percent).
 
Hiring managers from midsized companies (20 percent) are more willing to negotiate employee development options than hiring managers from small companies (12 percent).
 
But the possibility of employees leaving because of a lack of career advancement is not keeping finance hiring managers up at night. What does concern them is recruitment (25 percent) and team effectiveness (24 percent). Only a small minority of hiring managers worry about employee development (14 percent) and upward mobility (10 percent).
 
"At the height of the recession, employees were more likely to stay put when they had a job, but now opportunities are much more plentiful," Chavez said. "This shift should motivate employers to reassess their strategies to conform to the state of the new job market, which means retention should be top of mind."
 
Retaining talent is becoming increasingly challenging for finance and accounting departments. Nearly four in ten (39 percent) hiring managers report their company has had a harder time retaining talent than it did three years ago. On top of their need for retaining talent, some companies are taking on more talent as well. Nineteen percent of hiring managers said their company will likely increase hiring accounting and finance professionals in 2014.
 
The survey also found mid-level roles in accounting and finance (38 percent) are by far the most challenging to fill for hiring managers. Only 8 percent of hiring managers said executive roles are difficult to fill.
 
Company size may also dictate which roles are most challenging to fill. One-third (33 percent) of hiring managers from small companies reported entry-level accounting and finance positions are hardest to place, compared with just 20 percent of those from midsized companies.
 
One way to reduce attrition would be to hire and promote from within, especially knowing employees are looking for development opportunities. However, the survey found that hiring managers prefer looking outside for new talent (55 percent) versus training internal staff (45 percent) when it comes to filling open positions in their organizations.
 
"With recruitment and retention still such a challenge in the finance and accounting fields, hiring managers must consider different ways of keeping their employees happy and engaged," Chavez said. "This must include elements such as legitimate diversity programs, employee development initiatives, and other perks. It is the only way to ensure that companies are getting – and keeping – the very best talent."
 
About the survey:
Accounting Principals polled 502 accounting and finance hiring managers within the United States for its Workplace Insights Survey. The telephone survey was fielded by Braun Research from August 16 to 27, and the results have an error margin of +/- 4.4 percent for this sample size.
 
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Jason,

Your survey truly reflects the realities we see in the finance/accounting marketplace. First the War for Talent is heating up and will intensify dramatically in the next five years. Your statement that "most employees leave their companies because of a lack of opportunity for career growth" is ringing true across the CPA Profession (firms and corporate). The innovators are doing several things to counter this:

1) Developing and communicating career paths to their teams (and especially top talent and high performers);

2) Mapping competencies to the career ladder that are necessary to develop in their career;

3) Developing learning development programs that build a curriculum mapped to the career ladder to provide the skills needed for team members to advance;

4) Adding in just-in-time and on-demand learning programs to assist the high performers in self-paced learning to help them advance more quickly.

5) Aligning the entire learning development program to the vision/mission/strategic plan of the organization.