Accounting, finance professionals seek career growth

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Corporate governance regulations aimed at increasing fiscal transparency within public, private, and nonprofit organizations, and the growth in ultramodern fields like forensic and international accounting, finance professionals have been able to shed their “bean counter” image in place of a new prominent role as a business partner and even thrill-seeker.

Today, accounting and finance workers are tasked with such key initiatives as driving the direction of their company’s business procedures, seeking out cost-saving opportunities within the organization and advising management on decisions impacting profits and losses. As a result, more accountants and finance professionals need master’s degrees and specialized certifications, and demand to be diverse and well-trained in all things financial.

Employees want growth opportunities, employers falling short

Accounting and finance professionals are seeking career growth, according to the latest Emerging Workforce Study by The Mergis Group. Nearly 80 percent of accounting and finance professionals prefer work that provides an opportunity for growth or advancement, even if it means a more stressful work day. Nearly half of workers (47 percent) say being successful at work and moving up the career ladder is their top priority – more so than any other profession.

Unfortunately, despite accounting and finance workers’ desire for growth and expanding their career, only 27 percent of workers are satisfied with their growth potential at their current employer. Perhaps more alarming is the finding that a greater number of accounting and finance workers (32 percent) feel they could increase their growth potential if they were to leave their current organization.

These findings, according to the study’s authors, serve as a wake-up call to many companies to improve the career development options within their organization. The alternative is to continue to struggle with talented professionals leaving for companies that will offer them another rung on the career ladder.

Key retention factors

Despite current economic conditions, companies still need to have star talent in place to rebound successfully. In addition, a high demand continues for specialized accounting and finance skills sets, making it even more important for employers to remain steadfast in their retention of these workers.

Many organizations are foregoing retention efforts in favor of cost containment, which might come back to haunt them in the long term. The Emerging Workforce Study found that more than one-quarter (28 percent) of accounting and finance workers feel their employer is doing less to retain them now compared to previous years.

What are the factors that will keep accounting and finance workers on the job? Financial compensation, benefits, and time and flexibility are the three most important drivers of retention for accounting and finance employees, the study states.

Because accounting and finance professionals are focused on career growth, they also are interested in working for companies that provide work/life balance. And, according to the latest Emerging Workforce Study data, most organizations are faring well when it comes to providing the programs these workers demand. Seventy-eight percent of those workers surveyed are satisfied with their ability to maintain balance, and one-third are very satisfied with their current employer’s options.

The message is clear – for companies not currently providing work/life balance programs, such as telecommuting, flex-time, and job sharing, now is the time to do so. For those organizations with established work/life balance programs, the lesson is to keep these offerings in place or, as these workers have indicated, without time and flexibility, they will very likely leave.

Recruiting today’s accounting/finance professionals

Knowing what accounting and finance professionals want from an employer is half the battle. Armed with this insight, human resources executives can begin to tailor recruitment and sourcing efforts to better attract these workers. The study also uncovered the primary ways in which accounting and finance workers find their jobs and how companies can best reach them. These driven and career-minded individuals typically seek out real-world experiences through internships for potential employers. Developing an internship program is a surefire way to work with potential candidates and gauge whether they are a fit for your organization.

Actively recruiting on- and off-site at college campuses and universities is an excellent opportunity to network with, and seek out, these professionals, as well. Thirty-five percent of accounting and finance workers have completed certification, and another 10 percent are pursuing certification. So consider distance learning and certification institutions as venues for career events to connect with candidates.

Referrals are top resources for professionals in the accounting and finance field. Networking events that include a bring a friend element or developing employee referral programs also is recommended to connect with candidates, and ensure that corporate culture is preserved through hiring like-minded professionals.

More information on the Emerging Workforce Study can be found at

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