In recent years, the accounting industry has seen recruitment decrease as new graduates have become disenfranchised due to burnout and traditional accounting roles have become less appealing. In addition, recent studies have revealed that jobs in finance and accounting are perceived to be among the most “boring” in the world. Worse, the people occupying those boring jobs are even considered incompetent — a misconception that doesn’t ease the anxiety of those considering a possibly boring career in accounting.
For the sake of the future of the industry and workforce, shifting the perception of accounting is essential. Workforce trends during the Covid-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation have lowered the retirement age and put pressure on America’s businesses to invest in the younger and existing workforce, forcing businesses to rethink finance and accounting roles before the number of available accountants runs out. Below are the three main areas organizations need to focus on to elevate accounting and finance roles.
3 Ways to Make Accounting Cool
- Prioritize the mental health of accountants.
- Invest in technology to eliminate boring tasks.
- Elevate the role of operational accounting.
Prioritize the Mental Health of Accountants
Between month-end and year-end closes, audits, and a parade of semi-regular responsibilities that come with high levels of stress, accountants often take the brunt of a business’s challenges. Facing these problems entails grueling hours, expanding compliance obligations, and higher scrutiny alongside lofty expectations from management. Accountants often handle all this without the resources they need to help them succeed.
This increasingly demanding atmosphere, particularly during tax season, has led to 83 percent of accountants feeling burnt out. Further, 51 percent say that depression and anxiety causes them to dread work, and 43.5 percent believe their job is a key contributor to poor mental health. Amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, these factors have led many individuals to become another statistic in the Great Resignation. In 2021, an average of 3.8 million Americans quit their jobs each month, with a spike of 4.4 million people in September.
As a former accountant who has witnessed this hollowing out firsthand, our industry is clearly struggling. Prioritizing the mental health and well-being of these employees is not only non-negotiable, but a key solution to boosting the industry.
Invest in Technology to Eliminate Boring Tasks
Digital transformation in accounting operations can empower companies to counter recruiting trends and establish themselves as attractive landing spots for accountants looking to reinvent their careers.
Driving this initiative is technology that automates redundant tasks and allows accountants to elevate their roles and deploy skills in ways that take advantage of their strategic thinking capabilities. Automation tools allow for processes to be standardized, streamlined and shortened while also reducing the risks of missteps. For example, controllers in the U.S. who don’t use automation spend nearly 70 percent of their time performing traditional tasks, such as closing the books or ensuring compliance with accounting standards.Upon implementing automation, however, close cycles shorten by three to five days (on average) and audits take 40 percent less time.
Although most organizations understand they need to automate these processes, many have yet to implement these technologies due to time and resource constraints and a lack of understanding. Unfortunately, delays in investing in transformative technologies can wind up costing the organization with hindered growth and high turnover for years to come.
Elevate the Role of Operational Accounting
Accountants are often stereotyped as mere “bean counters,” but they’re actually a core pillar of strategy and operations. In today’s business environment, accountants are essential and are only becoming more important as the IPO boom continues.
In fact, accountants have their hands in most aspects of a business due to their time in regulations, as well as the time they spend translating data. Today, accountants not only gain unique insights into each department of a business, but they’re also equipped to recommend changes and improve processes across an organization.
When processes like automation are introduced, organizations open the door for operational accounting excellence. With intelligent workflow solutions, the role of accounting transforms into a more modern, dynamic and strategic function – for example, allowing accountants to shift from reporting performance to proactively working on strategy to drive sales, better navigate mergers and acquisitions, IPOs and compliance, and support ESG reporting.
Accounting Is Cool!
In the wake of the Great Resignation, companies should be working to implement key solutions that help retain and recruit accounting talent. From increased support around mental health and technology to make employee lives easier, as well as the evolution of modern accounting in business operations, organizations can change the perception of “boring” and “number crunching” accountants to one that is intriguing and appealing to talent. Hopefully, in the future, we will see a dramatic rise of those interested in the profession because of the improvements organizations are taking today.