“The number-one trend is that the candidate is in complete control…because the unemployment rate is lower in accounting and finance than it’s ever been.” That’s a quote from a Robert Half recruiter in the Talent Retention in the U.S. Accounting and Finance Profession study released a few days ago, a collab between IMA and Robert Half (and about two dozen research partners, mostly state societies). Unemployment may be low but accountants’ desire to leave their employers is higher than ever, the study sought to find out why.
We don’t have all day so let’s look at the main points:
- Survey respondents in the 18-to-38-year-old age cohort, who experienced the highest turnover rates (39%) in the past 24 months, are most likely (26%) to leave their current employer in the next 12 months. Furthermore, as many as 8% of them are considering leaving the accounting and finance profession in the next 12 months.
- Approximately 30% of those who intended to leave their current employers in the next 12 months expressed dissatisfaction with their work and co-workers. They were also five times more likely than those intending to stay to feel disengaged at work.
- Career advancement concerns significantly influence respondents’ decision to leave their employer or the profession. Those with the intention to leave were nearly three times more likely to cite that they do not expect to advance in their organization.
- Professionals intending to leave their employers, or the profession, were four times more likely to highlight the absence of a strong sense of belonging within their organizations.
It’s too bad they didn’t break the 18-38 group down further, would be nice to see the difference between early career professionals and manager level where talent is more scarce. Here’s turnover anyway:
Almost half of remote workers surveyed had left their employer voluntarily in the past 24 months (47%) compared to 26 percent of hybrid workers and 23 percent of on-site.
Overall job satisfaction isn’t too bad; 87.14 percent of respondents said they are satisfied with the work they are required to perform, 86.48 percent are satisfied with their coworkers, and 78.44 percent are satisfied with their supervisors.
Of note, 79 percent of accounting and finance professionals intending to stay with their employer reported receiving outstanding perks on the job. So employers should probably make sure that’s taken care of first before they go firing all the bad managers.
The study goes on to cover workplace flexibility, sense of belonging, and engagement. We’ll include that last one just to point out that engagement and resulting disengagement from overwork aren’t making people leave the profession as strongly as bad management is.
Lastly, a few choice quotes they got from professionals who intend to leave their employer or the profession completely. There are four pages of this in the report.
“If I decide to leave, it’s due to narcissistic management, lack of hybrid work offerings, low pay, limited benefits, inflexibility, unfriendly staff, no advancement opportunities, no work-life balance, excessive overtime, and being contacted outside of working hours.”
“The compensation is low given the number of hours required, especially when compared to fields like IT.”
“There is a noticeable lack of opportunities for meaningful advancement.”
“I’m at the age of retirement, and reflecting on it, choosing accounting as a career hasn’t been fruitful for me. If given another chance, I wouldn’t pursue a CPA designation.”
“I dislike the work, and my manager is incompetent and unreasonably demanding without understanding what he’s asking for.”
“First and foremost, there’s the unfair treatment, bias, and weak leadership competence. The line between ethics and morals is razor-thin, and leadership positions are given by the board or influential people. I won’t compromise my morals for an underpaid job.”
“There’s a lot of politics in my organization I don’t agree with. Many employees, including me, are taken advantage of. Despite good pay, the disparity between favored employees and those who drive the company is huge. When things work based on my insights, others get the pay and bonuses, while I work long hours.”
“I can’t maintain 65-hour workweeks. The impact on my health from such demands is due to poor leadership.”
“Being perpetually short-staffed means taking on more duties and working extra unpaid hours, affecting my work-life balance.”
“The pay is low for the amount of work, and the commute is far from my residence.”
“If opportunities for better pay or more engaging work arise, or if I can pursue my passion for politics, I might leave. Pay is a growing concern, especially with rising costs and student loans.”
“Micromanagement is rampant with the new COO, and the pay in accounting is not fair compared to the rest of the organization.”
“The environment is stressful due to long hours. Hiring competent newcomers is lacking, resulting in more pressure on the veterans.”
“The pay doesn’t justify the 24/7 availability they demand. The firm’s reluctance to hire or invest in workload-reducing technology is concerning. There’s also a mismatch between the firm’s DE&I values and some client beliefs.”
“Leadership is lacking, and we’re often understaffed to save money. This leads to long work hours and more tasks. The focus is more on closing books quickly than accuracy. I’m burned out and even considering leaving the profession.”
“The general challenges with the CPA profession combined with the firm’s push to return to the office instead of promoting remote work are problematic.”
“I recently quit a high-paying tax job. The documentation was poor, feedback was demoralizing, and timelines were tight.”
“Public accounting’s long hours don’t feel worth the pay, especially without overtime. The reward structure benefits partners more.”
“High staff turnover at lower levels leaves more work for management.”
“The hours are long and unreasonable. I’m in my 40s, financially secure, and ready for a change. The CPA profession is stressful.”
“The CPA profession hasn’t advocated for its members’ better working conditions. While new standards are being introduced, the core issue of limited tools remains unaddressed.”
“I don’t believe the industry is set up for long-term success. The demands on young staff, coupled with unrealistic work-life balances, lead to early-career burnout.”
“I left the profession due to the low pay, excessive work hours, and the overall negative atmosphere among my coworkers.”
And let’s end with this one:
“I struggle to see the benefits of the work and often disagree with our direction. We’re responsible for our own talent shortage, and we seem trapped in our ways.”
Sounds about right.
Talent Retention in the U.S. Accounting and Finance Profession [IMA and Robert Half]