Workers in finance and accounting feel secure in their jobs, but more than half say the economy has hurt their careers and nearly half plan to explore other positions when the job market opens up, according to a new survey.
Finance and accounting employees are among the least likely professionals to be concerned about threats to their job security such as layoffs, pay cuts, or reductions in benefits, according to a survey by HR services and staffing company Randstad. Workers in finance and accounting also are among the least willing to consider making sacrifices such as losing vacation time, working longer hours without a pay increase, or relocating to keep their job.
Seventy-six percent of finance and accounting workers somewhat or strongly agree that they feel secure in their employment, and 78% said they believe their companies have great futures.
Randstad Finance & Accounting President Brendan Courtney said finance and accounting employees’ confidence in their companies has consistently risen over the last three or four quarters to its highest point in years.
“Finance people get to see the health of a company from a different perspective from the rest of the employees,” Courtney said. “And they’re starting to gain confidence that the companies they work for have turned the corner. . . . Companies and individuals within those companies are starting to gain what I call ‘corporate confidence.’ ”
One measure of their comfort with their job status is the small number who said they would consider making sacrifices to keep their job. One-fourth or less were willing to:
- Work longer hours without a pay increase (25%).
- Lose an annual bonus opportunity (24%).
- Take a vacation time reduction (24%).
- Accept reduced benefits (25%).
- Take a pay cut (12%).
- Relocate (16%).
- Pay out of pocket for additional training (10%).
- Accept a lesser job or demotion (15%).
In every other profession in the survey (engineering, health care, pharmaceuticals, and information technology) at least two of those sacrifices were something at least 26% of workers were willing to accept.
Despite their confidence, 57% of finance and accounting workers said they don’t believe they could find a new job today that they would accept. Fifty-one percent said the economy has negatively altered their career plans, and 49% somewhat or strongly agree that they plan to explore other job options when the job market picks up. If an enticing offer were to arrive from another company in the next six months, 42% said they would accept. Just 16% are concerned about losing their jobs.
Courtney said his experience with the job market confirms the idea advanced by numerous studies that accounting professionals are moving beyond their traditional roles of financial reporting, tax preparation and bookkeeping. He said businesses are asking accountants to think strategically and help manage operations, bringing additional skills into play for job seekers.
“The ability to communicate, the ability to think strategically, how these numbers impact the business, are very important,” Courtney said, “and those are the kind of soft skills that employers are looking for that go beyond just debits and credits.”
Many employers in the last 18 months have been selective in their recruiting in terms of requiring these soft skills from candidates, Courtney said. But over the last three or four months, for the first time in years, the most qualified candidates in accounting are receiving multiple job offers, Courtney said.
The keys to attracting and retaining good people go beyond providing competitive compensation, Courtney said. He said employers need to:
- Provide career advancement opportunities and challenging assignments. Forty-three percent of finance and accounting workers in the survey said they feel left behind in their careers because of the poor economy and job market.
- Recognize employees for doing a good job, and not just with their paychecks. Another recent survey showed that managers need to get to know their employees to learn whether they prefer financial awards or gift cards, opportunities to learn and grow, or verbal or written praise.
“It doesn’t cost companies a lot of money, but a lot of companies just. . .don’t have the employee recognition programs in place,” Courtney said. “And it ends up falling a lot of times on the shoulders of various managers within companies. But it’s very important. It’s a key to retaining good people.”
—Ken Tysiac (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a JofA senior editor.