A large majority of North American finance leaders expect their company to feature a hybrid workplace model in 2023 and beyond, in part as a response to employee preferences in the midst of talent shortages.
A model featuring workplace flexibility may help attract much-needed talent, but leaders must also be smart about how they manage remote employees if they hope to retain their workforce, AICPA leaders shared in a recent AICPA & CIMA and CPA.com Town Hall session during AICPA fall Council in Chicago.
"A lot of change management and a lot of developing out new skills is going to be needed," Lisa Simpson, CPA, CGMA, vice president–Firm Services at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, representing AICPA & CIMA, said.
When discussing best practices, Simpson noted the importance of communication. "Over-communicating, outlining clear expectations, but managing to keep some flexibility there as well."
Deloitte's recent CFO Signals: 3Q 2022 survey found that 86% of the 112 North American CFOs across multiple industries said they expected their company's workplace model to be hybrid in 2023. A survey-high 71% named "providing flexibility for work location" among the three actions they find most effective for retaining talent — ahead of things such as offering career growth opportunities and increasing salaries.
During a Future of Finance panel discussion at Council, a flash poll identified "finding and retaining talent" as the top concern facing attendees and their companies.
Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, the CEO of the Association and president and CEO of the AICPA, addressed the challenge that many finance leaders face trying to manage talent in varied workspaces in a way that's both productive and sustainable for the business and the employee alike.
"When you're working remotely, it's the ability, or the necessity really, for leaders to remember that they still have an obligation to manage and lead in those environments — to not just think of it as just a person out there producing without the normal development issues and training issues and expectation setting," Melancon said in the Town Hall. "As leaders, as partners in firms or as managers in firms, the obligation is to actually lead, to coach, and to develop these expectations. Just because the person isn't seen, that doesn't go away."
Melancon said that retaining talent in the accounting profession is, in a lot of ways, about successfully outlining purpose and the ability to make an impact — especially for remote workers.
Global finance workers who participated in Deloitte's 2022 Finance Workforce survey in May placed great value on "meaningful work" as a determinant in job satisfaction. According to Deloitte, 63% of finance workers in that same survey said they favored a hybrid work model.
Defining purpose and helping employees find their purpose can be difficult in a remote work environment — but successfully doing so can be crucial to retaining talent.
"Attracting and retaining talent can be a lot about outlining your purpose and outlining your ability to make an impact, especially in the accounting profession," Simpson said. "You have lots of firms who have 100% remote employees who don't live within 150 miles of their firm's office, and so there is an intentional strategy that has to be developed around engaging with them and making sure that they are being developed and are given opportunity and are viewed as a real part of the team."
— To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Bryan Strickland at Bryan.Strickland@aicpa-cima.com.