In Pursuit of Profit
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These figures should be a real wake up call for accounting managers and their employers, especially at a time when the pipeline of students pursuing accounting degrees is drying up as well.
If accounting does not change as a profession soon, we may continue to see the numbers of accountants dwindle. The accounting pool keeps getting smaller and smaller. So, what’s next? Could it be extinction?
No. Realistically speaking, accountants will never disappear entirely. The work they do is too important to be left behind in today’s sweeping employment shifts. However, the accounting industry as we know it is disappearing. The long hours, the tedious manual work, the lack of respect, and the ever-increasing list of expectations that have come to define the accounting profession over the last couple decades are all going to need to fall by the wayside if employers are going to retain accounting staff.
Of course, the logical question that arises in light of this information is, “What’s coming next?”
The Future of Accounting
The accounting industry is moving in a new direction. What will the future of accounting look like a year (or a decade) from now? What should be left behind and what’s important to hold onto moving forward? How can management facilitate these changes? How will technology continue to shape the industry? And will these changes be successful in keeping accountants in the profession?
Each company will need to decide how they will reconcile business needs with employee demands, but generally speaking, today’s accounting youth will be tomorrow’s industry future. Accounting degree programs will need to reinforce the idea that accounting is a respectable profession where accountants can act as advisors instead of just well-paid calculators. But this messaging cannot simply be a hollow promise, it must be fulfilled in the careers that new graduates find when entering the labor force.
What do Accountants Want?
Across all industries and business types accountants will need to be treated as strategic business allies that are integral to the organization’s success, not just cogs in the machine. But this change needs to be driven by management proactively, because research shows that only 11% of accountants will voice their concerns when their work is unfulfilling. Companies cannot wait until they start losing staff (or find themselves with vacant roles that they’re having trouble filling) to make changes. Change must happen now!
Accountants need more respect, less busywork, more clearly defined roles, and better work-life balance to be encouraged to stay with their existing employer and the profession in general. The only way this can happen is to encourage open communication with accounting staff. Managers should regularly assess job satisfaction for each employee to take the pulse of how accountants are feeling about their roles. These conversations should happen in both private discussions (like one-on-one meetings) and public spaces (like team/division meetings and internal company message boards).
Where possible, technology can be used to augment accountants’ responsibilities, increasing efficiency and improving job satisfaction. AI is currently the most transformative force in the accounting industry, and with good reason! AI allows accountants to do better work faster, improving accuracy, scalability, data availability, and collaboration to drastically improve business outcomes.
In particular, AI can provide significant benefits across general ledger bookkeeping, bank and credit reconciliations, invoicing, AP and AR, expense reimbursements, payroll and benefits, sales tax calculations, and financial reporting. If your accountant is hesitant to implement AI in new areas, focus on the lowest hanging fruit first and look for other places to use AI in accounting to better manage accounting activities without tasking your accountants with more responsibilities.
Whether these changes will be successful in keeping accountants in the profession is yet to be determined, but accounting/finance management and business leadership will need to take up the charge to do their part to change the industry before it falls further into decline. The time is now to change! How will you do your part?
Since accountants aren’t going away any time soon, when you need one, don’t just settle for any local bookkeeper, hire the experts! Our team of experienced bookkeepers and accountants has experience across a wide variety of industries and is familiar with many different accounting platforms. Contact us today to tell us more about what you are looking for and we will match you with the right professional for your needs. We provide the expertise you need and the flexibility you want!