What should accounting and finance teams expect in 2020?

Posted 01/24/20 Team Vaco

The future is far from certain, which makes it tough to predict exactly what accounting and finance teams should expect in 2020. And let’s face it, we’re entering into a year that’s going to feature an unpredictable election, uncertain U.S. trade policies, and worldwide economic instability. 

Even though it’s shaping up to be a turbulent year, featuring factors that are largely out of the control of the finance and accounting industry, we’re ready to make a few predictions. 

Here are three things that accounting and finance teams should expect in 2020:

  • A candidate recession 
  • The challenge of balancing company culture with high growth
  • Artificial intelligence to reshape the profession

It’s no secret that finance and accounting teams are expected to be more efficient, effective, and accurate than ever. Knowing what to expect and preparing for the challenges ahead will help ensure your team’s success in 2020 and beyond. 

Your accounting and finance teams will feel the effects of a candidate recession

Some may call it a candidate recession while others may call it a candidate-driven market. Either way you think about it, you’ve surely experienced the difficulty of attracting top talent for your accounting and finance teams. 

And you shouldn’t expect that to change in 2020, either. Record-low unemployment levels and a strong accounting and finance market will make it tougher than ever to find the right candidates for your workforce.

Forbes recently asked members of the CFO Leadership Council, a professional organization for senior financial professionals, to identify and share some of the issues that keep them up at night. They found that the top concern was finding and keeping talent — not only in their own departments, but across the entire organization.

Joslyn Osborn, Vaco partner and national director of finance and accounting placement, agrees, noting, “The number one reason people come to us is turnover. They need help finding talent.”

If you’re feeling the effects of a low unemployment rate and you’re having a hard time finding qualified candidates for your team, then it’s time to broaden your candidate search and revisit your hiring criteria. Consider narrowing your hiring criteria to the most critical elements and use a competency-based approach to hiring.  

When you embrace a competency-based approach to hiring, you don’t have to worry about finding a candidate who lines up perfectly with your job description. If they have the soft skills and competencies you’re looking for, you may be able to provide them with the mentorship and on-the-job training they need to succeed. Skills can be learned, so hire for culture.

This kind of hiring flexibility will simultaneously increase the number of qualified candidates you see, while helping ensure that they’re the right candidates. When you focus on competencies as well as credentials you’re more likely to build a more diverse and well-adjusted team that fits with your company culture.

Rapid growth will make maintaining your company culture a challenge

As we work our way into 2020, leaders at accounting and finance firms will find themselves wondering how to maintain a great company culture in the face of rapid growth, transition, and employee turnover. 

In an interview published in Forbes, Kelly Mahoney, finance chief for Health Advocates, discusses the importance of internal team-building and new-hire welcoming events as an effective way to balance company culture with high growth. 

“We have a personal, small-company culture where employee feedback is valued and our people are highly respectful of our clients and of each other,” notes Mahoney. “These types of activities can be more difficult to maintain across multiple offices, but we continue to work through how they can be done thoughtfully and to the benefit of our people and culture.”

In fact, rapid growth shouldn’t be intimidating, it should be exciting. And maintaining your company culture shouldn’t be a chore, it should be fun. 

In her recent blog post, Top Employment Tips to Make 2020 the Best Year Yet, Osborn says that “Hiring for values will save you time and money in the long run. Vaco can help make that perfect match since we value service, relationships, and culture — while having a little bit of fun in the process!”

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will take over more traditional accounting and finance roles

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are quickly making inroads into the world of accounting and finance. As solutions enabled by AI — like business intelligence — are adopted, accounting and finance will join the ranks of industries that AI is changing dramatically

If you’re worried that AI is going to render the accounting and finance workforce obsolete, don’t despair. Robots aren’t going to take over, and the job outlook within the field is projected to remain strong! AI will simply enable teams to become more efficient and increase the demand for accountants with advisory and analytical skills. 

In other words, types of accounting and finance jobs will change as companies adopt new AI and machine learning technologies. To future-proof a career in accounting and finance, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) recommends that accounting and finance professionals should: 

  • Stay abreast of industry trends and welcome the possibility of transitioning into a new position
  • Seek out new opportunities for training and skills development
  • Look for new opportunities to learn and for fresh responsibilities within the field
  • Grow your network and connect with mentors inside and outside of the industry

Although the job outlook is strong, future-proofing is a solid decision. 

Accounting Today reports that robotics is expected to eliminate 40% of basic accounting work, and Gartner research found that sector-wide, finance departments could save their teams 25,000 hours of avoidable rework caused by human errors by deploying robotic process automation (RPA) in their financial reporting processes. Currently, just 20% of finance departments using RPA have applied the technology to financial reporting. This means there’s plenty of room for machine learning to improve efficiency throughout the industry. 

These sweeping changes won’t happen overnight. Despite the advantages of AI, many industry leaders are spread too thin and find themselves struggling to fully embrace the new technologies. “If CFOs had the time and resources to assess new technologies, they could invest in those that would reduce their workload, which would then allow them to become more strategic. The rewards can be immediate” (Forbes).

Many companies are turning to Vaco to help them find high-skilled finance and accounting professionals who are well-versed in today’s data-driven methodologies. 

Learn more about the challenges facing accounting and finance teams in 2020. Download the latest Vaco How-to Guide: Building Effective Accounting and Finance Teams in 2020.

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