Tighter deadlines, frustration with software, and more complicated regulatory requirements are putting increased pressure and stress on the accountancy and finance profession and contributing to shortfalls in standards, according to the UK Accounting State of Play Report by FloQast, a provider of accounting workflow automation software.
The findings, taken from 500 UK financial directors and controllers, explore the current state of play in the sector, including how close they feel they are to achieving operational excellence – characterised by accounting’s shift from number crunchers to operational leaders, driving performance and business strategy. Data illuminates the barriers that are disrupting processes and preventing teams from doing their jobs – and the fallout for job function, stress levels, and staff retention.
Alarmingly, one third of professionals (33%) are unsure or unconfident in the accuracy of their month-end figures* while 40% admit they are failing to meet accounting operational excellence. These failures are leading to increased levels of stress and subsequently 87% of respondents claim to have lost accounting staff due to burnout.
“This report shows that we’re heading towards a crescendo of challenges and we need to rethink the way the finance function operates if we are to see greater accounting operational efficiency”, said Mike Whitmire, co-founder and CEO at FloQast.
“The failures around accuracy and staff burnout are particularly concerning. Better collaboration, transparency, and speed of processes with improved automation are needed now. Only with these improved systems can the accounting and finance function be structured into the operational analysis of the business itself – an approach that’s increasingly essential in organizations of all industries.”
Respondents call out increasing requirements around tightening deadlines (36%), existing application and technology (35%), and complex compliance and regulatory tasks (32%) as the three main barriers to achieving accounting operational excellence.
The pandemic has also added pressure to accountants and finance professionals. Ninety nine percent say their role has changed with the top causes being a greater involvement in technology decisions (46%) and a growing demand from the executive team to provide strategic business insights (44%).
The good news is that 75% would like to be responsible for at least the same, or more, strategic tasks in the coming 2-3 years. But, if teams are to have the time for these diversified roles they need robust, efficient processes to deliver reliable and accurate figures from which they can base their strategies on – something many are struggling to achieve.
As a result of these changes, pressures, and challenges, stress is a major barrier to the pursuit of accounting excellence and strategic value – and a debilitating drain on staff. Although 72% of respondents were willing to cite at least some level of job satisfaction, the reality of job retention figures tells a worrying story.
Nearly half (46%) of those respondents who had lost finance staff to burnout cited the stress of month-end close as the specific cause of their departure. And teams that are mostly or entirely remote from home are most stressed (75%) during the month end period, suggesting some teams are still running antiquated systems, hindering collaboration and accuracy.
Adam Zoucha, FloQast MD EMEA, (inactive CPA), FloQast said: “With accounting and finance talent so hard to come by, it’s imperative that we do everything we can to retain our current staff by making it easier for them to do their jobs. Modern technology is key to this, enabling improved workflows by automating tedious, complex, or repetitive processes will improve accuracy. Likewise improved automation can support remote teams by offering better collaboration and the sharing of information.”
A mix of internal and external pressures are combining to challenge today’s accounting and finance professionals and pose obstacles. As the pressure and complexity of the role increases, accounting basics such as meeting deadlines, transparency, and accuracy are being compromised. The pandemic has added to this turmoil, with shifting roles, managerial expectations and remote working driving up stress, particularly at the month end.
While there is a desire to evolve accounting and finance into a more strategic role within the organization, only those with a firm bedrock of operational excellence will be in a position to deliver confident insights. Better automation and processes can drive greater accuracy, collaboration, and ease pressures, this in turn can reduce stress levels and improve staff retention.