A recent survey on global talent trends conducted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has revealed that the public sector is having challenges.
The survey notes that finance professionals working in the public sector play a crucial role in addressing sustainability and climate change issues, adding that three out of four public sector respondents agree that accountants will play a bigger part in helping organisations to address this agenda in the future.
In one of the largest ever studies across the accountancy profession, ACCA’s inaugural Global Talent Trends Survey 2023 provides a unique and vital view of how people feel about working in the finance profession right now.
According to the studies, finance professionals working in the public sector share many of the same concerns as the wider profession, but there are some differences.
Findings by ACCA’s research highlighted seven key talent trends for the public sector and these include inflation fueling wage pressure in such a way that the impact of rising prices on salaries is more of a concern for public sector employees than for any other sector.
It also found out that hybrid work is a work in progress, showing that a significantly lower proportion of public sector employees have adopted hybrid and remote working practices compared to the private sector. 71 percent of public sector financial professionals are fully office-based compared to 57 percent in all sectors.
The research highlighted that addressing burnout must be a priority because just over half of public sector financial professionals, 52 percent, believe their employers do not consider employee mental health to be a priority.
Mobility is driving a possible talent crunch in such a way that public sector respondents indicated a similar level of mobility to the average of all sectors. However, amongst those planning to move roles, four in 10 public sector finance professionals expect to move internally in the next two years, while five in 10 are predicting an external move.
Technology is empowering but training is key. The research explains that 88 percent of those in the public sector want more technology training as they recognise the power technology has in supporting finance professionals to add more value. But 40 percent fear technology will replace all or part of their role.
Inclusivity is strong but perceptions about social mobility are more troubling. This perhaps explains why 61 percent of public sector financial professionals think their organisation is inclusive (compared to 68 percent of all sectors, while 49 percent in all sectors (including public) have the perception that a lower socio-economic background is a barrier to progress.
The research also noted that, in turbulent times, accountancy provides career security in which case public sector financial professionals see the key benefits to a career in this sector as the opportunity to gain a professional qualification up to 38 percent, having a job with purpose (27 percent) and the ability to make an impact (23 percent) – scores which outstripped all sectors at 33 percent, 23 percent and 17 percent respectively.
According to Jamie Lyon, head of skills, sectors and technology at ACCA, developing the talent of tomorrow is one of the top priorities for the accountancy profession, especially in the public sector.
“ACCA’s inaugural annual talent trends survey ensures the voice of those working in the profession – including the public sector – is heard and that the profession helps create a working environment where today’s professionals thrive and where tomorrow’s talent wants to be,’ Lyon said.
He said that as well as providing valuable insights, the report sets out the ways in which ACCA supports employers, student and members, as well as the wider public sector.
Mark Johnson, senior subject manager, public sector, ACCA, noted that these findings have important implications for public sector employers as they seek to retain and attract finance professionals to careers in the sector.
“While the sector faces its challenges, those working in accountancy and finance in the public sector see the ability to make a real difference to people’s lives as a key aspect of their roles. This new report is intended to support a workforce of vibrant and dynamic public sector finance professionals to drive through essential public financial management reforms,” he said.