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It’s no secret that the accounting profession has something of a stigma attached to it – for those outside the industry, the role of the accountant is typically viewed as necessary, but dull and repetitive. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to many that the industry has a higher turnover than most, as recent research from BlackLine has discovered.

Repetitive task injury: the scourge of accountants

Foreshadowing a prediction in Randstad, which claims the UK will see a shortfall of over 10,000 qualified accountants by the year 2050, it seems that the industry’s staff turnover is already worryingly high as we go into 2016. The UK’s financial decision makers (FDMs) are growing increasingly worried over what has been dubbed ‘Repetitive Task Injury’, or RTI. Not necessarily a physical injury, RTI comes from repeatedly performing the same manual and mundane tasks for a long period of time, ultimately creating disillusioned, disengaged staff. It’s currently estimated that almost 60% of UK finance leaders believe the accountancy industry’s turnover is too high.

Whilst the average person will have a multitude of career changes in their lifetime, 64% of FDMs put this mass exodus down to the simple fact that accountants are simply bored and increasingly disengaged by the manual, repetitive workload. A further 61% of FDMs believe that many are not given the tools to do their job effectively – although the right tools are in existence.

The cost of a revolving door in your accounting department

Not only is RTI and low morale a problem for accounting departments, it has a knock-on impact on the overall business. Training costs soar as companies repeatedly have to train new staff, only to lose them a short time later. Additionally, morale as a whole is effected if staff regularly leave the company. RTI itself, if unaddressed, is also a cause for concern – the less engaged a member of staff is, the more their work will suffer, leading to potentially fatal mistakes on the company’s balance sheet.

Whilst an estimated 88% of spreadsheets had mistakes on them two years ago, this does not have to be the case today. There are tools and technologies available to ensure correct and timely reporting, without the mundane repetition, enabling data to be viewed in real-time and eliminating the ‘peaks and troughs’ nature of the accountant’s workload. Without these, however, accountants become increasingly bored and disengaged, and make more mistakes. In short, an accountant not performing to the best of their abilities could run the organisation into the ground.

Automating the mundane, keeping staff sane

There is a simple solution to deal with the knock-on effect of RTI – automation. Finance and accounting departments are increasingly discarding their outdated, manual processes in favour of automated technologies which streamline mundane everyday tasks like reconciliations and make lives easier for accountants. These technologies sit on top of existing ERP and legacy systems, enabling ease of use and allowing accountants to dispense with manual processes altogether.

New and trainee accountants are typically digital natives – Generation Y and beyond – who have grown up immersed in technology. Automation technologies enable them to reconcile every day if they want to, spreading out the more mundane tasks they deal with and ensuring they are never bored or overworked. By implementing similar methods to help them with their day to day roles, training costs will actually decrease, ultimately leading to a happier, more loyal and more productive workforce.

By Mario Spanicciati, Chief Strategy Officer for finance controls and automation provider BlackLine