Decades-high inflation and a tight job market has propelled strong wage growth in US

Liz Fisher, journalist

Inflation and its impact on wages and staff retention is the biggest single workplace concern in the Americas, according to an extensive new survey from ACCA.

Respondents from across all generations named inflation as a serious concern – and there are indications that it is impacting the ability of organisations to find and keep the best finance talent. While remuneration is identified as one of the most important factors in attracting talent, levels of satisfaction with pay are low.

In North America, only 17% of respondents said that they were fully office-based

Inflation impact

The survey shows that the impact of inflation on real wages is respondents’ biggest work-related concern for the future, ranking in first place in North America and the Caribbean, and second in central and South America (after mental health and wellbeing). Accountants working in the public sector were the most worried about inflation, with 60% saying that they were concerned about the impact of inflation on their salary. 

Hybrid shift

The findings of ACCA’s Talent Trends 2023 for the Americas build on ACCA’s Global Talent Trends 2023 report, which surveyed 8,405 professional accountants in 148 countries and is one of the largest ever studies carried out across the profession. The survey reveals not only the concerns that finance professionals and their employers are grappling with across the globe, but also the impact of the pandemic on working patterns and the global shift towards hybrid and remote working models.

The survey results for the Americas make for interesting reading, not least because of the uneven take-up of remote and hybrid working across the region. Globally, 43% of respondents said that they work remotely at least part of the week, while in the Americas the proportion is 54% – and in North America, only 17% of respondents said that they were fully office-based.

The concept has not gained the same traction elsewhere in the Americas, however; 63% of respondents in the Caribbean say that they are entirely office-based. ‘The widespread adoption of flexible working patterns,’ says the report, ‘may reflect the preferences of employees in a highly competitive recruitment environment with growing demand for talent.’

The survey shows that working patterns tend to be dictated by age; generally, those working on a remote or hybrid basis tend to be older than those based entirely in an office. Respondents from Big Four and mid-tier accounting firms were more likely to work under hybrid arrangements than those in public sector or smaller organisations.

Hybrid workers were more satisfied with their career development opportunities than office workers

Even so, it is clear that those who do work remotely or on a hybrid basis, regardless of their region, tend to be more satisfied with their working lives. Nine out of 10 (89%) of respondents said that they would like to work remotely at least one day a week in the future, and more than three-quarters (77%) believe that they are more productive when working remotely.

Hybrid workers were also more satisfied with their career development opportunities than office workers, and with the support they received from their employer for their wellbeing; it is likely, though, that these answers are more reflective of the age and seniority of respondents, than purely of their working arrangements.

Work-life balance

‘Wellbeing and mental health’ is a strong theme of the survey and consistently ranks among the top three work challenges across the Americas (with the exception of North America). Overall, 82% of respondents said that they would like a better work-life balance, and just under half said that their own employer did not consider mental health to be a priority. Many respondents cite workload and insufficient resources as a leading cause of mental health-related issues.

Employers are struggling to attract and retain finance professionals because of the high levels of mobility

Mobility matters

Employers fare a little better when it comes to respondents’ assessment of leadership and inclusivity. Leaders in employers across the Americas score positively in terms of integrity and accessibility; 68% of respondents say their leaders are accessible and 71% say they have integrity. Six out of 10 (61%) of respondents say that their organisation’s culture is inclusive, but the report highlights that a significant proportion of respondents – 45% – believe that a low socio-economic background is still a barrier to progression in their organisation.

The report concludes that employers and the profession generally still have significant work to do in terms of improving social mobility and addressing burnout and other wellbeing issues.

But this is not their only challenge. The Americas survey also reveals that employers are struggling to attract and retain finance professionals because of the high levels of mobility. Nearly half (46%) of respondents said they intended to move to a new role within 12 months, and 71% said they planned to shift within two years. Almost half of those seeking to move said they were looking externally for new opportunities.

Younger respondents were more likely to cite the benefits of mobility across different locations and regions; 28% of Gen Z and 26% of Gen Y identified this as a top-three benefit of a career in accountancy and finance, compared with 21% of Gen X and 16% of Baby Boomers. The report argues that employee satisfaction and career progression opportunities are crucial if employers are to avoid a mobility-driven talent crunch.

More information

Read AB articles on responses to ACCA’s talent trends surveys around the globe: