Difficult economic conditions have had a substantial impact on accounting and finance departments around the globe, according to a new survey of finance and human resources managers.

Respondents reported that economic conditions have contributed to heavier workloads, higher stress levels and lower morale. The study also found that firms are adapting their management strategies to maintain productivity and alleviate the burden on their employees.

The global survey was developed by Robert Half International. The study, focusing on hiring difficulties, retention concerns and other staffing-related issues, is based on a survey of more than 4,800 hiring managers in finance and human resources across 21 countries. This year, the report also examined the effects of the global economic downturn on financial teams around the world.

Employers Addressing Economy’s Impact on Workers

In the report, 40 per cent of respondents stated that their finance and accounting departments had been affected by the downturn. Among that group, 49 per cent of respondents have a hiring freeze in place, 47 per cent have consolidated roles and 38 per cent have experienced layoffs. Executives from Hong Kong and France (60 per cent in each country), and Brazil (56 per cent) reported the highest levels of personnel change.

Asked how current economic conditions have affected their individual employees, 39 per cent of respondents cited increased stress. Managers surveyed from Australia and Ireland, along with those from the United States, reported the highest levels of stress among their financial teams (48 per cent). The next most commonly cited effects were heavier workloads and decreased morale.

In response to the economic downturn and its impact on their employees, the majority of managers surveyed (70 per cent) said they have taken some form of action to better support their teams.

The most common measures employers worldwide are taking include postponing projects and redistributing workloads. Many respondents also said their firms have increased the level of communication with employees.

“Leaner teams mean that everyone is doing more work with fewer resources, which ultimately produces diminishing returns,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. “As a result, managers are rebalancing assignments in an effort to prevent overwork and ensure team members are focused on the most critical projects.”

Recruiting and Retention Concerns Persist

Despite slowing economic conditions, most managers (56 per cent) said they were still having difficulty finding skilled job candidates for accounting and finance positions, the same percentage as in last year’s survey.

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