Pulse on Workforce Strategy: Biggest Concerns and Key Factors Driving Investment Decisions

July 10, 2024
3 Minute Read

As we enter the second half of the year in a higher-for-longer interest rate environment, RGP polled financial decision-makers about their biggest concerns and the challenges their organizations are facing.

The poll, fielded by YouGov in early June, follows up on our January 2024 survey of full-time U.S. professionals at the director level or above who influence finance decision-making. Here are six key takeaways about the key trends shaping workforce investment in the year ahead.

1. Companies remain focused on investing in their employees.

Despite the higher-for-longer interest rate environment, 81% of financial decision-makers are planning to increase investment in workforce development this year – consistent with our January poll. Nearly half of this group (45%) plans to increase investment in resources to reskill and upskill current employees. Eighteen percent of respondents said they are planning to increase internal headcount, while 13% said they are planning to increase investment in outside talent (consultants, independent contractors, staffing firms).

2. Organizations are not waiting for interest rate cuts to spend.

The prospect of Fed interest rate cuts does not appear to be delaying or pausing new investments for financial decision-makers. Only 11% of respondents said their organization is pausing some investments until the Fed cuts rates, while 23% said their organization is pausing some investments until after the presidential election. More than one-third (34%) said they are not pausing or holding off on any new investments due to macroeconomic conditions.

3. Skill acquisition remains a challenge.

One in four financial decision makers (26%) said that talent acquisition and retention is their organization’s top concern for the second half of 2024 — second only to the integration of more digital strategies, including AI and automation (30%). The prevention of fraud and improvement of cybersecurity systems was the third-most-cited concern (17%).

One in five respondents (21%) said their organization has experienced widening skills gaps since the start of the year, while 29% said that it has been more difficult to acquire new skill sets since January. Respondents identified cybersecurity and risk management (26%), digital transformation (23%), and accounting services (21%) as their biggest talent shortage areas over the next 12 months.

One in four financial decision makers (26%) said that talent acquisition and retention is their organization’s top concern for the second half of 2024

4. The accountant shortage is changing how finance functions operate.

A shortage of accountant talent — brought on by enrollment declines in accounting programs and declines in the number of candidates taking certified public accountant (CPA) exams — has had varying impacts on finance functions. Forty-three percent of respondents said their organization is investing more in end-to-end automated accounting processes and AI tools due to the ongoing accountant shortage. Nearly half of respondents (45%) said their organization would benefit from additional resources and tools to better leverage fractional work arrangements.

Meanwhile, 31% of professionals surveyed said their organization is using more consulting talent to transform their finance function and 27% said they are using more interim staffing solutions due to the ongoing accountant shortage.

Impact of the accountant shortage in the second half of 2024

5. AI is impacting workforce investment.

While one in five financial decision makers (21%) said that their organization has experienced widening skills gaps since the start of the year, 25% of respondents said they have narrowed skills gaps within their organization using AI and other digital tools.

Nearly half of professionals surveyed (47%) said that a growing urgency to better leverage AI and automation could have the biggest impact on their organization’s investment in workforce development over the next 12 months. Hiring challenges in a tightening labor market (45%) and the potential for a lower interest rate environment (32%) were also cited as top factors.

6. Investment in digital transformation is vast and growing.

Four out of five financial decision-makers (80%) said their organization is currently investing in one or more digital transformation initiatives. More than half of respondents (58%) said their organization is evaluating additional investments over the next 12 months. The majority of those that are not currently pursuing digital transformation efforts — 16% of all respondents — are also evaluating new investments for the next 12 months. Top digital transformation priorities include increased productivity (24%), better integration of AI (23%), and increased innovation (21%).

Methodology

RGP and YouGov surveyed 213 US professionals who influence finance decision-making within their organizations. Respondents were director level or above and represented companies within the technology, financial services, healthcare, and pharmaceutical industries. The survey was conducted during the first half of June 2024.

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