Facing Growing Complexity, Business Executives See Challenges in Finding Skilled Personnel

AICPA Survey Notes Companies are Mostly Keeping Lid on Training Costs

June 21, 2016

NEW YORK (June 21, 2016) – Business executives say they continue to have difficulty finding job candidates with the right skills, yet still plan relatively modest spending growth on training over the next 12 months, according to a recent survey by the American Institute of CPAs.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell 0.3 percent in May to 4.7 percent, which some economists consider full employment. Given the state of the labor market, 61 percent of chief executive officers, chief financial officers, controllers and other senior-level CPAs polled by the AICPA in the second quarter said they expect it will be harder to fill open positions over the next 12 months, with 15 percent saying it will be significantly more difficult.

Survey respondents continue to see general business complexity growing over the next three years, with a little more than one-in-five saying it will be significantly more complex. Better training is one way to meet those challenges, and anticipated spending growth for the next 12 months in this category rose 0.2 percentage points to 1.3 percent in the second quarter, the survey found. That rate, however, remains 0.5 percentage points below a year ago and substantially lower than a post-recession high of 2.2 percent set at the end of 2014.

Modest spending growth on training does not appear to be due to reduced hiring plans. In fact, business executives had a more optimistic view of hiring this past quarter, with 19 percent saying they planned to hire immediately, up from 15 percent last quarter. In addition, the number of companies looking to reduce staff fell from 13 percent to 12 percent, quarter over quarter.

For new hires, 40 percent of survey takers said they planned more training going forward than they had provided successful job candidates in the past 12 months. Another 52 percent said they expected about the same level of training, while four percent said they planned to provide less training for new hires.

“Availability of skilled personnel is now the No. 3 challenge for businesses, up two spots from last quarter,” said Arleen R. Thomas, CPA, CGMA, the AICPA’s senior vice president for management accounting and global markets. “Companies have two main options for improving their workforce: hire outside talent or raise the skill level of their existing staff. Based on what we’re seeing in this data, companies are leaning more toward the first option, even though the right candidates can be challenging to find.” 

The hiring and training questions were included in the second quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, general results of which were released earlier this month. The overall survey was conducted May 10-26, 2016, and included 744 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is less than 3 percentage points. A copy of the full report can be found on aicpa.org.