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Workforce strategies outpacing management: CIMA and AICPA

Companies adopting staffing strategies aimed at increasing flexibility are sacrificing their control over costs, performance and decision-making, according to a report produced jointly by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Titled "New Ways of Working: Managing the Open Workforce", the report was unveiled at the World Congress of Accountants (WCOA) in Rome.

As businesses around the globe adopt a combination of internal and external staff, including consultants, contractors, freelancers and outsourced providers, in a bid to increase operational flexibility, they often end up outpacing their management capabilities, stated the research.

The research was based on a survey of over 1,100 senior executives across 35 countries, conducted by Longitude Research on behalf of CIMA and AIPCA. According to the report, more than a third of respondents said they expected at least 50% of their workforce to be constituted by external talent by 2020, a sign that "open workforce" systems are on the increase.

However, only two in five executives surveyed described their organisations of having high levels of control over the cost, performance and productivity of the external resources they employ. Among the threats highlighted as consequences of the lack in oversight were data breaches and the disclosure of competitive information.

A new set of challenges
The report also pointed to difficulties in maintaining quality-consistent decision making at all levels within the businesses, as well as the challenge of maintaining the balance between control and empowerment. Among the respondents, 62% said they were either struggling to achieve the right mix or felt they had got it wrong.

However, executives who described their organisations as outperforming competitors also appeared more likely to leverage the open workforce.

According to the report, this success is rooted in having the tools, strategies and frameworks necessary to balance control and autonomy.

CIMA chief executive officer Charles Tilley described the open workforce trend as capable of bringing "for new levels of agility, creativity and cost savings"; however, he added: "most organisations aren't yet equipped with the controls and practices necessary to maximise opportunities and offset risks.

"Management accountants must play a critical role in creating the frameworks and discipline required to unite today's disparate organisations and their more fluid workforces."

AICPA president and chief executive officer Barry Melancon also pointed to the ability to adapt to the open workforce as "a defining challenge for business leaders over the coming decade."

He said: "Finance teams must take a leadership role to make sure agility does not erode accountability.

"They must equip organisations with the tools, structures and insight to balance the benefits against the risks and keep organisations on a path to long-term sustainability," he added.

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