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Unclear career paths threatening the future finance talent in the public sector, finds ACCA

Unclear career paths threatening the future finance talent in the public sector, finds ACCA

Young finance professionals in the public sector are in the dark about their future due to a lack of transparent career paths, finds a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

Generation Next: managing talent in the public sector uncovered that young finance professionals most value clear career paths, but only 26% believe that clear paths exist in their current organisation.

This report is the last in ACCA’s global Generation Next series, which explore the work preferences and career ambitions of over 1,400 ACCA members and students working in the public sector, aged 16 to 36 years old.

Alex Metcalfe, ACCA head of public sector policy said: ‘Generation Next respondents in the public sector say a transparent career path is the most important issue in both attracting them to an employer and retaining them there.

‘Across the sector, developing talent has been a challenge given austerity and the tightening of government budgets, which often hit learning and development budgets. The Generation Next survey showed that 92% respondents were attracted to public sector employers that would provide the opportunity for them to learn and develop skills. It is essential public organisations meet this challenge.’

The research also found that experience at work was essential for attraction and retention in the public sector. The sector itself can offer a dynamic work experience, where employees can develop professionally whilst working to tackle leading societal challenges.

‘On-the-job learning was one of the most-used learning activities in the sector, with 52% of all public sector respondents believing that the on-the-job learning was effective,’ continued Alex. “All these learning strategies; mentoring, job rotations and coaching are forms of experiential learning, where the employee ‘learns through doing’. Clearly, there is an opportunity for public sector employers to increase the use of these experiential forms of learning to increase the effectiveness of their learning and development strategies.’

A large majority of Generation Next believe technology will enable finance professionals to focus on much higher value-added activities in the future. They are also the most likely to believe that technology will enable them to focus on such activities – with 87% of public sector respondents taking this view, compared with 84% across all sectors.

The next generation of professional accounts in the public sector are imagining diverse careers and gaining a depth of work experience. The future of talent in the public sector is facing many forces of change. It is vital that employers respond to the work preferences of Generation Next in order to position themselves best for responding to this changing landscape.

Alex concludes: ‘Public sector organisations are typically unable to compete on remuneration for top talent, but must instead communicate a holistic offering to their candidates that includes clear career paths and a positive work environment. Yet whatever strategies they decide to adopt, it is essential that public sector employers recognise the importance of talent management as a key component of their future strategies.’

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