Why Filling Accounts Payable Jobs in 2021 Is Such a Challenge

Blair Chenault
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Filling empty positions within your company seems more difficult than ever before, and accounts payable jobs are no exception. Examining the reasons for the skills gap leads to the grim realization that accounting employee shortages may last longer than expected. Understanding the crucial tasks completed by these employees and new technological advances in construction can help construction companies discover ways to maintain the same level of production with fewer accounting employees.

The Importance of Accounts Payable in Construction

In an industry that has a complex billing system, accounts payable jobs play a big role. Accounts payable is a blanket term for the money you owe to vendors and contractors for business expenses. For example, this includes overhead, direct, and indirect costs. In construction, these costs drive income, leaving no room for error. If accounts payable aren't up to date, there's limited cash flow to fund projects. Ensuring quick payments and accurate accounting records is essential for construction companies to stay in business. The importance of a full staff in this department can't be overstated.

The Growing Accounting Shortage

Changes in the accounting job market have been brewing for years. As baby boomers reach retirement age, graduate classes of certified public accountants (CPAs) aren't large enough to fill the gap. The impact of the COVID pandemic has accelerated the effects of both situations. As a result, there's an even bigger talent shortage. For construction companies hoping to fill vacant roles, new hiring tactics are required to quickly attract qualified candidates. Still, many roles remain empty.

Additionally, layoffs, furloughs, and remote work dominated 2020. These changes and the ongoing health threats of the pandemic led to the early retirement of more than 3 million Americans. The unexpected rise in housing values and stocks allowed many younger boomers to retire earlier than expected. Consequently, many industries suffer massive employee shortages.

What about new hires?

Even before the pandemic, graduating classes of accounting professionals failed to keep up with the number of professionals reaching retirement. The effects of pandemic restrictions on college students have been many. First, colleges and universities struggled to keep numbers up with online classes. In fact, retention in online classes is 5% to 35% lower than that of face-to-face classes.

Lastly, 60% of students pursuing a bachelor's degree viewed the quality of their education as either slightly worse or much worse than it was pre-pandemic. This is significant because the perceived quality of education can have a direct impact on retention.

For these reasons, the US workforce is still missing more than 5 million people from its pre-pandemic levels. Notably A September 2021 Jobs Report suggests as many as 2,300 financial, accounting, and bookkeeping positions remain empty.

Ongoing pandemic concerns continue to delay the return to work for many employees. Additionally, graduating classes of CPAs may continue to be smaller than in the past. Finding a workaround may be the only solution.

Working as a team on construction billing and accounting

Navigating Your Accounts Payable Staff Shortage

Construction companies facing staffing shortages in accounts payable jobs and other accounting roles will likely have to look toward creative solutions within the company. The skills gap in many accounting roles is forcing accounts payable (AP) work to evolve. Instead of certified CPAs whose sole responsibility is to manage accounts payable and keep records and payments up to date, AP specialists will likely hold hybrid roles. For instance, the worker who handles AP management may also be responsible for payroll.

Companies hiring new AP staff will face transitions too. With fewer graduates prepared to step into these roles, many employers will be looking for different qualifications. New hires are less likely to have experience in accounting or even a bachelor's degree. These conditions combined will create high-stress conditions and more room for error. To navigate this new landscape, employees will need advanced tools to streamline processes and eliminate the potential for error.

Moving forward with ConTech

Though it was initially known for its slowness to adopt new technology, the construction industry is catching up quickly. Recent advances in construction technology (ConTech) will likely help companies succeed despite the talent shortage on accounts payable jobs. Technology will attract younger workers who previously considered construction an outdated profession. It will also be used to automate tasks and streamline the workload for existing employees.

While accounts payable jobs are in a crucial position in all industries, the nature of billing in construction creates additional challenges. For most organizations, billing matters are restricted to sales teams and accounting personnel. Construction billing involves various contractors and subcontractors with a variety of documents that can complicate the process. New technology emerging in the industry can help ease the problems caused by current employee shortages in these ways.

  • As the language of millennials and Gen Z, new technology can attract a new generation of employees.
  • Tools that integrate construction billing with other essential tasks can automate the burden placed on office employees.
  • ConTech can increase remote work opportunities and allow employers to offer more flexible schedules.
  • AP automation eliminates burdensome tasks and allows employees to cross-train for increased performance with fewer employees.
  • Technology decreases the required knowledge base, allowing companies to hire inexperienced workers and reduce training time.

Popular Solutions Within the Industry

While construction companies are likely to continue to see a shortage of AP specialists, there is increased hope the industry will have the tools necessary to keep up with growing demand. Utilizing technology will create better conditions for accounting, accounts payable, and payroll staff, helping employers retain loyal office staff members.

Flashtract is a construction billing software company creating solutions to manual paper billing and payment issues that have long plagued the construction industry. A recent partnership with FOUNDATION Software means companies can integrate construction billing software and accounting systems to eliminate extra tasks and save time and money. To learn more about how the integration of essential software can help your company eliminate potential errors and streamline billing and accounting tasks, watch our instructional video, or get in touch with our billing software experts for more information.

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