Rethinking the career anchor inventory framework with insights from a finance transformation field study

It is claimed that the re-engineering and automation of routine work should free accountants to adopt broader, so-called ‘value-adding’ roles as partners to business decisionmakers. The ‘new world of work’, involving new process-based methods, single instance ERP systems and the wholesale relocation of professional work to lower cost areas, brings opportunities for accountants in systems design and adding value to the business. For many others, the new reality may be a more competitive and less secure working environment, with a mid-level career bottleneck reflecting a polarisation between the upper and lower layers of the finance function. Based upon Schein's theory of career anchors and using exploratory sequential mixed methods, we consider the impact on the career perceptions of individual accountants as accounting expertise, traditionally embodied in people, is codified and embedded within end-to-end business processes in the context of a finance shared service centre. Key findings include new perceptions of careers with greater emphasis on the acquisition of general managerial competence and leadership skills, with the importance of cultivating a sense of ‘global connectedness' to maintain individual employability. Suggestions are made to update Schein's Career Orientation Inventory to better reflect the reality of accounting in the ‘new world of work'.