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Keeping staff happy: 4 ways firms can attract and retain accounting talent

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 7 minute read

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 7 minute read

If your accounting firm is competing in the battle for top talent, you're not alone. But how do you effectively attract and retain accountants in such a challenging labor market?

Thomson Reuters set out to answer that question by surveying more than 100 CPAs who are currently employed as accountants. The results show that tax and accounting professionals know exactly what they want in an employer—and here’s how firms can heed the call.

1. Financial stability

There’s no question that money talks—and the accounting profession is no exception. Thomson Reuters research found that 94% of new accounting practitioners choose financial stability as their primary career goal. In addition, 93% stated that a competitive salary is what matters most in an employer.

So how much is today’s accounting talent looking for in terms of salary? Among survey respondents in metro areas, the majority are making $80,000 to $99,000 a year. In areas with smaller populations (between 10,000 and 50,000 people), new graduates reported salaries of $50,000 to $69,000. Our research also found that among new practitioners in metro areas with two to three years of experience, most are making more than $80,000. For more experienced practitioners with four to five years of experience, a majority (36%) are making more than $100,000 in metro areas.

While you may find yourself thinking your firm can’t afford to pay higher salaries, the truth is you can’t afford not to. The cost of turnover can be enormous given the training and development costs most firms put into their new hires and the need for continuing professional education. To address this, many future-focused accounting firms are moving away from hourly billing and toward a value pricing model.

At the end of the day, if you currently employ talented, high-performing accountants or are looking to hire some, make sure you pay them what they’re worth—or risk losing them to a firm that will.

2. Work-life balance

No matter the industry, today’s professionals are looking for employers who encourage fulfillment both in and outside of work. That’s why it’s no surprise that work-life balance ranks high on the list of attributes that new accounting talent is looking for in an employer. According to our survey, 85% of respondents prioritize employers that support them in balancing work and life.

Our research showed that new practitioners currently work an average of 46.1 hours per week. This number is highest among business leaders (48.6%) and accountants at non-accounting firms (48.1%). Respondents said they would prefer to average 40.6 hours per week, a reduction of about 12%. Practitioners at accounting firms with less than 30 accountants were the most likely to say they want to work less than 40 hours per week (62%).

But how do you offer work-life balance in a profession that demands doing more with less? The answer lies in using technology to your advantage. Forward-looking accounting firms are leveraging solutions like APIs that drive automation, enhance efficiencies, and improve collaboration among both staff and clients. Not only do these advanced technologies enable your firm to work smarter and faster, but they also provide your staff with the ability to achieve the work-life balance they so desire.

3. Long-term stability

Even in the aftermath of The Great Resignation and the tendency of younger professionals to hop from job to job, Thomson Reuters research revealed that accounting talent is prioritizing job stability. In fact, 75% of new practitioners said long-term job stability is a top career goal. These findings are further underscored by previous ACCA research, which found that the top two reasons young professionals (across all sectors) remained with an employer were career progression opportunities (59%) and the opportunity to learn and develop skills (58%).

Long story short, today’s accounting talent is looking for an employer that invests in their professional development and help them advance their careers. That’s why many accounting firms are offering comprehensive a learning and development curriculum. In fact, implementing a professional development strategy and fostering a culture of growth is arguably one of the most important actions firms can take today. Why? Because it’s an investment that benefits not only your staff, but your firm as a whole.

So how can your firm foster a culture of learning and career progression? Consider implementing a thoroughly integrated and up-to-date tax research solution into your daily workflow. With the ability to quickly search and get answers and insight to tax, accounting, and finance-related questions, your staff can provide clear guidance to your clients while expanding their knowledge. Today’s tax research solutions are so intuitive that even novice staff can find answers, empowering employees at all levels to support clients with confidence.

4. Flexibility

As we all know, today’s job seekers are looking for flexibility. According to our survey, 75% of respondents noted flexible hours at the top of their list of importance. This comes as little surprise given the desire for a greater work-life balance and the rise of more remote or hybrid work environments.

Not so long ago, accountants would get to the office early in the morning and spend most of their day entering trial balance data into engagement software or formatting financial statements. And during the long hours of tax season, they would rarely see the light of day.

But all that’s changed. With the latest advances in tax technology, accounting firms can offer staff the flexibility to work where and when it works best for them. This, in turn, boosts loyalty, trust, commitment and overall productivity. That’s why the implementation of technology like APIs is playing a major role in many forward-looking accounting firms’ recruitment and retention strategies.

By incorporating APIs, even young accountants can jump right into value-added work like looking for trends and outliers, collaborating with clients, and working with management to resolve issues. Technology boosts your staff’s involvement in meaningful work and gets them thinking at a higher level, faster. And that’s valuable not only for personal career advancement, but for the firm overall.

To ensure you can expand and retain your team in a challenging labor market, it may be time to invest in a tax technology solution that can streamline time-consuming processes and offer staff the flexibility they are looking for.

Understanding accounting talent priorities

Firms that offer hands-on training opportunities, along with an emphasis on continuing professional education and professional development initiatives, often have a competitive edge. Further, when it comes to providing a larger sense of purpose, consider offering your staff the ability to build specialty practices, work collaboratively with clients, and find new ways to help business clients grow.

For many firms, this vision translates into offering profitable advisory services alongside traditional tax compliance work. By building deeper and more meaningful relationships with clients, you can boost staff engagement and offer them the long-term job stability they are looking for.

With technology as your foundation, your firm can foster a culture that encourages flexibility and enables growth. Not only do the latest advancements in tax technology provide the ability to share data and documents in real time, but they can enable remote work, boost engagement, and increase job satisfaction.

Amidst the demands of a challenging labor market, a shift in mindset and the adoption of technology can help you become an employer of choice—one that appeals to new professionals and retains top talent.

For additional insight on how to recruit and retain accounting talent, check out our white paper, 4 ways accounting firms can appeal to new professionals.

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