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Winning the accounting talent war: How did your firm score this tax season?

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 6 minute read

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 6 minute read

Did your firm feel the impacts of a talent shortage during tax season? If so, you’re not alone.

Attracting and retaining top talent has been an industry-wide concern for many tax and accounting firms for years. Most recently, pandemic-driven changes to professional work environments prompted a record number of people — across all industries — to reevaluate their careers in what has been coined “The Great Resignation.”

Few industries, if any, have been able to dodge The Great Resignation. Some tax and accounting firms lost key personnel to competing firms or other industries, and some associates simply moved on in search of a new career or better quality of life. Regardless of the reason, this has led to devastating talent gaps within some tax and accounting practices.

Today, the battle for talent continues to be very real. In fact, a recent survey by human resource consulting firm Robert Half found that 91 percent of finance and accounting professionals said they are concerned about valued employees on their team leaving for new opportunities.

“Firms that we talk to are all saying that it is very difficult to find qualified staff people. It’s a pain that all firms are feeling these days,” said Greg Pope, Vice President of Marketing at SurePrep.

That’s why it is imperative that firms have a sound talent strategy in place and remain open to finding new ways to become talent magnets.

Accounting firms can win the talent war with technology

Firms looking to strengthen their talent strategy should not underestimate the power of technology and the role it can play in helping them attract and retain staff. This includes implementing technologies that enable remote work capabilities, drive greater automation, and improve workflow efficiencies.

Underscoring this point, a 2022 study from the Thomson Reuters Institute found that firms’ priorities reflect the experiences of tax and accounting professionals who worked through the pandemic and successfully adapted to new ways of working. These include:

  • Talent – recruit more people, develop people, and accommodate remote working.
  • Efficiency – more streamlined processes, productive, move through work faster, invest in the right technology.

Many of today’s professions desire better work/life balance and the ability to work remotely. According to Thomson Reuters Institute research, 89 percent of tax professionals said they could identify lasting positive impacts as a result of the pandemic. Of those, 26 percent cited remote working now being an accepted practice.

Furthermore, of those tax professionals who have been working remotely most of the time, nearly half (48 percent) said remote work had a positive impact on their wellbeing, and 38 percent said their working practices have improved.

Meanwhile, research by Robert Half found that 60 percent of finance and accounting professionals said they plan to look for a new job that offers remote work options if their company requires employees to return to the office.

“If you don’t use tools that allow people to work either totally remotely, or at least in some sort of a hybrid environment, you’re at a disadvantage,” Pope said.

It is also important to leverage tools that improve automation and enhance workflow efficiencies. Simplifying workflows and eliminating mundane, repetitive tasks like manual data entry means preparers have more time to spend with clients and focus on higher-value work.

“If you are the kind of firm that is using technology that improves the lives of team members, for example, solutions that automate manual tasks, you have an advantage over the firms that are also trying to recruit that person, but are using outdated [workflow] processes,” Pope said. “So, in addition to just the flexibility of working remotely, positioning the firm as a forward-thinking firm that utilizes technology to elevate roles is going to make recruiting much, much easier compared to a firm that doesn’t.”

Win the accounting talent war with a successful onboarding program

Tax and accounting firms looking to improve their ability to attract and retain talent should also take a closer look at their new hire onboarding program. When new hires experience successful onboarding, chances are they will be more engaged and successful in their new role.

Unfortunately, too many employers leave much to be desired. According to a national survey conducted online on behalf of CareerBuilder by Harris Poll, more than a third of employers (36 percent) do not have a structured onboarding process. And many reported costly consequences such as lower productivity and higher employee turnover.

“You’ve finally found somebody who is a really good fit, and their initial experience in the first week or two is disappointing because you are just trying to onboard them in sort of an ad hoc way. That is not a good look for the firm,” Pope said.

Therefore, it is essential that firms reevaluate their current onboarding processes. For instance, does your firm provide on-demand training for all of the software solutions? Are workspaces and any technology ready to go before the associate arrives? Does your firm leverage technology to automate the collection and processing of employee onboarding information?

Once your firm has a well-structured, efficient onboarding process in place, it is definitely worth promoting when interviewing potential job candidates. This can help your firm stand apart in a competitive job market.

The importance of career development for accounting professionals

Today’s accounting professionals not only desire more flexibility and a greater work/life balance, they also want growth and career development opportunities.

This is especially true among millennials and Gen Zs, who together account for the largest percentage of today’s workforce.

In fact, the 2019 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey found lack of advancement and few professional development opportunities were among the top reasons for both millennials and Gen Zs looking to leave their jobs in the near term.

“For CPA firms, that kind of [well-defined, well-documented growth track] is really, really important. It’s all about the documentation and structure. It has to be more than just a conversation that you’re having with the candidate. You have to be able to show them the potential growth opportunities inside the firm, including examples of people who have risen through the ranks,” Pope said.

In order to win the talent war in 2022, firms must understand the working habits and preferences of younger job candidates. Firms must also ensure that their technology tools, corporate culture, and mentorship programs align with prospective new hires.

If a hiring manager is interviewing a younger job candidate, like a recent college graduate, they may even want to consider including in the interview a team member who is close in age. A team member who can, perhaps, better relate to the desires or requirements of the job candidate.

Position your firm as a top contender in the talent war among accounting professionals

Today, the battle for talent continues to be a concern for firms. The good news is that there are steps you can take to position your firm as a strong competitor among qualified tax and accounting professionals.

To learn more about accounting talent and other issues facing firms in today’s market, join our “Tax Season Report Card: How Did Your Firm Score This Tax Season?” webcast scheduled for May 11.

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