The accountancy profession is in the midst of a job and financial security high. The average accountant makes just over seventy-seven thousand dollars per year according to the latest salary review by the BLS; while unemployment in the sector is significantly lower than the national average.
Music to the ears of the individual professional, one could say. However, the same facts and figures strike fear into the heart of the Chief Accounting Officers and team leaders responsible for hiring new talent and expanding teams.
Demand for accounting professionals is still rising faster than the supply, leaving businesses of all sizes struggling to fill open positions. Accounting Today reports that forty-two percent of hiring decision-makers say they expect recruiting and retaining staff to be an issue over the forthcoming year. A seven percent increase on last year. Clearly the decade-long “war for talent” shows no sign of abating any time soon. A problem which is exacerbated for small and medium-sized firms who are often unable to match the sky-high salaries of large multi-national corporations.
Money isn’t everything for millennials
But – somewhat ironically – it seems that even for accountants, money isn’t everything. This is particularly the case for the younger generations rising up the ranks of the workforce. CBRE’s report, Millennials: Myths and Realities, which surveyed 7,000 CBRE staff members and 13,000 millennials from 12 countries, suggests other things come into play. Namely that an employer who provides opportunities to learn new skills and a quality workspace is more appealing than one who doesn’t. While PwC’s annual Global NextGen Survey reveals this age group also prizes a flexible working culture, work-life balance and a sense of community. And those questioned by Deloitte’s Future of the Workforce Study explicitly state they expect to be using more robotics, cognitive technologies; and automation to increase hiring levels. With millennials projected to make up more than half the workforce in two years, and roughly 75 percent by 2025, employers looking to attract and retain top-notch talent need to better understand what motivates the generation born between 1980 and 2000.
While we’re unlikely to see large corporates moving to beanbag breakout spaces, office slides, and pop-up puppy therapy sessions en masse, businesses do have to recognize that as new generations make up increasing proportions of the workforce, attitudes to reward and remuneration are shifting.
Stress levels across all age groups are high
However, it’s not just younger generations who are concerned about their work-life balance. Stress levels across all ages of the industry are notoriously high as employees feel pressured to be ‘on at all times’. Particularly around audit periods when it’s all hands on deck to get complicated tasks completed and submitted in short time-frames. It’s no wonder that AAT found that 90% of people who work in accountancy have been stressed out by work, with 43% having to take time off as a result of stress. This makes accountancy one of the most stressful industries to work in. And as we all know, regular periods of stress and excessive overtime, often result in a sickness and staff turnover.
Make your business stand-out
Savvy organizations are reshaping their offering to squash these issues, meet new demands and make themselves stand out from the competition. More employers are investing in ways to support their employees outside of the office, with flexible working hours or investing in technology to support working from home. Which makes sense given Pwc’s NextGen study found that 15% of male employees and 21% of female employees would give up some of their pay and slow the pace of promotion in their careers in exchange for working fewer hours. Some are also offering sabbaticals and free plane tickets for vacations; as well as paid time off to volunteer and extended paid family leave. The Vault’s annual Best Accountancy Firms to Work For Survey shows that smaller firms are leading the way when it comes to culture and ‘soft’ benefits like these.
Technology enables a good work-life balance
Technology is the foundation on which many of these benefits are built. The best accounting talent knows all too well the software they use on a daily basis defines whether they have a good work-life balance; or whether they’re up to their eyeballs in spreadsheets, working overtime and feeling overtired. Investing in the right software suite to support flexibility and increase efficiency is an absolute must. There’s no point promising a positive working culture and being home in time for dinner with friends or family if your employees don’t have the technical infrastructure and tools to get them there.
The best talent expects to be using cloud-based tools that automate repetitive manual work, leaving them to focus on high-value tasks. The Adra Suite by Trintech which is focused on making the financial close process more manageable is already used by firms such as Jewson, BankTel, and Lidnt to make their finance teams working lives easier. By streamlining, new accountants can centralize, reconcile and automate the whole cycle.
Build this into your recruitment process
But shaping a more attractive proposition by investing in your culture, investing in benefits and software means nothing if you don’t build it into your recruitment process to let candidates know. Simple steps like weaving key messages about these assets into your company’s career page and job descriptions are a quick way to raise awareness of these selling points. Once the interview process has begun, you can also consider showcasing them to candidates in person. Taking time to explain how you use specific software to reduce the stress of core accounting processes, like a financial close. If a candidate has to make a choice between two similar offers, but one of the businesses uses a dedicated software suite for closing, that decision should be a no-brainer!
With the economic forecast for the USA in 2020 suggesting there is everything to play for, the war for talent to support any growth ambitions will only continue to increase. Organizations that want to keep up with the pace must ensure they invest in supporting the evolving needs of the industry’s top talent. Doing more to attract the millennials set to dominate the workforce is certainly one being step. As is tackling the universal time management and manual task problems that accountants of all ages face. And as any good accountant will know, technology is the foundation on which many of these positive changes must take place. You might not think it, but your software really is one of your biggest selling points.
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