Talent Acquisition Strategies: How to Attract & Retain Top Accountants
To say that people are the lifeblood of accounting firms and other professional services providers is an understatement. Without competent employees, service-oriented firms cannot function effectively — even with the assistance of AI-enabled technologies.
But here's the question: What will you do when your accounting firm faces a talent shortage?
Check out below some potential reasons for this decline, including some recommendations to attract and retain top talents in your firm.
Demand-supply imbalance: Why is there a shortage of accountants?
Steep retirement rates, fewer accounting graduates, and an increasing number of professionals who shift to other industries are among the main contributors to the decline of accountants in the U.S., as the numbers suggest:
More than 300,000 accountants have either resigned or retired from their jobs.
Young professionals (25 to 34 years old) and mid-career professionals (45 to 54 years old) are the two age groups that are leaving the workforce in most numbers.
The number of accounting graduates* dropped to 52,481 in 2019-2020 after reaching its peak of 56,715 graduates in 2015-2016.
Despite the decline, the demand for accounting professionals will continue to increase until 2031. In its Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that job openings for accountants and auditors will continue to grow by 4% from 2022 to 2032 — an equivalent of about 126,500 jobs each year.
This imbalance between the availability and demand for qualified accountants poses a serious question—
How can we fill accounting roles to sustain long-term growth?
The next section itemizes a couple of practical ways to address this ongoing concern.
*Number of college graduates. Master's degree holders are not included.
How to attract and retain top accounting talents
With the cutthroat competition for top accounting talents, it's crucial to find a way to position your firm as an employer of choice, especially when you’re competing with the Big 4.
To kick things off, check out these strategies to attract new talents.
a. Attract qualified talents
Talent acquisition is not just about recruitment. It's also about building a strong employer brand and developing long-term partnerships with relevant stakeholders.
Here are some talent acquisition strategies:
Offer a competitive compensation package
A competitive salary — or a salary that’s equal to or above the standard rate in your industry and region — is one of the best ways to attract qualified talents.
But it’s not just about the money.
Instead, it also includes the perks and benefits of working with your firm. This includes health insurance, flexible work arrangements, retirement plans, salary appraisals, paid leaves, and wellness programs, among others.
Enhance your firm’s brand
The new generation of job seekers does not only look at the pay alone. They also want to work with a firm that can meet their personal values and give them a sense of purpose at work.
Highlighting your corporate values and enhancing your brand online should be a priority. For instance, you can post employee activities online to give applicants a peek at your corporate culture. You can also check reviews of your current and resigned employees on job sites.
To promote your firm’s strength, your recruitment and marketing teams can work together in preparing job ads. This way, potential talents can see the value you offer.
Build long-term partnerships with academic institutions
New graduates and professionals who are looking for other opportunities should not be your only targets.
With the declining number of accounting professionals, you must start to look deeper into the talent pipeline. This means partnering up with academic institutions and connecting with their students.
For universities, you can offer intensive internship opportunities. Participating in student-led activities is also an ideal way to raise their awareness of your brand. In terms of the skills gap, you can work with college institutions to develop a modern curriculum based on current industry developments.
Moreover, due to the students’ waning interest in getting an accounting degree, you can even collaborate with secondary schools during their career orientation programs. This way, upcoming college enrollees can have a better understanding of an accountant’s career path.
Start an employee referral program
An employee referral program is an effective way to attract qualified accountants into your firm. It works by encouraging your current employees to refer someone who fits the role. When their referral joins the firm, they get rewarded, often in monetary form.
But what’s in it for your firm?
This approach maximizes the network of your employees. It connects you directly with your target job candidates, which paves the way to a more time-efficient and cost-effective recruitment process.
b. Retain your top talents
The acquisition comprises only half of the equation. To fully address the shortage of accountants, you must give equal importance to retaining your firm’s existing talent base. This way, you can minimize the need to replace employees who quit — which is far more expensive than retaining your current employees.
Consider these talent retention strategies:
Foster continuous learning and development
When the management prioritizes the team’s upskilling and development, they also help the people to gauge their role advancement, and how they fit in the bigger company picture moving forward.
Restructure your employees’ KPIs for productivity
Since the work-from-home scheme was implemented, there have also been changes when it comes to measuring key performance indicators (KPIs).
Traditional metrics are expected to be modified to fit in the current design of the working environment we have today — productivity should be gauged in a more holistic sense, and how their performance impacts the service delivery lines of the company.
Offer a clear path for career advancement
Employees who do not advance in their roles have higher chances of leaving the company for another job, a study published in the Harvard Business Review reveals.
The same study suggests a practical solution to this concern — Provide clear paths for employees.
This highlights the importance of having an established policy that lists down the criteria for promotion. The policy must be transparent, fair, and accessible to all to give everyone the opportunity to progress in their respective roles.
By doing these things, you can help your employees in boosting their career opportunities within your firm. At the same time, it minimizes career stagnation which can lead to employee turnover.
Keep flexible work arrangements
The work-from-home approach is here to stay. And employees are not taking no for an answer. Meeting your employees in the middle ground is your lifeline in competing with the ongoing global shortage of talent.
Shifting to hybrid working arrangements can provide your firm with a more adaptable business structure. When adversities strike, you know your operations will continue to run as usual, with minimal to no disruptions.
Without the right people, growth will move slowly for your firm. Your entire operations, including its growth and success, revolve around the collective efforts and capabilities of your people.
Fast-track your growth by attracting and retaining top talent and see the difference it can make on your bottom line.
Expand your firm’s capacity with the right support team
Do you find your firm in full capacity? Stretching them further with little demands could easily shift them into a state of overload. If your firm is expanding, how do you make sure you tap the right people?
This is where we come in. D&V Philippines has around 1,000 finance and accounting experts onboard that can help you overcome your staffing problems.
You can download our whitepaper, Finding the Right Talents: D&V Philippines’ Solutions to Modern Accounting Firms, to know how we can be the right back-office support for your firm. You can also talk to our account managers at your most convenient time.
This article was first published on 26 July 2021 and updated on 12 September 2023 for comprehensiveness and relevancy. Edited by: Mary Milorrie Campos