Staffing Trends in the Tax and Accounting Profession

Practice Management staff in a tax and accounting firm

There seems to be an emerging trend in the tax and accounting profession that shows firms are pinched to find talent and retain their existing staff.

  • The AICPA published the 2017 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues survey stating that one of the top five issues among accounting firms is hiring and retaining talent.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also noted that accounting jobs are expected to grow 10 percent between 2016 and 2026 — higher than the average of all occupations. Demand for accounting professionals is increasing due to the growing economy and globalization.
  • As a result, Robert Half reported the growing demand for accounting professionals is giving way to better benefit packages. In a recent study, 62 percent of accounting positions offered flexible schedules, 34 percent offered telecommuting options and 17 percent offered a compressed work schedule, all in addition to competitive pay packages.

To get better understanding of the environment, we surveyed 524 accountants to gauge how they view hiring and staffing needs. Here’s what we learned:

  • “Finding qualified staff” and “retaining qualified staff” are the most important personnel and staffing issues (reaffirming other sourced information). Other important issues include:
    • Training staff.
    • Managing work/life balance initiatives – for example, flexible and virtual work arrangements.
    • Establishing accountability for performance at the staff level.
  • The top sources for recruiting new talent are referrals, professional networks, social platforms such as LinkedIn, and jobs sites such as Indeed or CareerBuilder.
  • The top three most valued skills are:
    • Breadth of experience – a wide array of experience across different areas.
    • Years of experience – how long they’ve worked in the field.
    • Soft skills – how well they interact with clients.
  • Surprisingly, the average desired experience for new candidates is only three years.

“Accountants are a very close proxy to physicians,” said Shawn McMorrough, lead research manager of Intuit® ProConnect™. “Both stake their reputations and success on being viewed as trusted advisors with exceptional bedside manner. Staff members are their ambassadors, and hiring good ones versus not so good ones can be difference makers, both short and long term. As the new generational workforce continues to emerge, we will see more candidates evaluating more than just compensation and benefits. Adapting to this trend will likely ensure accountants will be able to continue attracting top talent for their firms.”

We narrowed our insights to three key takeaways from this study. I hope these help you attract top tax and accounting talent for your own firm, or help you focus on how you can refine your skillset to make you top talent in the tax and accounting job market:

  1. The growing acceptance for telecommuting will give firms greater access to a broader pool of talent but require new models in communicating and sharing work.
  2. Globalization will require accountants to become more educated in international accounting policies and regulations.
  3. Even with the advance of technology, soft skills remain one the most sought-after attributes for new hires in accounting firms.
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