By PJ Bishop, Vice-President for Partners, Accountants & Alliances for Africa & Middle East at Sage
The shortage of finance skills is emerging as a significant challenge for accounting practices as they seek to grow their businesses.
This challenge is compounded by the volume of change that the accounting profession has experienced over the past few years – including the need to integrate new technologies such as artificial intelligence into the business, the complexity of managing a multi-generational workforce, and customers looking to their accounting practices to provide strategic consulting.
Here are three essential steps that accounting firms can take to attract and retain the industry’s top talent:
- Acknowledge industry changes with candidates
The world of accounting has changed, and skills such as technology literacy, project management, and consulting are as crucial as being able to crunch the numbers. Accounting professionals are expected to serve as financial resources and trusted strategic advisors. Acknowledging this reality can help an accounting firm attract ambitious talent.
When recruiting, it makes sense to openly talk to candidates about how the practice is positioning itself for the future by building new competencies. In discussing how tech innovation has transformed the industry with candidates, accounting firms will demonstrate they have adopted a tech-ready mindset to attract forward-looking, digital-first talent.
- Define success and equip staff with tools
As new skills like presentation, project management, and relationship building gain prominence in accounting, leading accounting practices will focus on helping their teams fit into the bigger picture of an evolving industry. By providing a clear career development path that includes training and support to develop skills, practices can become more attractive places to work.
Accounting practices should also ensure employees have access to the tools they need to succeed. For example, with technology adoption taking place faster than ever before, accountants of the future will be more comfortable with technology than their predecessors. Upskilling colleagues to feel confident with new technologies like artificial intelligence and bots is a worthwhile investment.
In the hiring process, hiring managers need to be particularly mindful of the varied skillsets needed to succeed and consider looking outside of the standard talent pool – beyond traditional accountancy qualifications – to build a firm with the right mix of expertise. Ultimately, if organisations don’t set their employees up for success and outline precisely how they can progress, they risk losing them to firms that do.
- Ensure your workforce feels valued, engaged, and motivated
In addition to providing career paths and the right tools, successful accounting practices focus on creating a culture where people feel valued and engaged. This may include having a strategy and vision that provides a north star for the team to follow and provides a transparent view of how each employee can advance their career. In the work-from-home era, flexibility is becoming increasingly important to many professionals.
Sage is the global market leader for technology that provides small and medium businesses with the visibility, flexibility and efficiency to manage finances, operations and people. With our partners, Sage is trusted by millions of customers worldwide to deliver the best cloud technology and support. Our years of experience mean that our colleagues and partners understand how to serve our customers and communities through the good, and more challenging times. We are here to help, with practical advice, solutions, expertise and insight.