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Addressing the recruitment problems in accountancy

With the regulatory shift from the UK GAAP reporting standards to the new FRS reporting regime – and the shock Brexit decision – the accounting industry has been subjected to some unprecedented and heavy-hitting changes. Our research shows that 73% of accountancy firms confirmed the decision had an effect on their business immediately, whether this was a pay freeze, hiring freeze or implementing redundancies.

In the midst of these changes, long-standing issues surrounding recruitment problems in accountancy have come to light. Some of the most pressing concerns identified refer to complications regarding staff retention, poor working practices, staff satisfaction, and a worryingly large (and growing) generation gap.

As the accounting industry moves ever closer to a completely digital world, accountancy firms need to take the time to not only consider their existing processes – but also how they might influence and attract new and prospective employees.

According to our recent market research, on average office workers spend over three working weeks per year searching through paper documents. For fresh employees working at accountancy firms using an archaic, manual data archiving process, this can quickly become a tedious, frustrating and inefficient use of their time and skills. In today’s day and age, with the technology available, manually sifting through documents should not be necessary.  

It should come as no surprise then that one of the key complaints uncovered from our research report is that (according to 24% of respondents) there is an over reliance on manual processes and a lack of modern technology to improve productivity. As a result, this is negatively impacting staff productivity, staff satisfaction and ultimately – staff retention.

Furthermore, when specifically looking at accountants, our research uncovered that the use of good operational software technology is among the top five priorities when choosing to work for a new employer. Evidently, the importance of modern technology in the accounting process cannot be understated.

Addressing the generational gap in Accounting

To an extent however, the reliance on older processes is directly linked to the differing perspectives and attitudes of the generations within the accounting industry. Our research highlights that there are growing signs of a generation gap – with 28% of 18-24 year olds finding that dealing with inefficient or unskilled partners is a bugbear, compared with 11% of those aged over 60, who clearly don’t see this is an issue.

This disparity is highlighted further by uncovering the variance in career goals across the age demographic. While those aged between 18 and 40 are focused on future career growth/opportunities and flexible/mobile working, those past 40 are looking at more personal concerns such as commutable distance and annual leave entitlements.

In order to address this disparity, accountancy firms need ensure that the processes enable not only their younger employees to work efficiency and remotely, but also facilitate the framework for their business’ operations to grow and improve overall staff satisfaction.

On that basis, investment in technology, employee benefit schemes and regular personnel training would provide the necessary foundations for a comprehensive office culture. In addition, these schemes would help to attract new candidates by providing younger employees with the career progression and tools they need; while still retaining experienced older employees by giving them the support and recognition they deserve.

To find out more about the increasing generation gap in the accounting industry, click here to download the full research report.