The Talent War in Public Accounting


This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the jobs report for March 2020. Unemployment sharply rose to a shocking 4.4%.These are difficult times for many Americans, but there is one notable industry where the unemployment rate is not only low, but good workers are still in high demand: Accounting

In Q4 of 2019 the BLS estimated the unemployment rate in the accounting industry to be 1.4%, and despite the current climate, Statista reported a mere 1.8% unemployment rate for accountants in March 2020. Both of these numbers are far below the natural rate of unemployment, meaning for many accounting firms attracting and retaining talent is a difficult and costly endeavor. I’ve spent countless hours consulting with Partners, COOs, and Directors on how they can maximize employee utility and fulfillment. Many of my clients have actually had to resort to turning away new opportunities because the cost of losing staff from burnout outweighs the benefit of bringing in new business. They’re also concerned about inundating their current staff with unengaging work that doesn't develop their skills and incentivize them to grow within the firm.

So if skilled accountants are hard to find and leaders want to reduce turnover, how do they manage to grow their business and maintain talent? The clear answer is to leverage technology and external resources. I once worked with a newly minted COO at a ranked accounting firm, who was facing many challenges, one of which was staff turnover and recruitment. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that their headquarters are not in a major metropolitan area. Failure to solve her staffing and capacity issues would undoubtedly mean lost clients and lost revenue. Fortunately, after seeing a blog post about Taxfyle, she reached out and we began evaluating how to solve these problems. After examining their book of business and determining which tax returns would yield the highest ROI through Taxfyle’s onshoring platform, we partnered up and supplemented their current staff with our gig economy. The result? They were able to retain more clients, and their staff was freed up to focus on more complex work and client interaction.

What about those firms that are fortunate enough to be fully staffed but are still growth minded? How can they avoid the time and money expended in hiring, training, and potentially dealing with a recruiting agency? The expense of keeping a warm body in a chair that doesn't produce can have a severe impact on the bottom line, so how can they maximize employee utility? The answer is also through technology. Please forgive my shameless self promotion again, but the perfect example is one of my company’s major clients' usage of our work routing platform, Worklayer. For those of you who sell SaaS solutions, nothing is more gratifying than seeing your client use the tool as designed and maximize their ROI on the investment. This particular client implemented and deployed nearly flawlessly, resulting in high employee adoption rates. The result of that successful implementation was $17 million in savings in 2019. They maximized Worklayer’s ability to identify employee skills and capacity, assign work accordingly, and leveraged the real time analytics to make decisions on the spot. Employee productivity was so high, they all but stopped non-essential hiring.

So if you’re wondering, how can my firm win the talent war? One answer is to leverage technology that maximizes your employee utility and look to resources that augment your staff with the talent your firm lacks. Accounting is such a competitive industry that firms must utilize every competitive advantage available to stay on top.

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