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Recruitment challenges in the evolving accounting landscape

In the realm of the traditional accounting business, a seismic shift is underway. 

At a recent networking event, I met a fully qualified accountant in their 20s who had made a move into sales for an accounting software firm. When asked why, having spent a significant amount of time and investment in their qualifications, the response was: “I need something more than just crunching numbers and compliance. Sales gives me the ‘people interaction’ I crave and the ability to work in an incredibly fluid and dynamic environment – I don’t want to be confined to the stereotype of a traditional accountant.” 

This person brought home the fact that the traditional image of the profession is changing, giving way to a vibrant new environment influenced by technology and evolving workforce expectations. This conversation highlighted a problem we hear about a lot when talking with Accounting business owners; it’s more challenging than ever to recruit accountants and keeping them is becoming increasingly difficult. With a plethora of career options available, accounting firms must redefine their value proposition to appeal to the aspirations of today’s graduates.

This requires shaking things up to provide an invigorating work environment that challenges these highly skilled individuals to embrace technology and new methods of accounting practices that could lead to more fulfilling career paths. For the accounting firm, three key considerations could help end their recruitment and retention woes.

1. Job satisfaction is a powerful recruitment tool. Beyond competitive salaries and benefits, graduates seek roles that offer intellectual stimulation, growth opportunities, and a sense of purpose. Firms that prioritise creating a culture of innovation, mentorship, continuous learning and more face time with clients are better positioned to win over and retain top talent.

2. As technology sweeps through the corridors of every profession it is the time to grab hold of these exciting new digital changes and grow with the advancements, rather than being left behind. Traditionally associated with number-crunching and compliance tasks, the accounting profession is also at the cusp of technological advancements which will revolutionise the profession, requiring accountants to adapt and evolve. With this new landscape, it is no wonder that the newest graduates are demanding much more than the traditional entry and intermediate-level roles offered by old-school accounting firms. Instead, they seek purpose-driven, tech-savvy positions that offer growth and fulfilment. In the pursuit of recruitment success, embracing technology is non-negotiable. Graduates entering the workforce are not just proficient in technology; they expect it to be an integral part of their professional roles. Firms that leverage automation, cloud-based solutions and advisory support tools not only enhance efficiency but also appeal to this generation of candidates who are eager to work in customer facing roles utilising cutting edge tools.

3. One of the key strategies to address recruitment challenges is redefining the traditional role of accountants. While compliance remains essential, and is often the ‘bread and butter’ of a practice, the emphasis should be  shifting towards advisory services. Accountants are increasingly being called upon to provide strategic insights, leveraging their expertise to drive business decisions and foster growth. This is the fun stuff! This evolution towards advisory services not only enhances the role of the accountant but also positions the accounting firm as one that is dynamic and forward-thinking.  As a nation built on the “Number 8 Wire” mentality and with SMEs accounting for 97% of NZ businesses, contributing to 28% of employment and 25% of the nations GDP1, it is our privilege to support and help grow this vital backbone of the NZ economy. 

Recruitment in the accounting sector is no longer business as usual. Firms are facing unprecedented challenges in attracting and retaining top talent amidst a rapidly evolving profession and discerning workforce. However, by embracing technology, redefining roles to include and prioritise advisory services, and fostering a culture of innovation and job satisfaction, firms can navigate these challenges and emerge as employers of choice. In doing so, they not only address recruitment hurdles but also pave the way for a future where accountants play a pivotal role in shaping the strategic direction of organisations.

1 Report from KPMG

Author: Beth Aldridge

A client service superstar with over 30 years of building relationships and maintaining client satisfaction.


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