In the past two years, more than 300 thousand accountants and auditors have left their jobs. And it’s not just retiring Baby Boomers. According to SHRM, young and mid-career accountants are also leaving the profession in droves, creating a steady and alarming accounting workforce gap.
If there were a pipeline of young talent coming through the college ranks, the prospects for the industry wouldn’t be so grim. But that’s not the case. Since 2012, there has been a 9 percent decrease in accounting graduates.
The impact of this accounting workforce gap is significant. Organizations are constantly tasked to comply with expanding and ever-changing regulations, build strategy around financial analysis, manage risk, and provide timely, accurate financial reporting. Fewer workers means stretched responsibilities, longer hours, decreased productivity, and increased errors—in addition to employee dissatisfaction.
Is the competition for talent winnable?
Many companies look at this as a culture issue. Sure, there’s a worker shortage, but people want to work here. Or we recognize this is a problem, and the way to address it is to improve our culture and become an employer of choice. So, workforce planning initiatives take the form of:
- Broadening the workforce. Educate people who have the necessary skills and a willingness to learn. Look for more diverse candidates.
- Outsourcing for talent. Find consultants to take on projects and execute on specific deliverables.
- Expanding staffing. Bring in specialists who have a network of candidates ready to fill jobs.
- Focusing on retention. Introduce more professional development opportunities and financial and work-life balance incentives.
All of these are worthwhile and effective. In fact, Garnet River does a large amount of business providing such staffing services to clients across a range of industries. However, the question must be asked: is winning some matches on the recruitment and retention court sustainable?
The answer may make you uncomfortable. Because winning on recruitment and retention doesn’t address the accounting workforce gap. Eventually, your organization is going to be asking too few people to do too much work, and no amount of culture can keep them from burning out, becoming less productive, and growing dissatisfied.
Technology + Talent = Winning
The average worker has a love-hate relationship with technology. It helps them do their job, but it also gets in the way of them doing their job well. It is a tool, not a resource—a program, not a partner.
What if we change the way we look at and interact with technology? What if we tasked it with “doing” work, as opposed to something that helps us do our work? What impact might that have on both supporting your existing workers and the need to hire new ones?
In the accounting industry, the impact can be huge. For those who have embraced this approach, it already is, with the following benefits.
- Improved efficiency. Software solutions, such as cloud-based accounting systems, have automated processes like invoicing, expense tracking, and financial reporting. By automating routine tasks, accounting firms can enhance operational efficiency, reduce errors, and free up valuable time for finance teams to focus on strategic initiatives and value-added activities.
- Expanded accessibility. Technology facilitates seamless data integration across various sources and systems. This allows for collating financial information in real-time, which ensures accurate data synchronization, greater data accessibility, and informed decision making.
- Enhanced security and compliance. Robust security measures and encryption protocols can protect sensitive financial information from unauthorized access or breaches. Moreover, automated software solutions often come with built-in compliance features, helping businesses adhere to industry-specific regulations and international accounting standards.
- Advanced analytics and reporting. Powerful data analysis tools and dashboards provide valuable insights into financial performance, as well as the visibility to identify trends and make data-driven decisions. These technology powered solutions deliver comprehensive financial reports, customized management dashboards, and key performance indicators (KPIs), empowering organizations to monitor their financial health, identify opportunities for cost savings, and optimize their overall financial strategy.
- Greater scalability and flexibility. Cloud-based platforms allow for easy scalability, accommodating growth without the need for significant infrastructure investments. Additionally, these solutions can be tailored to meet the unique requirements of each organization, ensuring a customized approach to financial management. By leveraging technology, businesses can easily adapt to changing market dynamics, enter new markets, or expand operations.
When done right, technology is a resource that maximizes—not diminishes—the value of a worker. It’s not an either/or proposition but a win-win. Technology can do “X” and “Y” so Sally in Accounting can do “Z.” And given the accounting workforce gap, digital assistants (and assistance) can go a long way to maintaining and even improving operations.
For businesses that understand the role technology needs to play in their business but want to maintain their focus on their core competencies, outsourced solutions are the way to go. Just as technology has changed the way we work, new tools and advancements have changed where the work needs to be done and how partners collaborate. Service providers, who can scale and provide expertise when and where needed, enable businesses to do what they do best while maintaining control over and leveraging the benefits of their technology enhanced financial operations.