Technology will have an important role to play in solving the skills shortage in the accountancy sector, new research reveals, as younger talent is more drawn to opportunities for meaningful work.
With application numbers reaching concerningly low levels in 2022, the new survey of 2,000 accountants shows that 92 per cent have experienced hiring challenges in the past year, with one of the biggest challenges when attracting talent being fewer graduates coming into the profession (44% agree).
But 86 per cent believe having financial technologies in place that allow more opportunities for engaging work can help attract younger talent – making this a key route to plugging the current skills shortage.
It comes as three quarters (76%) of the accountants surveyed by Intuit QuickBooks agree that in their experience, use of technology is making the time spent with clients more meaningful, particularly as 75 per cent report having more free time for face-to-face meetings. In addition, 76% say technology frees up time to focus on being a better business partner to clients.
As well as automating simpler routine tasks, technology can be used to gain real-time insights that deepen accountants’ understanding of their client’s business and therefore helps them provide better advice (48% surveyed agree). As a result, clients are more trusting in the advice they provide (41% agree), and their role is elevated to that of strategic business partner – something that is more attractive to prospective hires.
Peter Greene, Owner of PGR Accountants, says: “We have experienced hiring challenges for some time now and have been finding it difficult to compete against the larger accounting firms to attract newly qualified accountants in particular. As a small practice, we realised we had to differentiate from the competition if we are to attract the best talent. One way we’ve done this is by offering qualified staff a four day working week. This has worked really well for both the staff and the practice, and we are seeing happier staff with no reduction in productivity.”
“We’re also keen to attract the best of the new generation of accountants by minimising the routine tasks that in the old days they would primarily have been responsible for. We use digital tools such as QuickBooks to efficiently complete everyday compliance tasks, which saves hours of time for our employees, meaning they can focus more on engaging client work. By efficiently completing repetitive admin tasks using digital tools, we can all focus on helping and advising our clients on key business decisions and tax planning opportunities, which has the double benefit of keeping our employees engaged and our clients happy.”
Opportunities for upskilling and development helps retain accountancy staff
Technology also has a key role to play in the retention of existing staff, with a third (33%) noting a direct positive impact on employee retention/acquisition and 30% saying tech has resulted in happier and more engaged staff.
When it comes to retaining talent, aside from salary and working flexibility, opportunities to advance professionally (36%) and regular training and skills development (33%) are seen as most effective. This aligns with the fact that amongst those surveyed, professional development was voted as what they would most like to dedicate more time to with the aid of technology (45% agree).
Implementing new tech creates clear opportunities for upskilling and new growth paths – ultimately encouraging employees to stay motivated in their careers.
Development opportunities also stem from a broader variety of services being offered – 43% of those surveyed agree technology has helped them to provide new services offerings in the past two years.
QuickBooks Vice President Jolawn Victor, said: “Accountants that add value are never more in demand from businesses. Drawing out top talent from the graduate pool to provide best-in-class services is therefore key for the accountant community.
“What’s clear from the data is that budding accountants are looking for interesting, engaging work. Firms that invest in technology to automate routine tasks will free up their people to perform client-facing, value-add advisory. Those are the firms that will win the talent.
“Technology is no longer one component of a business, it’s a foundational layer for all businesses, accountancy included. Leveraging technology, the insights it can provide as well as the time it gives you back, can power better decisions, peace of mind and growth and prosperity for accountants and their clients alike”.