How software can help with the recruitment crisis – and open up new areas for your accountancy practice
The skills shortage is one of the most talked-about subjects in accountancy practices.
Earlier this year, the recruiter Hays found 62% of accountancy and finance employers planning to recruit, although 90% had faced a lack of suitable candidates in 2022.
In such an imbalanced market, practices which present new recruits with out of date technology certainly risk putting off candidates – as well as closing off profitable new avenues for the business.
It’s not just Generation Z
There has been a lot of discussion about how to attract Generation Z into the accountancy industry. This generation – born in the late 1990s or early 21st century – grew up with fast internet access and many cannot remember a time before smartphones.
But Matt Lewns, former Financial Outsourcing Manager at Mazars and now Partner Manager at iplicit, says the challenge is wider than appealing to ‘Gen Z’.
He says firms must demonstrate to school leavers, graduates and qualified accountants alike that their work goes beyond the old-fashioned “pinstriped suit” stereotype of the job.
Software can do in moments the kind of data entry that bookkeepers or accountants used to spend hours on. That frees up staff to devote time to higher-value – and more interesting – activity.
Matt says firms which embrace the potential of technology are more likely to have a progressive approach to the whole profession.
“You don’t become an early adopter by accident,” he says.
These firms are early adopters by nature and it’s reflected in everything they do – technology, staff and culture. They have that forward-thinking approach that’s reflected throughout the organisation.
Making accountancy more exciting
With software taking on more of the work that accountants did in years gone by, practices can focus on activity that’s more rewarding for the individual as well as being of higher value for the business.
These are some of the ways in which the accountancy practice of the future is likely to be different:
- A practice’s advisory offering will be increasingly important, providing a rewarding new avenue of work for accountants who undergo further training.
- Software will be a specialism in itself. An accountant can become a digital adviser, suggesting solutions to clients who need to modernise their finance function. That adviser can recommend systems for accounting, customer relations management, payroll and more.
- The increasing availability of data will lead to more work for specialists in interpreting it. A practice’s data analysts can pull the information together, helping the client by comparing the figures to industry benchmarks, examining trends and flagging up which parts of a business are underperforming or overperforming.
Paradoxically, more sophisticated tech is likely to make interpersonal skills more important. That’s because when digital capability is taken for granted, practices will be distinguished by the quality of their human relationships.
“In the 1980s and 90s, accountancy was all about relationships – back in the era when accountants didn’t advertise so building those relationships was vital,” says Matt.
Then in the 1990s and 2000s it became all about compliance and in the 2000s and 2010s it was digital transformation.
“Now we’re back to relationships as the driver, because you won’t be able to distinguish yourself any more just by being digital.
At a time when digital technology is transforming what practices can do, practices will have to keep abreast of technology to thrive and attract the right talent.
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