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How has cloud accounting affected the way firms recruit?

16th Aug 2019
Staff writer AccountingWEB
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Cloud accounting is changing the way accountancy practices think about recruitment. With technology making data entry easier than ever, practices are now looking for sociable candidates who can maintain strong client relationships. 

Traditionally, practices recruited based on the technical ability or qualifications of a candidate. While practical skills and training are still valued today, in the age of cloud accounting many firms are increasingly likely to hire sociable, spontaneous and fun-loving candidates.

“Some would call this the yellow personality type,” says Jessica Pillow, managing director of Pillow May Accountancy. “Yellow types are sociable and enjoy living life in the moment with enthusiasm and optimism. They are often perfectionists, too.

“At Pillow May we love this mindset, because today’s cloud-based bookkeeping is defined by being approachable and proactive about making the most of today’s tools and all they can do.”

As with any accountant worth their salt, an eye for detail matters to Pillow. But with today’s cloud tools, delivering the actual bookkeeping is easier than ever. This means the more pressing challenge for ambitious firms lies in maintaining good contact with clients, supporting and encouraging them in the right way at every step.

Peter Edwards, a partner at Warr & Co Chartered Accountants, is another who says enthusiasm and warmth matters, as well as every element that goes into delivering good communication. 

“Staff recruitment for us is focused more than ever on this question of communication,” he says. “One problem we sometimes encounter with candidates is their written English not being good enough. When we recruit, we explore this by asking candidates to compose a reply to an email. It’s essential they do this well, as we need total confidence that our staff can write elegantly and communicate confidently across the board.”

And how about previous experience using cloud packages? Is that essential or just a nice-to-have?  

“Having an understanding of a cloud package, while it helps, isn’t a deal-breaker,” says Edwards. “We can train up promising recruits quite easily, because by design today’s tools are easy to learn.”

It’s a point that others, like Sarah Solo, head accountant at PaperRocket Accounting, also emphasise. 

“It’s fair to say the job has changed considerably. We need someone qualified, of course, but first and foremost we need our people to be approachable, professional and friendly,” said Solo.

“Ideally if our new starts are familiar with cloud tools like FreeAgent that is good, but if there’s a gap the software is easy to learn and we can train them up.”

Michaela Rees, founder of Sterling Rees Tax & Accountancy, also makes the point that personality and promise play an increasingly large role in the recruitment process.

“More and more we now recruit on potential – and on attitude and enthusiasm,” said Rees. “Some candidates are lacking in accountancy skills but we find that over time it’s technology and understanding that becomes more important to us. You cannot teach someone about client interactions or encourage them to gush about the technology and how to use it, so you tend to pick up on – and recruit – those individuals who instinctively show that aptitude.”

“The other side of having an interest in technology today is being engaged with where it’s headed,'' adds Rees.

“For example, we are interested in blockchain and how it will affect accountants in the future. There’s certainly potential for blockchain to be a disruptor. We will be recruiting again in the near future - an individual’s enthusiasm for blockchain and all it might mean is something that would excite us.”

Find out more about how to reinvigorate your practice with more examples from successful firms in our new guide Accounting for the Future - 5 firms share their strategies.