The Future of Work

Overcoming Accounting Recruitment & Retention Challenges: How to Beat The Great Resignation

Jan 03, 2022 | By Michael Whitmire

the great resignation in accounting

Over the last several months, there's a good chance you've heard the media-coined term "The Great Resignation." In 2021, an average of 3.8 million Americans quit their jobs each month, with a pronounced spike occurring in September when 4.4 million left

While many reasons drive people to quit their jobs, it's apparent that the last 24 months spurred workers to reevaluate their work and what really matters most to them. While it's unclear whether this rate is sustainable — I mean, you gotta pay the bills, right? — the quitting trend of 2021 should be a warning to employers that their employees are no longer willing to clock in each day to get that paper: They expect more.

For accounting teams, in particular, this trend shouldn't come as a surprise. For decades, accountants were expected to do more with less, suffering through brutal busy seasons, regularly sacrificing work-life balance, and soldering on without the necessary resources to help them succeed. But with fewer and fewer CPAs entering the workforce, more opting to leave the profession or retire, and greater respect for Accounting's role in driving business, leaders should be brainstorming how to mitigate talent retention issues and chart a plan for recruiting — and keeping — young accountants around.

The Great Resignation: Continuing Recruiting & Retention Issues in Accounting

As reported in Accounting Today, the hiring of accounting graduates by CPA firms and corporate America has declined nearly 30% in recent years. With fewer job prospects, long hours, and a lack of strategic career opportunities pervasive in the space, accounting has become a less attractive major for many college students.

At the same time, the profession is at risk of losing experienced talent. According to an ICAEW report, nearly one-third of accountants (30.4%) suffer from mental health issues, with more than half (51%) admitting that depression and anxiety leave them dreading going to work. Coincidences, right? Nope: 43.5% of accountants believe their job is a pivotal contributor to their poor mental health. Ouch.

Burnout, job dissatisfaction, and recruitment struggles were serious problems before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last 18 months have exacerbated the issue. Many employees have opted to quit and find new jobs or retire rather than return to the office for reasons ranging from how employers treated them during the pandemic to reprioritizing their lives and career paths.

What's more, the people most likely to leave are the ones who are hardest to replace. According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, resignation rates are highest amongst mid-career employees. Turnover of employees between the ages of 30 and 45 increased more than 20% between 2020 and 2021.

In the past, businesses may have boosted recruitment efforts to overcome a talent shortage. Still, the job market is tight for anyone looking to hire and will likely get significantly tighter.

People, Process & Technology

Technology — or the lacktherof — can either be a source of problems in the accounting industry or an opportunity. 

Automation continues to impact accounting, and while many organizations understand the need to automate, many have yet to implement these technologies — often due to a fear of the unknown or simply not knowing where to start. This delay can wind up costing the organization for years to come in hindered growth and high turnover.

When people don't have access to the systems, tools, and support they need to perform their jobs well, they either don't achieve their goals or achieve their goals at the expense of their mental well-being and work-life balance. These situations are preventable when you provide people with the technology and processes they need to get the job done.

Overcoming the Fear of Automation

It's nearly impossible to talk about automation in accounting without bringing up fears of "robo-accountants" taking jobs. But time after time, we see organizations that embrace technology and automation don't make their accounting team redundant. Instead, automation provides an opportunity to elevate employees' roles and deploy their skills in ways that leverage their strategic thinking capabilities — areas that artificial intelligence and automation aren't able to duplicate.

No one wants to do manual data entry or classify transactions all day long. These mundane tasks are low-value, repetitive, and offer little job satisfaction or growth opportunities. The people stuck in these roles barely have enough time in the day to get the tasks they need to do done, let alone higher-value tasks like analyzing data and assisting with the decision-making process. As a result, they get bored with their positions, hit the burnout wall. Once they've reached that point, it's not long before they start thinking about hopping on the resignation trend.

Elevating the Accounting Team

Suppose your team is bogged down by manual work, outdated technology, and inefficient processes. In that case, it's difficult (if not impossible) for them to find the capacity to elevate their roles, think strategically, or offer more value to the company.

Accounting workflow automation solutions help organizations drive accounting operational excellence and efficiency through intelligent workflow automation. FloQast was built with the end-user in mind: The accountant who's eager to move beyond account reconciliations and journal entries while also achieving work-life balance. A controller's responsibilities may never lessen, but with an automation tool in place, streamlined processes, and a shorter closing timeline, they can work knowing that the risk of error is low and regain valuable headspace with less stress.

When tedious tasks are automated, accounting departments can become a more modern, strategic function. Job opportunities in companies that leverage processes and technology to improve the lives of their employees are significantly more appealing to job candidates. Think about it: Would you rather join a team that takes 18 business days to close the books relying on outdated spreadsheets and hand-written notes, or one with the resources in place to accomplish the close in five business days with few, if any, interruptions. Simply put: It's a recruitment and retention imperative.

As you ready your organization for the future, don't neglect to think about how you can align people, processes, and technology. With FloQast, you can leverage all three and counter recruitment and resignation trends. When you do that, you can become the employer of choice for talent in the accounting space looking to reinvent their careers in the Great Resignation trend. 

Michael Whitmire
As CEO and Co-Founder, Mike leads FloQast’s corporate vision, strategy and execution. Prior to founding FloQast, he managed the accounting team at Cornerstone OnDemand, a SaaS company in Los Angeles. He began his career at Ernst & Young in Los Angeles where he performed public company audits, opening balance sheet audits, cash to GAAP restatements, compilation reviews, international reporting, merger and acquisition audits and SOX compliance testing. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Syracuse University.

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