Accounting

Technology: The New Key to Talent Retention

About the Author: Katie Thomas, CPA, is a content creator, 2021 & 2022 40 under 40 CPA Practice Advisor recipient, Top 50 Women in Accounting recipient, and the owner of Leaders Online, where they help accounting professionals increase their impact, influence, and income through thought leadership and digital marketing. Feel free to visit Leaders Online or connect with her on LinkedIn to get in touch with Katie.

Retaining talent must be at the top of every organization’s list, especially when it comes to their accountants. According to recent research performed by FloQast and the University of Georgia, a staggering 53% of accountants aren’t sure they’ll stay with their current company, and of those, the majority aren’t even sure they will still be accountants in 2-3 years. The risk of losing more than half of your internal team should be enough to drive change.

As a leader, it’s likely you are unaware of which employees are dissatisfied in their current roles, as only approximately 11% of accountants express their discontent when they feel their work conditions are not as fulfilling as they would like. Nearly half of them (48%) will try to find ways to address the situation independently, while 41% will just leave. 

To make matters more concerning, there’s a nationwide decline in accounting program enrollments. In the United States alone, there’s a 17% decrease in the number of students enrolled in accounting degree programs. This reduction is a serious risk to all accounting departments. A smaller talent pool makes it increasingly difficult to attract and retain the cream of the crop.

So, what’s the solution? 

Well, a lot has to be done. There have been many anecdotal suggestions from pay and benefits to culture and public image to technology and exposure to growth opportunities. However, none of these really look at the data. In this article, I’ll explore what the data tells us accountants need in order to stay and how leaders and managers should shift their mindset around talent retention in accounting. In a future article, I’ll explore how you can attract talent. 

What Accountants Want

The data implies a “Great Recalibration.” Accountants are rethinking the demands of their work, and they desire a renewed sense of professional fulfillment. 

According to the report, over 60% of accountants are struggling with work-life balance and managing their workload, while also aspiring to take on a more strategic role in their organization. The combination of these challenges and aspiring to do more is a crucial contributor to burnout. 

And when there’s burnout, this leads to a loss of fulfillment from the job and, for some, the profession altogether. 

When it comes to fulfillment, fulfillment exists for accountants when they: 

  • Believe that their work is meaningful and important,
  • Feel that it would take a lot to cause them to leave the profession, and 
  • Share with others how much they love what they do.

Fulfillment not only fuels their passion for their job but is also a major factor in deciding whether they stay with their current employer. High fulfillment results in accountants being five times more likely to stay with their employer than when fulfillment is average and over twelve times more likely than those with low fulfillment. Employers must be proactive in identifying and eliminating hurdles to restore and sustain accountants’ job fulfillment.

My interactions with accountants line up with FloQast’s research; accountants want more fulfilling roles. Take, for example, this LinkedIn message I received from an accountant with 15 years of industry experience in May of 2023:

Hi Katie! Have you run across any exceptional companies that are fully remote? I’m quietly looking for a more fulfilling role than my current position.

When it comes to fulfilling roles, as discussed above, accountants desire a better work-life balance and a job that enables them to move into a more strategic role. Technology can play a significant role in enabling them to achieve both.. If you’re not at the forefront of technology and finding ways to make your employees feel fulfilled, you risk:

  • Losing employees
  • Difficulty filling skills gaps
  • Allowing competitors to secure top-tier talent

In response to these challenges, 2023 should be the year your organization makes a push to improve technology. Doing so will help position your organization for future triumphs, while avoiding the brunt of the Great Resignation and the Great Recalibration.

Why Technology Matters for Talent Retention in 2023

For accountants, the right technology can mean the difference between job satisfaction and feeling burnt out. 

Why?

  • Integrated technology solutions – ones that are designed with the accountant’s needs in mind – make life easier, improve workflow, and free up time for accountants. As a result, they are able to focus on more strategic work, without compromising their work-life balance.
  • Routine or even adversarial tech systems make an accountant’s job more frustrating, cumbersome, and prevent them from focusing on fulfilling work. 

Today, data is showing that technology is acting as a powerful undercurrent that is determining an accountant’s job satisfaction. Many accountants have realized how important technology is to their career with at least 80% saying it is very likely something they will ask about during job interviews (preview of our next blog post). Instead of helping companies grow, they’re stuck doing data entry or other less valuable, less fulfilling work. The right solution, on the other hand, will enhance an accountant’s job satisfaction and make them more likely to stick around. 

So, if technology is the key to employee retention, what should employers be looking for in terms of systems and solutions?

What Accountants Seek in Tech Stacks

Accountants want an integrated technology solution that is built for accountants.

FloQast, for example, empowers accountants with:

  • Workflow solutions that leverage automation, provide greater control over accounting operations, and optimize workflows across every function
  • Integrations with the tools they’re already using on a daily basis, such as spreadsheets, Google Drive, email, Slack, ERPs and more.

And it does it all from one platform, so accountants can get things done not only faster, but they can also get things done with greater precision.

Solutions that provide a mixture of workflows, collaboration tools, and real-time insights allow accountants to take a streamlined approach to their work and automate many of the mundane, repetitive tasks. This frees up their time to focus on what matters most – both in their professional life and personal life. 

When the day doesn’t feel like an uphill battle or a fight against technology, accountants achieve a greater sense of fulfillment and enjoy a better work-life balance.

Where Can Your Organization Go From Here?

You recognize the importance technology plays in ensuring your accountants feel fulfilled and satisfied in their roles, but where do you go from here? To start, you need to take a tech-first approach in your organization. Then, you need to incorporate training into the mix. 

Technology Needs to Take Focus

Internal technology reviews should be on every organization’s to-do list. Integrated solutions, or those that integrate tech into human processes to seamlessly meet users’ needs, are top priorities.

Ideally, you’ll:

  • Assess all of the technology that your accounting team uses in their day-to-day workflow
  • Seek integrated solutions that are built for accountants (often by other accountants) to reduce tedious tasks and add to fulfillment

Now management needs to step up and show their team they can identify, procure and deploy these solutions properly. Accountants want to be confident in their organization, and it’s crucial that maximum effort goes into these areas. Not only does doing so give your accounting department the technology they want and need, but it will also position your organization as a thought leader that is on top of the latest industry advancements.

Don’t Discount Your Training

Your current accountants likely need training on new solutions, especially if you’re implementing an integrated system that offers numerous solutions in one interface. 

Training in new solutions is another opportunity to drive fulfillment. As accountants, we’re often witty and intelligent, and we want to feel challenged and like we’re growing. Implementing new systems and helping individuals advance their careers by learning is a great way to beat the “Great Recalibration.”

For a second, think of your own career. I know that my fulfillment drops when I feel stagnant and like I’m not growing in my career. Likewise, your employees across all departments desire advancement in their knowledge, skillset, and career.

Taking intentional steps today to invest in technology will set your organization on the right path to protecting against low retention rates. Accountants crave more from their employers, and integrated technology solutions will help you stay a step ahead in the battle to retain the industry’s top talent.

Katie Thomas, CPA

Katie Thomas, CPA is a content creator, 2021 40 under 40 CPA Practice Advisor recipient, and the owner of Leaders Online, where they help accounting professionals increase their impact, influence, and income through thought leadership and digital marketing. To get in touch with Katie, feel free to visit Leaders Online or connect with her on LinkedIn.