Staffing shortages are plaguing many industries and accounting has been hit especially hard. We don’t have to tell you this though. I’m sure you feel it already.
There are three things you need to offer todays workforce:
- Flexibility (Work remote capabilities)
- Better work hours (40 hours or less)
- Higher salaries that compete across industries
A good salary is crucial, but it may not be enough by itself. Today’s workforce has remote options nationwide. You are no longer exclusively competing with your metro area, but anyone offering remote work. Someone in Denver might be willing to pay 20% more for remote work and six weeks of annual vacation. More and more accounting graduates are choosing to enter other STEM industries and existing CPAs are leaving the industry too. The supply of skilled staff for our industry is low, so you have to compete effectively to get good staff.
Offering work-from home flexibility is a perk that can help you attract and retain existing staff. With the correct management systems in place this can be a great way to provide autonomy to employees and boost morale.
Better Work Hours:
Recently, I was at a state conference and a woman came up to me and voiced her issues with finding staff. She said something to the effect of, “We are offering pay that is competitive with other firms in the area and we only work 60+ hour work weeks during tax season. We can’t fill the positions.”
That’s not as appealing of a position as she may have thought. Pay for many staff accountants is considerably lower than fields in say, coding, cyber security, engineering or other STEM fields. As someone in their early career, would you not choose to pivot to earn more and work less? Almost everyone would and because of that we have a problem plaguing our entire industry.
We need to offer work hours that reflect a respect for personal time. Ideally, you and your staff should not be working more than 40-hour work weeks.
It’s easy to agree that more pay and a reasonable work week will help find and keep staff, but you’re probably looking for new people because you are overwhelmed with work and have no capacity. It often feels very unclear how to fill these seats.
The solution comes from first making changes to your firm. Make it a practice you and existing employees can enjoy working in while earning appropriate compensation. You can pay your staff more when you charge more.
Here is how you actually can provide flexibility, pay and reasonable work hours:
- Take an inventory of your clients and let go of the bad ones. Who takes up too much time, who could you offer more services to and who can you let go? Ask yourself what letting go of problematic clients will do for the morale of your staff? ( Check out our business check up tool and letting go of clients letter)
- Raise your fees. It is necessary to provide quality service and your clients are service sensitive not fee sensitive. (Check out our podcast with Ron Baker) If a few clients don’t leave, you did not raise your fees enough. Your goal should be to increase revenue while decreasing staff hours. I bet you have a que of new referrals who would happily fill any excess capacity you may gain by losing any clients who refuse to pay you your worth. In truth, our experience has been that clients expect fees to increase and happily pay.
- Take on less individual tax clients. If you don’t want to let existing solo returns go, you can either provide more services for them or charge them enough to make it worth your time.
- Delegate. This is an important aspect of creating capacity. You and your staff accountants should use something like our delegation tool. You can see how you can rearrange tasks to provide relief practice wide. You may find that a great admin hire would provide the capacity you need.
Do this for the health of your firm, the benefit of your remaining clients and the relief it will provide your team. With the extra income you will be able to better compensate existing staff and have the ability to hire new people.
All of this information is covered in our Accounting Practice Academy workshop. We will be running another session in July of this year.
Here are some of our other helpful resources on the topic of firm management and hiring: