Here are a few questions regarding your firm: Do you have too many staff? Are too many staff leaving? Are you having difficulty recruiting new staff? What staffing needs are not being met?
• The accounting profession is experiencing a growing demand for its skill and time.
• The U.S. Department of Labor projects accounting jobs will continue to grow.
• Accountants in public practice report a lack of qualified accounting professionals.
Finding qualified staff is a key issue for proper management of every tax and accounting firm. With the growing volume of things to be known and recallable, the accessibility of technology support is crucial. Knowledge management systems can help with the archiving and retrieval of documents of any length. Public accountants have to use technology to support the work being done.
Potential accounting staff have more choices to do what they want. A recent story in USA TODAY (www.usatoday.com; 12/11/2006) discusses how “a new generation of entrepreneurs is launching millions of tiny companies differing from business in the past: They don’t want employees.” This is a trend for people who do not want to be controlled by office type procedures and large banks of cubicles and desks. The article identified that in 2006 “20 million out of the 25 million small businesses in this country now are one-person microbusinesses.” The question about how people can run one-person businesses was answered by the article with the following: “You know the answer: technology. Technology, especially computer-related technology, has changed business radically in the last 20 years and in fact is the most significant thing to happen to small business — ever.”
Here are several significant factors about the changes and increasing demands for accountants:
• Kforce Professional Staffing (www.kforce.com) reports on the increasing demand for accountants.
• Sarbanes-Oxley regulations are expanding the demand for IT knowledge in accounting professionals.
• Growing a tax and accounting firm requires expanding services to non-audit companies.
• The increase in college accounting course enrollment can translate to more staff availability. At this same time, there is increasing competition for each graduate.
Competent staff, the kind everyone wants, have choices of what to do with their lives. Some want to pursue their own businesses. The question to answer is how to attract the good, better, and best to move into the world of public accounting and actually have them stay for awhile.
Ken Kirkland, managing partner of KAF Financial Group, Massachusetts, knows that “Competition is fierce for talented accounting professionals.” He further stated that with this problem, “ Staff were not leaving to go to other accounting firms; they were leaving the industry.”
KAF has a work-life balance program that closes the office during the tax season and restricts staff to in-office work on only four Saturdays. This reduced the volume of man-hours worked, and the firm increased overall revenues while making the staff far more satisfied with their work environment. Following the balance program, Ken Kirkland managed to hit the ski slope every Saturday during his 21st century version of “busy season.”
Staffing is most often described as recruiting new folks out of college and bringing them into a firm for the first time. But staffing is a whole lot more than just that. First, staff comes in all sizes, genders and ages — young people, old people and the in-betweeners. Staffing has to include everyone at every age, from new junior recruits to seniors, managers, partners, consultants and administrative support. All staff must be included as part of an integrated solution that includes technology resources.