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Accounting & Audit

How to Make Accounting Cool Again — Three Ways to Innovate and Attract New Talent

Accountants have evolved to more "business advisor" than "number cruncher" since the latter just isn't enough to stay relevant anymore. This makes accounting a viable – and exciting – career option for the class of 2016.

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Gone are the days when pursuing an accounting degree and career was considered “cool.” What was once an exciting career path has fallen to the bottom of the lists of high school seniors deciding what to do with their lives.

In fact, a 2015 trend report indicated that the number of completed undergraduate accounting degrees has been on a steady decline, decreasing 11 percent in the 2013-14 school year. But what these young adults don’t know is that with core accounting functions becoming commoditized, the role of the accountant has recently become a lot more rewarding and multi-faceted.

Accountants have evolved to more “business advisor” than “number cruncher” since the latter just isn’t enough to stay relevant anymore. This makes accounting a viable – and exciting – career option for the class of 2016.

For firms to succeed and continue growing in the current business climate, attracting young, business and tech-savvy talent is a must. To do this, accounting firms and the industry as a whole must challenge the view of the traditional accounting job—making changes from the inside and demonstrating them to the outside world. The newly minted crop of graduates have recently jumped into the job pool, so take steps to snatch them up fast, or your competitors will.

Here are three tips to position your organization to attract and retain the best and the brightest as they start their careers:

  • Focus on company culture: Take a page from the creative agencies and form an engaging employee environment in your office. Young graduates are making great benefits and fun work environments a top requirement for their jobs of choice. According to a 2015 survey by Accenture, 60 percent of new graduates are willing to trade a lower salary for a good social atmosphere at work. At the same time, fostering a vibrant culture goes beyond happy hours and team outings (though it’s important to keep those things in mind). Offer professional development sessions, mentorship programs and access to advanced education and you will attract the kind of employee that values themselves, their careers, and by extension, your firm.
  • Modernize your technology tools: The accounting firms that are considered the most innovative have begun to offer new business models such as monthly fees for basic financial services like data entry, tax returns or annual accounts. Others offer fixed prices for the full service and even “freemium” subscriptions. This innovation goes beyond proposition and price into the fields of promotion (e.g. social media), products (new services) and staff (a wider skill set). Keeping this in mind, make sure to implement the most up-to-date accounting technology, specifically cloud and mobile-based applications, which millennials like to use and rely on for personal and professional communications (and will provide cost and operational benefits at the same time).
  • Be vocal about the opportunities at hand: In everything from the job description to company website and branding, emphasize the changing accounting atmosphere and how the job has evolved beyond solely number crunching to business advisor. During the interview process, make sure the candidate has the chance to meet with several members of the team who may have different points of view about what it’s like to work in accounting today, including junior staff and the most seasoned accountant who has watched the industry transform in recent years.

By following these tips, your organization will be in a unique position to attract the best, most innovative talent out there. In no time, high school and college seniors everywhere will start to put “accountant” on their wish list.

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Logan Paquin is the Director of Product Management for Exact U.S. Cloud Solutions. In this role, Logan focuses on business software for manufacturers, wholesalers, professional service firms, and accounting firms. He conducts extensive market research and builds strong customer relationships to understand the latest trends and issues facing today’s SMBs. At the end of the day, he helps small-to-medium-sized businesses improve their processes, increase their efficiency and grow their revenue.