The number of job openings and quits in the United States has been on a downward trend for several months, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is good news for employers overall. However, it doesn’t mean CPA firms are finding it any easier to staff available positions — or hold on to the valued employees they already have in place.
Robert Half’s research on U.S. hiring and employment trends found that 95% of hiring managers in finance and accounting face challenges in locating skilled candidates available for hire. This finding is not surprising in a profession where unemployment rates for many in-demand roles, including accountants and auditors, typically trend well below the national average.
However, the inability to find professionals who meet critical job requirements is likely to become more problematic for firms that want to expand their teams in the months ahead. Based on our research, a strong majority (67%) of employers across industries are looking to build up their teams to support business growth. In finance and accounting specifically, nearly two-thirds (66%) of the hiring managers we surveyed said they want to hire talent for new jobs. And about one-third (32%) said they would be hiring to address vacated positions in their organization.
But here’s another headline: A separate survey of U.S. finance and accounting professionals that Robert Half conducted found that 41% of finance and accounting professionals are either looking for a job already, or they plan to do so within the next few months. That means while CPA firms are working hard to expand their teams in a difficult hiring environment, any near-term gains they make to increase headcount could be diluted as other employees decide to launch a new job search and leave.
What can employers do to counter this trend? Our research provides some answers that can help CPA firms with hiring and retention. Robert Half has learned that many workers in finance and accounting are keen to seek a new role for one or more of the following three reasons (multiple responses to this survey question were allowed).
1. More than half of industry professionals want to secure a higher salary
For 55% of workers in the finance and accounting profession, the top reason to pursue a new role right now or in the near term is the desire for a higher salary. This figure is lower than what we saw in similar research findings that we released in the first half of 2023. But it is still a substantial number of finance and accounting employees who feel they aren’t earning enough compensation now — or could land a higher salary somewhere else.
Pay dissatisfaction is a common job search motivator for workers in any industry. But it’s important to acknowledge that many professionals are highly focused on compensation in an uncertain economy that is still trying to move on fully from the pandemic’s disruption. Meanwhile, many employers continue to lean hard on their top people while they work (or wait) to address critical staffing gaps, perhaps asking for more from them while not necessarily bumping up their pay in return.
Now is a good time to review employee salaries to confirm that your CPA firm is paying competitive compensation, especially for those workers who are in hard-to-staff roles and have specialized skill sets. Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide can help you gauge whether your organization’s pay practices are in line with current industry trends, including in your local market.
Better benefits and perks are a focus for many finance and accounting job seekers
In our recent hiring and employment trends survey, 37% of finance and accounting professionals said they were seeking a new job because they wanted to secure better benefits and perks. No doubt, many CPA firm leaders upon reading that finding will let out a big sigh as they wonder how to compete against larger organizations equipped to offer more generous packages than they can.
First, most CPA firms, large or small, have a lot to offer today’s workers across the various generations represented in their workforce. For example, Robert Half’s research on the multigenerational workforce found that Millennial professionals want autonomy to make decisions at work. In response to that preference, your business could offer Millennial employees more opportunities to spearhead new projects, take on stretch assignments, engage in leadership development programs, and more. (And fostering a learning culture at your firm can benefit everyone on your team.)
Keep in mind that traditional benefits, like health insurance and retirement savings plans, can go a long way toward attracting and retaining finance and accounting professionals. And don’t overlook the power of compelling perks such as flexible schedules, generous vacation time and paid parental leave. Take stock of what your business is offering to employees now, how that compares with what competitors are providing, and make strategic adjustments where you can, if needed.
Remote work is a top job search motivator for one-third of workers
If your employees are telling you that they want to work remotely, listen. One of the lasting impacts of the pandemic is the realization by many professionals that they can be just as productive working at home as they are at their employer’s office — even more so at times. Plus, the ability to work from home gives every worker a better chance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Taking a hard line with employees and insisting that they return to the office on a full-time basis can be risky for hiring and retention — not to mention workforce morale. About one-third (34%) of finance and accounting professionals surveyed by Robert Half said they are motivated to search for a new job because they want remote work options.
Even if your CPA firm can’t offer fully remote arrangements for some or all of your employees, you can still find common ground with all your staff by offering flexible work. This can help you boost retention and attract talented workers specifically looking for employers open to some level of remote work. That includes younger workers — your organization’s future leaders. In fact, Robert Half’s research on the multigenerational workforce found that Gen Z professionals value the ability to work when and where they want to more than any other major generational group in today’s workforce.
There’s another benefit to offering remote work that you may not have considered: It opens the door to recruiting talent from anywhere, including highly skilled contract professionals. CPA firms often turn to these resources when they want to access specialized skills or need extra help during busy periods like tax season. But many employers of finance and accounting talent also find that using this approach throughout the year can benefit their business.
Engaging contract professionals allows employers to access the talent they need whenever they need it, cover critical staffing gaps while they work to recruit new talent, and ease the burden on their core staff so they can stay satisfied and avoid burning out. And 64% of the U.S. hiring managers we recently surveyed said they intend to bring in more contract professionals for finance and accounting roles in the coming months as they work to overcome their recruiting challenges.
Steve Saah is the executive director of the finance and accounting permanent placement practice at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized financial talent solutions service. The company has more than 300 locations worldwide. He is responsible for leading U.S. operations, based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. He was named executive director in 2017, previously serving as director of permanent placement services.
Saah has been with the company since 1998, where he started as a recruiting manager, following a career as an internal auditor and assistant controller. He is a noted expert, author and presenter on career, management and hiring trends, particularly those affecting the accounting and finance fields. Saah earned a finance degree from Virginia Tech.