The move toward recovery in the global job market is underway, yet the path to stable employment remains challenging. While employers are struggling to find candidates with domain knowledge and technical and soft skills, about 1.3 billion youth are struggling to find a job. During the pandemic, many working professionals lost their jobs due to the downfall of businesses and lack of capital, and they are yet to recover.
Accounting, like other industries, has been experiencing significant volatility when it comes to hiring people with the proper qualifications, according to Harvard Business Review. But, before we dig into how we might bridge the gap, particularly in the accounting area, consider the following:
- The number of people between the ages of 15-24 increased by 30% between 1999 and 2019, but the labor force has declined by about 12%.
- Most jobs held by the youth are at risk of being automated. 36% of CEOs say they will focus on improving productivity through tech and automation. This number is double that of the CEOs who said the same in 2016.
- About one-quarter of people between the ages of 18-24 stopped working during the pandemic, and the work hours of many were slashed.
What do CPA Firms look for in a candidate?
Just like any other field, the accounting sector is rapidly evolving. For candidates, it is no longer enough to possess accounting knowledge and skills. Employers look way beyond that.
According to “Accounting Skill Gap Research,” 56% of surveyed organizations have reported struggling with finding candidates with the right soft skills, and 45% struggle with job-specific skills. These two have been found to be the most important criteria when hiring candidates in accounting firms. What is more complex here is that the recent accounting graduates rate themselves highest in the areas where organizations find the skill gap.
What makes small CPA firms most affected by the skill gap?
While there are talks about the great resignation and skill gap, there is one very critical aspect that often goes unnoticed - quiet hiring. According to Gartner’s predictions for 2023, quiet hiring is leading the recruitment trends. Bigger accounting corporations are on the lookout for skilled professionals and quiet hiring gives them an edge over their competitors.
Large multinational companies (MNCs) often can recruit resources from smaller companies since they have a dedicated team of hiring specialists, a larger quantity of available capital, and resources to do thorough market research.
This makes things even worse for small CPA firms looking to hire talent. Even if they do not find full-time candidates, large accounting firms seek assistance from freelancers and part-time resources. While for larger companies, quiet hiring has proven to be an effective method of bridging skill gaps, it has left the smaller ones in a fix.
What can small firms do to bridge the skill gap?
The accounting industry has been experiencing a dip in the available talent needed for the industry. With baby boomers retiring, it is important for firms to find resources that can fill in the gap. Finding candidates with all the necessary skills isn’t easy. However, adopting the following practices can help you take a step in the right direction:
- Embrace Technological Innovations: During times when the world is moving towards AI and automation, keeping them at bay will only cause more damage. As a small CPA firm, it is important that you look at the benefits of AI and not look at it as a threat. From helping your team get rid of the repetitive tasks, to allowing them to take up more challenging ones, from reducing human error to ensuring better productivity, technology has so much to offer. QuickBooks, ZohoBooks, Xero, NetSuite, and FreshBooks are some of the top software that can help you make your lives easier.
- Offer Flexibility: In the aftermath of the pandemic, how employees want to work has changed. It is not just about allowing them to work from home. Candidates are inclined to join companies that provide overall flexibility. New-gen employees have made it clear that they do not want to dedicate their entire life to their work. While hustle culture is a thing, they also want a work-life balance. As an employer, it is important to hire resources that you can trust, the ones who will make optimum use of the available time. If your CPA firm ensures a healthy working environment, you are more likely to find talent that will want to work with you.
- Focus on their career growth: Most new-gen employees are ambitious. The question of where they see themselves in the next five years is somewhat redundant. They want to grow, every day. They are inclined to assume more responsibilities and learn new skills or technology. They are fluid and flexible. As an employer, focusing on the employees’ growth is as important as focusing on your firm’s revenue. Developing clear career paths and giving them the right training can go a long way when trying to bridge the skill gap.
- Set up mentoring sessions: When building a team, remember that skills can be inculcated. Conducting one-on-one sessions and mentoring them to fill the gaps can help build the skills needed. Elaborate mentoring programs not only help employees develop new skills, but also stay motivated and tackle job challenges with ease. Such sessions also help employees feel that their employers care about them, which makes them stick around.
- Strategic outsourcing: Although upskilling programs and employee training are effective in motivating employees and helping bridge the skill gap, this requires a large team. And small CPA firms do not have an abundance of resources. In such cases, strategic offshoring can really be impactful. Outsourcing partners not only help you take a step ahead in innovation and technology but also become your guide along the journey. Your outsourcing partner should not just be someone who helps you with the additional workload. They should provide access to a wide talent pool and diverse expertise. By outsourcing, you can maintain a small team of employees that can focus on the core jobs and outsource the non-core tasks.
The skill gap is a consistent problem that leaders across industries struggle to find a long-lasting solution to. As a small CPA firm, it is important to understand the exact gaps and the best practices that are available in your region. When you think about bridging the gap, it is important to focus on technology, career growth, flexibility, diversity, inclusion, soft skills, and outsourcing. Amongst all of these, outsourcing is one such practice that helps save costs and improves productivity without hiring new resources.