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Accounting Technology Software to Solve the CPA Talent Shortage

AI in accounting provides incredible insights by mining a firm’s existing data and turning it into actionable information. Contact us for a smarter work-to-cash cycle!

The year 2020 brought with it an unfortunate convergence of factors that drained the CPA talent pool: beyond the obvious pandemic-related difficulties, that was the year that the AICPA estimated 75%—that’s right, 3 out of 4—of its members became eligible for retirement. And while those retirement-age CPAs were taking their packages and exiting the industry, firms were unable to staff up sufficiently to backfill them. Even before the pandemic, the number of CPA candidates sitting for their exam had been declining, hitting a ten-year low in 2018.

So if seasoned veterans are retiring in record numbers, and the number of new entrants to the industry can’t keep pace, that means firms can’t hire their way out of the talent shortage (though many are appropriately stepping up their recruiting efforts). The work isn’t going away, but the workers are; so there’s a simple supply-and-demand logic here: CPAs are extremely valuable in the marketplace right now. Many are being poached by recruiters for higher paying jobs within the industry, or less stressful jobs in other industries—leaving firms in a dire capacity crunch.

All of this means that retention of existing employees has never been more critical for firms big and small. Beyond the obvious paths to retention—bonuses/compensation increases, work-from-home or hybrid options, generous vacation policies—there’s one powerful weapon firms can wield in the war for talent: technology.

Robust accounting technology solutions can be the big differentiator in keeping accountants engaged, happy, and productive right where they are. AI-powered tech takes the lower-order tasks (think time sheets, billing, invoicing) off their plates and allows them to focus on the higher-order work their clients need them to do. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the automation of routine tasks, such as data entry, will instead make accountants' advisory and analytical duties more prominent.”

"Accounting firms are dealing with talent shortages across the board, yet we need to focus on retaining our employees by providing them with a superior employee experience. We need to take a look at the day to day processes and ensure employees have the opportunity to do value-added work that has a differentiated business impact. Enabling employees to streamline their processes with a successful tech stack opens up the opportunity for them to become more engaged with their clients and, therefore, providing a better client experience as well. Firms need to adopt the right technology paired with efficient work processes to prioritize the employee and client experience sooner than later," said Tim Perdion, Vice President of Practice Management Office at CBIZ, Inc.

Advances in AI and machine learning in recent years have brought technology forward at an incredible pace, to the point where just about any repetitive task can be automated away from human responsibility. Humans get to serve their clients, solve big problems, stay abreast of regulatory and legal changes that affect accounting, and grow in knowledge and capability. Technology takes time sheets, billing, invoicing, and payments—all the “unsexy” work that can bog down relationship partners and engagement staff—and runs it quietly and efficiently in the background.

The other major advantage of employing this kind of technology is the incredible insight it can give to firm leaders by mining a firm’s existing data and turning it into actionable information. Stretching staff to cover all of a firm’s clients is not a sustainable solution; it leads to human error, burned-out staff, and unhappy clients. But unlocking a firm’s existing data can help firm leaders ask better questions. For example: which clients pay their bills on time—and which ones are we constantly chasing down for payment? Related to that: should we consider culling our client list? Which type of work yields the highest margins? Are there cross-sell opportunities we’re missing out on? These questions, when answered properly, can propel a firm’s growth to new levels.

There are now actual, practical solutions for unlocking people’s time and making their time at work more fulfilling. It’s not #FirmOfTheFuture; it’s here, now! We call it “practice intelligence.” And the firms that adapt quickly and adopt this kind of tech will emerge from the current talent war lean and nimble.

Mid-career accountants, who have gotten into a groove and gained enough experience to be really valuable to their firms and clients, must be retained. They need to be wooed on an ongoing basis, or they will be wooed away to another firm—or to a different career entirely. They need to see opportunities for career growth; they need to be compensated competitively; they need to be challenged intellectually and feel that they are adding value.

Robust recruitment will always be a vital tool in an accounting firm’s future-building toolkit, but the real key will be maximizing the effort, productivity, and flourishing of a firm’s existing talent pool. Liberating employees to do high-order thinking and problem solving—the kind of work that humans are uniquely suited for—will necessitate relegating manual, back-office work to capable tech.

Want to win the talent war? Identify and adopt tech you can trust to get the job done, so your people can do their jobs at the highest level. Contact us for a free demo of the solution that can help your firm retain employees and attract top talent!


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