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Accounting firms suffering brain drain to commercial sector


Research from a recruitment firm has revealed that many organisations are experiencing an increase in voluntary staff turnover rates, with accounting firms steadily losing talent to the commercial sector.

By Lara Bullock2 minute read

Data from the 2017 Hays Salary Guide has revealed that voluntary staff turnover has risen in 32 per cent of organisations in Australia over the past year.


A further 53 per cent of organisations reported no change to the amount of voluntary staff turnover and the remaining 15 per cent reported a decrease.

Susan Drew, senior regional director of Hays Accountancy & Finance, told Accountants Daily that this is evident in the accounting sector and that it’s not always about money.

“Across accounting firms we see the consistent movement of talent into the commercial/industry sectors. There has also been an increase in new opportunities for people to explore, with practice accountants looking for more in their work than standard tax compliance,” Ms Drew said.

“Salary is not the most common driving factor, usually the reasons are a lack of technical development (both through investment in training and access to interesting work) and lack of adaption to progressive technology and team culture.”

Ms Drew said firms need to invest in their staff and their systems in order to improve retention rates.

“Accounting firms that pay CA/CPA fees, have a training budget for seminars and bring in external training specialists will reap the rewards of a more engaged and motivated workforce which in turn will lead to higher staff retention,” she said.

“Firms that hold off on modernising/upgrading their systems, aren’t moving towards paperless or cloud-based systems risk staff moving to firms where they can upskill themselves with software that will be essential over the next three to eight years.”

Culture, feedback and flexible working conditions all also contribute to retention rates according to Ms Drew.

“It is important to create a positive work environment, this consists of regular feedback and catch ups with management and structured performance and promotion reviews. This will lead to staff feeling more engaged as they will feel they have true career progression opportunities,” she said.

“Firms should also consider having more flexible working options so that their staff are able to have a good work/life balance, we have found this to be a major staff retention factor.”

Accounting firms suffering brain drain to commercial sector
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