Speaking to Accountants Daily, HLB Mann Judd head of human resources Leanne Bloomfield said she has seen a highly competitive market for accountants, with firms trying new methods to get ahead of each other.
“Accounting firms are all strategising to strengthen their position in a candidate-tight market. We are all working with multi-generations with varying motivational drivers and a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t cut it anymore,” said Ms Bloomfield.
Likewise, Prime Partners director George Morice believes there is a huge surplus of accountants and jobs on the market but has seen success in attracting the right kind of talent through offering a flexible workplace environment and collaborative team approach.
“We were advertising in every way we could think, having recruiters promise us that they had a good candidate and when they came through they were no good at all,” said Mr Morice.
“These people we’re placing are quite often mothers returning to work or people who can’t work full-time for another reason and we’re happy to be flexible about that and allow them to work from home, or allow school hours, four days a week, and we’re finding that we’re actually getting better-quality candidates when you do that.”
At HLB Mann Judd, Ms Bloomfield believes flexible working arrangements are changing the conventional full-time image that accountants hold.
“In our industry a decade ago, most employees were full-time permanent, but now there is a mix of full-time, part-time and contractors. Flexible work arrangements are now normalised and it does change how we develop staff using accelerator training programs and technology to fit,” said Ms Bloomfield.
“I don’t believe these are issues — it is a changing workforce to fit around people wanting to achieve that balance and we’ve just had to make some adjustments.”
Further, Mr Morice said the firm is seeing success in opening up the traditional control hierarchy of an accounting firm.
“Accounting partners are now having to trust that their clients won’t be stolen and that younger people can do as good a job as them. It is less tightly white knuckle held on to the client and shifting to a ‘we’re a firm providing a service’, not ‘I’m an accountant providing a service’ model,” said Mr Morice.
“If you hold that mentality that the partner controls every relationship, then you’re limited, whereas if you open it up to more of your employees, then you’ve got a greater potential to grow.
“Candidates are looking for someone who will lead them on a career rather than pay them a salary, and they are looking for a firm that is modern and will give them advice-style work and work that is more beneficial to the client because that makes people feel good when you’re helping people out.”
Likewise, Ms Bloomfield believes partners at the firm have had to change their top-down approach to attract better candidates and stimulate their existing workforce.
“In a traditional industry such as accounting, it was the norm for partners to take on the role of strategy and decision making. We are finding that the younger generation want purpose in their work and to have their ideas heard,” said Ms Bloomfield.
“This has taken time for partners to adjust to their needs and manage expectations. Rather than suppress the ideas of the younger generation, we have turned that around and get them involved in projects and training. Our managers are also stepping into a leadership role much earlier by contributing at strategy days.
“They want their ideas to be heard and we’re definitely seeing a new enthusiasm from the younger generation.”