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Accountants must ‘think outside the box’ to combat tight labour market

A chief executive is urging firms to do more in order to combat the ongoing pressures faced by accountants in the Australian market.

Business Emma Ryan 22 October 2021
— 1 minute read

Speaking to Accountants Daily, Succession Plus founder and CEO Craig West said increased pressure, coupled with current market conditions, should inspire firms to adopt new ways of operating and managing their staff.

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“Some firms have already outsourced and/or offshored their compliance, bookkeeping and company secretarial work to reduce both costs and dependence on local labor,” Mr West said.

“Others are taking on new software platforms to automate processes and simplify systems, which can help generate scale for greater profitability.

“I also recommend firms consider reducing their compliance role in favour of advisory work. This is where the real value for clients lies, meaning they are happy to pay for it.”

Mr West noted that management succession is also an important aspect of the firm worth considering. 

“Management succession is also important when salary increases are not necessarily the solution. Often, career progression or at least a pathway to better learning, advancement and promotion is more important to the younger generation,” he explained.

“Likewise, considering alternative remuneration models such as employee share ownership plans can help bolster engagement among staff. We’re increasingly seeing that staff want to own equity in the firm they work for, and this can have significant benefits for both the business and its owner.”

In response to what he sees the best firms are doing to combat the pressure felt throughout the pandemic, Mr West said it all comes back to flexibility.

“Flexibility of work hours and location have been very important to accommodate the changing life of lockdowns and home schooling. People are now used to those types of arrangements and many are looking for a career that can accommodate flexibility,” he said.

“Flexibility of benefits, such as payments, bonuses, packaging and extras, are very popular. I’ve seen staff tend towards those despite an overall lower salary.

“Employee ownership through employee share schemes is rapidly increasing in professional services, and this can help solve many of the other issues as employees are empowered to think and act like owners and be rewarded on that basis, enjoying not just income but capital gains and other benefits of ownership.

“Accountants are in a ‘people business’ – clients trust their adviser and that’s why they stay, not because of the firm’s brand. This means that unless you are a sole trader, your people are your greatest asset and they need to be managed and rewarded accordingly. There are many ways to do this successfully, and I recommend accountants think outside the box when it comes to attracting, retaining and motivating staff in what is currently a very tight labor market with a high workload.”

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Accountants must ‘think outside the box’ to combat tight labour market
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Emma Ryan

Emma Ryan is the deputy head of content at Momentum Media and editor of the company's legal publication, Lawyers Weekly.

Emma has worked for Momentum Media since 2015 and has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest stories in corporate Australia. In addition, she has produced exclusive multimedia and event content related to the company's respective brands and audiences.

A journalist by training, Emma has spent her career connecting with key industry stakeholders across a variety of platforms, including online, podcast and radio. She graduated from Charles Sturt University with a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism).

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