Harnessing technology to attract and retain talent in accounting

The integration of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and cloud computing is transforming the way accounting firms operate.

This technological shift is not only enhancing efficiency and accuracy in accounting tasks but is also playing a pivotal role in attracting and retaining talent. This shift towards a more technologically advanced environment is appealing to a new generation of accountants who are tech-savvy and eager to work in a dynamic, innovative environment.

As Chris Oxborough, cloud transformation leader for Risk at PwC UK, points out, “Having the right people in place is equally as important in overcoming barriers.”

But integrating technology without having the right people also poses risks in many instances. About 42% of professionals in accounting feel overwhelmed by the rapid pace of technological change. This statistic underscores the need for firms to provide adequate training and support as they integrate new technologies into their operation.

Ensuring firms have the right make-up of skillsets within their ranks is therefore paramount.

Where technology is having an impact on talent?

According to a Deloitte report, nearly 90% of the world’s data was generated in the past two years, fuelling a transformation in the workplace. This transformation is underscored by the integration of artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, and robotics, which has shifted focus from manual, repetitive tasks to more strategic and value-added activities​​.

Ernst & Young’s study reinforces this trend, revealing that around 75% of finance managers and executives believe AI will enable accountants to concentrate on high-value tasks, marking a significant departure from traditional accounting roles, focusing on strategy, growth opportunities, and innovation​​.

Implementing technology that automates routine tasks in accounting, such as data entry or basic number crunching, can make the work more strategic and analytical. This shift can attract professionals who are interested in more complex, high-value aspects of accounting. Furthermore, firms that showcase their use of cutting-edge accounting software, cloud computing, and data analytics tools can attract talent who are interested in working in a technologically advanced environment.

Surveys show that more than half of large and mid-sized accounting firms are using cloud-based accounting software, with 33% of small practices being early adopters. Nearly 80% plan to continue or start investing in it. Cloud-based systems are vital for remote working policies and create more efficient workflows​

However, the accounting profession – not always known for being a fast adopter – could risk being excluding themselves from the evolving talent pool if they do not choose to jump on the technology band wagon. By leveraging technology, firms can expand their search globally, accessing a wider talent pool which may offer diverse perspectives and skills.

Is hybrid working a factor? 

The accounting industry, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen a significant shift towards remote work. Offering the technology for secure, remote access to accounting systems and client data can be a big draw for professionals seeking flexibility and work-life balance.

In a global survey, 87% of respondents expressed a preference for working remotely at least one day in the future. Additionally, 88% of professionals in the field want a better work-life balance, and 71% seek more help from their organizations to manage mental health, underscoring the importance of technology in facilitating flexible work arrangements.

Influence of technology on recruitment strategies

Leading accounting firms are also leveraging technology to improve their recruiting approach. Accountants are known for precision and efficiency; using advanced applicant tracking systems and AI-powered screening tools can help firms identify candidates with the right skills and qualifications more efficiently. For example, AI can be programmed to recognise specific accounting certifications or experience with certain accounting software.

Firms can also understand their talent trends better. Using data analytics to understand the hiring trends, employee satisfaction, and reasons for turnover in accounting roles can help firms refine their recruitment strategies and improve retention. “[Firms] need to evaluate their current and future knowledge-based infrastructure considerations for using generative AI tools, and design and build the large language model to enable the system,” a report from EY noted.

There is also the argument of using tech to build a stronger online prescience. A robust online presence on platforms like LinkedIn, industry-specific forums, and social media can help accounting firms showcase their culture, successes, and technological advancements. Engaging content about industry insights, technology in accounting, and career opportunities can attract talent.

Firms that recognise and adapt to these technological shifts will be better positioned to attract the best professionals, offering them not just a job, but a dynamic, innovative, and fulfilling career path. As the industry continues to evolve, the firms that will thrive are those that view technology as an integral part of their talent strategy.

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