Can we transform the traditionally mundane world of accounting and bookkeeping services into something undeniably cool and engaging for everyone? 2023 is almost over, and as the new year ushers in new opportunities and prospects, there are a few concerning matters that must also be addressed.
In particular, the statistics have been quite alarming regarding the state of the accounting profession. Last week, the Institute of Management Accountants published a devastating report that broke down the numbers for professionals leaving the accounting profession. According to the report, 31% of accounting professionals in the US are planning to leave the job for good in the next 12 months. Even more alarming is that 8% of those surveyed are in the age bracket of 25-38 years old.
These numbers are symptomatic of a bigger problem permeating the accounting profession as we head into 2024. Businesses need to start asking themselves why so many young professionals are quitting within the first five years of their careers.
Table of Contents
Analyzing the Problem
Accounting is among the most respected professions in this day and age, but something in the profession, whether it be work culture or burnout or something else, is causing a mass exodus of accountants in the US professional talent pool.
Businesses need to start thinking about what the problem is and start working on improving their accountant retention rates. Otherwise, soon, there will be an inevitable shortage of skilled accountants.
While outsourced full-service accounting firms do provide some degree of relief to the skill deficit., However, if the problem lies in how accounting is treated in the US, any remote talent will undoubtedly be similarly affected and may quit.
Reviving the Art of Accounting and Bookkeeping: Making Numbers Fascinating Again
To that end, we at EA decided to try and do our part in spurring the new generation of accountants. While this is a serious issue, however, we believe that instead of trying to criticize and simply pointing out possible reasons for this issue, we would try to propose solutions.
We boiled the problem down to one simple question that needs answering: How can we make accounting cool again?
The question may sound a bit corny, but it strikes at the issue’s core: accountants are not satisfied with the profession, and what was a cool and extremely desired job has now garnered a reputation for being undesirable.
That’s what we need to fix, and hopefully, we can make some headway toward averting this looming crisis before it’s too late.
Giving Credit and Respect Where It’s Due
One of the major gripes accountants had with the workplace, as reported by WSJ, was the absence of respect and credit for the work being done. Accounting is mundane and boring work, and it appears that accountants were feeling unrecognized and underappreciated for the invaluable services they provide.
Couple this with the fact that businesses are slowly shifting towards hiring the cheapest accounting solution possible and the feeling of being devalued as professionals grow out of control.
While we understand the opposite side of the spectrum as well., With businesses needing to keep costs low with how unstable the economy has been the past 3 years, there is no reason to decline a shift towards a more affirming workplace. Whether it be a remote accounting professional or an in-house one, they are still doing good and important work for you and should be acknowledged for their efforts.
It might seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many workers across the business landscape suffer from burnout simply because their efforts are not recognized. The idea of “quiet quitting” is becoming increasingly popular among the new generation precisely because they do not find meaning and fulfillment in their work.
So, the first step to boosting accounting professional retention rates we suggest is to start by acknowledging effort and adding some extra compensation or bonuses as a sign of appreciation. A little pat on the back goes a long way.
Fostering an Inclusive and Friendly Working Environment
2024 is almost upon us, and if there is anything we have learned from recent controversies in the business landscape, there still remains a lot of work to be done to make workplaces safe, inclusive, and friendly to everyone.
According to a report published by the National Library of Medicine, 55% of surveyed women from the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants claim that they have known women CPAs who have been harassed in the workplace, while 37% reported being harassed themselves as accounting professionals. Men, too, suffered abuse and harassment based on gender and ethnicity, coming in at 15-30% across various reports over the years.
While businesses have undoubtedly taken steps in the last decade to mitigate these incidents, there is no denying the numbers. How can we make accounting cool again if we cannot even make it safe in the first place?
Granted that these incidents are not limited to the accounting profession, but it is undeniable that a hostile workplace leads to more people exiting the profession altogether, and the growing prominence of remote full-service accounting firms and outsourced accounting and bookkeeping services further enforces the fact that people would prefer working from the safety of their homes rather than enter a workplace they have heard nasty rumors about.
Businesses, especially medium-sized and large corporations, need to enforce strict regulations to prevent any misconduct between coworkers. Gendered spaces should be provided, and a general culture of respect and friendliness should be promoted. Maybe hosting occasional company-sponsored dinners or gatherings to promote healthy communication while keeping a tight leash on people’s conduct and ensuring that misconduct is appropriately punished.
Open Doors to New Opportunities and Career Growth
Another common gripe by accountants reported in the IMA was the stagnant career path. Accounting professionals were stuck in the same position for long periods of time, with businesses not offering much in the way of incentives and career progression to justify staying on.
39% of accountants reported switching jobs in the last two years, proving they received a better opportunity from a different firm.
Businesses must realize that swapping accountants every year or two because they do not feel the need to promote or raise them will only contribute to the issue. If accountants are forced to quit their jobs annually because they aren’t being offered better opportunities, especially with inflation skyrocketing costs, then no wonder they are quitting the profession within the first decade.
Instead of burning out your accountant and forcing them to quit voluntarily, we advise businesses to offer more frequent pay raises and bonuses, offer more generous benefits packages, and try to keep their accountant on board. Nothing extravagant, but a gentle message once in a while that they are doing good work and getting a raise for it goes a long way to boosting retention rates and making it so that people are not being burnt out from switching jobs every so often for the sake of some career growth.
Carrying On the Conversation
Whether we like it or not, the steady decline of accounting professionals in the US will manifest as a severe roadblock a few years down the line if work isn’t done to stop it.
Instead of ending the conversation here, we urge any aspiring accountants or business owners to also provide us with their feedback regarding this issue. If we all put our heads together, we can overcome this obstacle and answer the question: How can we make accounting cool again?