The Great Resignation in the Australian Accounting market

Published on December 22, 2021
Written by Colm Reddy

  1. What is the current employment market?
  2. What has caused the ‘Great Resignation’?
  3. Most common reasons for Accountants to recently leave their jobs
  4. What are employers doing to keep and attract talent
  5. The future of the Accounting employment market

What is the current employment market for Accounting firms?  

Since Covid-19, many Accounting firms of all sizes have performed better than expected and continue to experience significant growth.

The supply and demand of candidates and jobs is unbalanced and heavily weighted towards an abundance of vacant jobs. Nearly every firm is struggling to find the people they want in the timeframe they need, at all levels. It has been this way for over a year, and the ongoing time spent resourcing is compounding the need, delaying further growth, and putting excess pressure on current staff. These are current staff that firms largely want to keep, but the extra workload is making them consider leaving too. 

Some accountants, especially at the more junior levels, have experienced a negative impact on productivity as they didn’t have a mentor sitting next to them, especially during lockdowns. This affected their revenue, profitability, development, and happiness. It has meant that many firms have found it harder to get their normal workload done.

Even when employers find a candidate they like who likes them back, the most in-demand candidates will likely receive multiple job offers, meaning the probability of securing the talent that employers want, even after they have found them and met them, can be lower than employers realise. That is without even considering counter-offers from the candidate’s current employer, which are understandably significant in this market and happening far more than they used to.

The elephant in the room with recruitment recently has been salaries. Salaries took an unusually high jump in 2021, especially since the financial year end reviews. 

Employers have been left with a choice of paying what the candidate should get, or paying what the candidate could get elsewhere in the market, both of which have their risks.

The reality at the moment is that all Accounting firms competing for talent are trying to appear appealing to candidates, so if they are appealing and willing to pay well, and you are not willing to pay well, you likely miss out. 

What has caused the Great Resignation?

People are stressed, working hard, and not feeling valued for it. In 2020, we saw a lot of firms put off pay rises and some forced staff into reduced salaries, as well as many who unfortunately lost their jobs. 

All this led to an increased number of Accountants seeking a change to ‘industry accounting’ in 2021. The perception can be that industry accounting is less stressful and can pay more at certain levels. Both of these points were attractive to stressed people feeling undervalued. 

When it came to 2021 reviews, I know a lot of Accountants entered the reviews thinking they will have to get a very big pay rise or else they will leave. I know of many firms who gave $15k-$20k pay rises knowing how difficult it would be to replace good staff. Sometimes it wasn’t even enough.

Clients have also been more willing to change their accountants, so modern firms that were more equipped to work efficiently from home have found it easier to attract new clients. More traditional firms have paid the price.

With so many accounting firms attracting new clients across and growing their client base, it has made appropriate candidates feel even less numerous. During lockdowns, a lot of firms had been reluctant to take on graduates and juniors, and instead hoped for Intermediate or Senior Accountants who could hit the ground running. 

Most hiring firms are not just looking at the same time, but looking for the same level at same time, while a lot of the people they have been looking for have trying to get out of the profession.

It is this concoction that has led us to the current employment market.

Most common reasons for Accountants to leave their jobs:

For almost everyone, flexibility is very important. In the table below, I have highlighted the two main reasons apart from flexibility, that people have most commonly wanted to leave their jobs for, at each level. 

As you can see above, no one reason answers everything. It is a complex combination of many variables that have been bubbling to the surface for several years. Covid has just given these growing desirables a shot in the arm.

It is good for employers to be aware of this when trying to attract someone at a particular level. If you know what they want, you can highlight what you can offer that will resonate most with them.

What are successful employers doing to keep and attract talent?

The employers who are actively trying to keep their current employees happy and increase their chances of finding appropriate candidates are focusing on the below:

  1. Knowing and highlighting the attractions of their own employment brand to their recruiter and in interviews with candidates. 
  2. Offering flexibility. This is not a new concept. It is something people will always want. Give as much as you can.
  3. Pay in line with the new norm, to current and new employees. If you are paying your top quality staff members in the middle of the normal salary range, they are getting underpaid. 
  4. Develop your staff’s skills. Don’t hide responsibility from them due to fear that they will take clients from you. Give them a reason to stay.
  5. Progression. Are you providing progression opportunities? Do your staff know what they need to do for it? If either of these are a no, you will eventually lose people because of it. 
  6. Bonuses. Agreed upfront bonus structures that encourage the right behaviours will be a win-win.
  7. Fun. If staff build relationships with colleagues, they are more likely to stay. This will happen quicker with a bit of fun. It also helps attract new staff. Anything is better than nothing!
  8. Interview styles are becoming more personal, conversational, focused on getting to know the person, and making sure candidates know how good the firm is to work with. Candidates are often choosing firms/people they personally connect with the most. 

To read more of Colm’s insights into the future of the Accounting employment market, please click here.

To discuss any of this information further and for help navigating your job search, please contact us today on 03 9946 7300 or support@lawsondelaney.com.au.

Published on December 22, 2021
Written by Colm Reddy

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