The accountancy market is going through unprecedented times. There is significant client demand, pressure on fees, and the market for recruitment means salaries are going up, and people have less loyalty toward their employers. Recruitment for the accountancy industry is the most difficult it's been for a generation.
In a recent survey we conducted with over 150 decision makers working in accountancy firms based in the UK, we asked thinking of the year ahead, what is the greatest challenge affecting your practice, and over 20% said recruitment is the biggest challenge.
Recruitment continues to be a headache for many firms and with the way the market has transformed, new recruits have modern expectations. The new generation of accountants want a seamless experience, with technology at their fingertips to drive efficiency and innovation. Data entry tasks are not what’s motivating staff. The opportunities surrounding automation to shoulder the burden of number crunching is what the industry is aspiring for.
How can accountancy firms overcome the headache? Doing more with what you have might seem obvious, but putting that into practice is a lot harder. Departments generally have many legacy processes and firms with multiple offices often have different processes. Many accountancy firms also allow the customer to do whatever they want and this leads to inconsistencies. For example, the way information is delivered to the customer is inconsistent (it could be via email one week and via WhatsApp the next), and this is probably due to a legacy process in place that has never changed. There is no automation within the process.
In order to improve any process the inputs must be standardised.
80% of accountants are not doing or prioritising meaningful automation. Core internal processes are currently very labour intensive, for example client take on, where almost all firms have not delivered automation and team members are in significant pain.
So what can accountants do to bridge the gap between retaining staff, attracting new talent and having clear modern processes in place?
- Understand the business requirements and what software and automation is out there and available to you
- Understand what good looks like across the whole practice
- Agree on a standard process with everyone first, with an owner of the process
- Review the technology options you have against what your process and requirements are
- Use technology as 'out the box' as it comes (bespoke technology is expensive!)
- Make a decision that everyone buys into and start the project
If you can align all these things, you will see you will become more efficient in the work that you do.
Take payroll for example...
Using the business case of the payroll process, this specific client was not using any standardised templates for payroll. All their customers would send it in different formats, on different email chains, and all the data had to be manually keyed in. This introduced errors, lots of confusion, and pressure on staff to go back and get it right.
We sat down with the decision makers to show them the options on the market. Once a decision was made that fit the requirements, we went out to the market and found the appropriate software that would result in all offices working taking the same approach, and where all the payroll teams were working in a consistent way. The time taken to process a payroll was reduced by 20%, and there were fewer errors, giving people time back to review payrolls rather than just review the data entry. With staff now spending more time doing valuable tasks, this allows for quicker business growth, staff retention, happiness increase, and ultimately higher quality work being produced.
Accountants don’t know what options are on the market and what good looks like. All it takes is asking the right people what good looks like, and then coming up with a plan to standardise processes.
We have built a powerful solution called Practice Gateway, which is a unique tool using RPA to amplify the way accountants work and interact with their clients. It is able to collect client data, integrate with legacy and compliance applications such as CCH and Digita, as well as the common cloud accounting platforms like Xero and Quickbooks, and then onto HMRC to drive automation, standardisation, increase staff satisfaction, and improve the customer experience. See how Evelyn Partners are using it.