- The State of the Job Market
- What’s Needed
- 5 Skills Modern Accounting Professionals and Firms Need
- How to Become the Employer of Choice
- Building a Future-focused Firm
- Working the Jobs Market Pipeline
Meet Rob Brown
Rob Brown is co-founder of the Accounting Influencers Roundtable (AIR) mastermind group and co-hosts the popular accounting and fintech podcast: Accounting Influencers. Rob is a renowned MC, facilitator, and chair of virtual and in-person panels, conferences, and events globally for the accounting and fintech profession.
Through the pandemic, he chaired 24 virtual panels with leaders of global accounting networks and alliances to discuss the key issues and challenges. Rob is retained by several associations and vendors to chair their events and provide high-level interview content for their communities. He is the bestselling author of Build Your Reputation and his TEDx talk ‘The Personal Brand of You’ has been viewed 300K times on YouTube.
The State of the Job Market
“In the UK, we are at our highest level ever of job vacancies.” According to Forbes, Rob says, hiring right now is one of the hardest things to do. 54% of companies globally are reporting talent shortages. In the US, nearly 69% of employers are struggling to fill positions. So, what’s the issue? The bulk of the laborforce today is composed of Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers.
“These people think differently. They want different things from a job. They want different things from an employer.” Rob notes that if you want to be the “employer of choice,” you have to start giving prospects what they want—not what you wanted when you entered the workforce or what you think they want. “That’s the mindset shift that accounting firm leaders need to be making.”
Firm owners and industry leaders need to make this shift because the nature of the job market has shifted. Rob recounts that back in the day CPAs would be “chained to a desk to earn their stripes” and then after many years they’d be promoted. That was their career path. Now, Rob says, people are asking employers what they are going to do for them and how they can help accelerate their career path. People are no longer interested in serving their time to earn their stripes, so leading with that as part of your recruitment strategy would be leading with the wrong foot.
“More people are leaving the field of accounting than are coming in.” Rob, again citing a Forbes article, notes that Baby Boomers retired in higher numbers than ever before in 2019–2020. In the third quarter of 2020, nearly 30 million Baby Boomers were forced to retire for one reason or another. That leaves an unimaginably large gap in the laborforce. The question is: Can we fill that gap?
In the UK, the replacement rate is insufficient to fill the gap, but this really isn’t a problem in Rob’s mind due to technology and automation. “Nowadays, you can do an audit in a click of a button that would have taken an accountant hours to do.” Does this mean we don’t need accountants anymore? Absolutely not. Accountants are invaluable to business owners. They help navigate a post-pandemic world defined by VUCA—volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.
What’s needed are skilled accountants that are agile, have commercial awareness, have business experience, and can talk to customers. The issue boils down to this: If you want to be the kind of firm that attracts top talent, you have to invest in advisory conversations, technology, mentorship, hybridization, etc. “If you want top talent, be worthy of top talent.” In order to do that, firms have a responsibility to be attractive and to develop their people.
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In order to be top talent and top-talent-worthy, you need the skills to back it up. Rob says these five skills are what’s needed to take you and your firm to the appropriate level.
- Technical Skills—You’ve got to have the right knowledge and expertise to be a good CPA.
- Technological Skills—This doesn’t require being a tech geek. It just requires a certain level of proficiency with the applications, programs, and systems you’ll be using.
- People Skills—With technology being what it is today, being a good CPA is no longer enough. You have to develop strong soft skills in order to succeed.
- Commercial Awareness—Commercial acumen, business sense if you will.
- Selling Skills—The best CPAs generate revenue for their firms. All leaders and influencers need to be able to sell their ideas.
For Rob, these are the five skills accountants need to get on and the ones accounting firms need to be training and mentoring their people in. Podcast host David Cristello recommends creating a spreadsheet or an evaluation sheet to see whether or not you are below expectations, meeting expectations, or exceeding expectations in these areas. Evaluate yourself and create a roadmap for your improvement. By engaging in self-improvement through mentoring or coaching, you are preparing a pipeline for you to feed your people into for their improvement as well.
Rob built off of that by asking if it was the prospect’s responsibility to create a roadmap for their career or is it the employer’s job to show them all of the options and ways they can grow in their career at their firm. “The employer of choice should have some kind of roadmap or process to say ‘This is a really exciting career for you, and here are the possibilities.’”
How to Become the Employer of Choice
“The Millennials and the generations coming below them buy into vision, a narrative, a story.” Giving prospects the old line of “We do compliance work and keep our clients out of jail…” Rob says “That’s not sexy. That’s not telling a story, building a brand, or casting a vision. You’ve got to have something more.” The bulk of the laborforce wants to know your Why. Why does your firm exist? That’s what they’ll buy into. Talk to prospects about the journey you’re on, the clients you’re serving, the results you’re getting, and the difference you’re making. That will get them sucked in. They want jobs that will stimulate and enrich them. “You have to start building the firm of the future in order to attract the talent of the future, because that’s your succession plan. You don’t get that right, and you’ll have a huge gap in your firm.”
Building a Future-focused Firm
Maybe you’re sitting there thinking, “I don’t have these structures or systems in place. I haven’t invested in technology or advisory conversations like I want to.” Start now, and it all starts with creating a great vision.
Part of that process involves evaluating who your clients and prospective clients are. Business owners are getting younger and younger. Are you properly catering to their needs? If you don’t attract younger talent who can relate to younger clients, you’re going to have a massive mismatch in those conversations. The biggest challenge in this is keeping up with an ever-evolving landscape. The lingo and methodologies are always changing, so you either have to learn quickly or make way for those who already understand.
Additionally, you certainly need to always be upskilling yourself, and Rob says one of the best ways to learn all of this is by running a side hustle, to do it yourself! Invest in crypto, make mistakes, and learn!
Working the Jobs Market Pipeline
But, even if you’ve built a top-talent-worthy firm, how do you draw people in? How do you recruit people in this job market? “It is a frighteningly competitive market.” Rob notes that firms are starting recruitment efforts at the high school level, offering to sponsor students’ studies in order to secure people. Some are starting even younger in middle school, just priming students for work. The competition is fierce.
Rob recommends two things for firms that can’t seem to get people in the doors.
- Outsourcing—Look for gig workers, overseas outfits, whatever works best for you. If you can’t do all of the things we’ve talked about up unto this point because your firm is loaded down with repetitive tasks, look at the contractor pool, look at the onshoring/offshoring opportunities, look at the freelance economy so you can get some breathing room and tackle the important stuff.
- Train your people—Tell your people about their career path, their roadmap within your company and help them achieve and progress. Provide them with training and mentorship to help them grow. “Rather than looking for a specific person to fill a specific role, look at your existing talent pool and say ‘Who can we invest in?’”
We covered a ton of great information in the podcast, so if you’re after more detailed information, be sure to check out the full episode! If you want to learn more about Rob and the work he’s doing over at Accounting Influencers, you can connect with him on LinkedIn, through his podcast, or by visiting Accounting Influencer’s website.