Evolving Accounting Firm Culture
In the fast-paced and competitive world of accounting, attracting and retaining talented professionals is essential for the growth and success of firms. While factors such as salary and career advancement opportunities are crucial, the significance of a strong firm culture should not be underestimated. Accounting firms must recognize their employees’ evolving needs and expectations and proactively work to create an environment that fosters engagement, collaboration and a sense of belonging.
A firm’s culture encompasses its values, norms and behaviors. It sets the tone for how employees interact, collaborate and feel connected to the organization. A positive firm culture can drive employee satisfaction, productivity and loyalty, while a toxic or stagnant culture can lead to high turnover rates and a negative reputation.
Trends in Accounting Firm Culture
- Defining and communicating values: Articulating the firm’s values and mission helps candidates and existing staff understand what the organization stands for. Placing emphasis on integrity, client service, innovation and work-life balance can attract individuals who resonate with these values. Don’t simply copy these — take the time to dig deep into who you are and why you are different.
- Offering post-pandemic work-life balance options: One of the biggest trends in accounting firm culture is the focus on work-life balance. Firms are offering more flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, hybrid work schedules, reduced schedules and unlimited PTO. This helps employees maintain a healthy work-life balance and reduces burnout and turnover rates.
- Having diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility: Diversity is more than race and gender. Inclusive cultures foster creativity, different perspectives and a sense of belonging. One of the challenges within this area used to be locality. Before the pandemic, it was challenging to recruit diverse staff primarily because of the location and proximity to work. Now that firms are working remotely/hybrid, access to national and international talent has widened the opportunity to embrace differences. Furthermore, as we continue to grow in this area of firm culture, neurodivergent talent becomes an underrepresented possibility. Culture-forward firms highlight efforts to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, leveraging affinity groups, diversity training and policies that support work-life integration.
- Investing in professional development: Forward-thinking firms also invest heavily in their employee’s professional development, specifically in leadership and soft skills. This includes offering mentoring programs, executive coaching, leadership certification programs and opportunities for advancement within the organization. Demonstrating a commitment to nurturing employees’ skills and providing them with avenues for advancement can be a strong selling point for candidates seeking long-term careers. If this doesn’t fit the description of your culture, consider why and what you need to do to make employees feel valued.
- Integrating technology: With the rise of digitalization, accounting firms are embracing technological advancements to streamline processes and improve efficiency. Investing in cloud-based software, automation tools and AI-powered solutions helps to enhance accuracy and productivity. While AI advancements are yet to replace full-time accountants, looking at alternative hires who can easily assimilate to the technologies required to power the industry is a wise investment.
- Promoting wellness: Public accounting firms should prioritize employee wellness and mental health by providing resources such as counseling services, yoga classes and meditation rooms to help employees manage stress and maintain good mental health. At-home wellness solutions may include nutritional counseling, health and awareness programs, and online exercise programs. Taking it a step further, advanced cultures recognize national and global trends, such as the advanced rate of divorce post-pandemic, and offer divorce coaching, mediation support and family counseling.
As accounting firms navigate an increasingly competitive landscape, the role of firm culture in recruiting and retaining top talent must be considered. To attract the best candidates and retain skilled professionals, firms must actively cultivate a positive, inclusive and supportive environment by clearly defining and communicating their values, offering opportunities for growth and work-life balance, and fostering collaboration and diversity.
Jessica L. Levin, MBA, CMP, CAE, DBA, is the president and chief connector at Seven Degrees, LLC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article appeared in the winter 2023/24 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.