Today’s financial industry is facing a CPA shortage. Now that accountants have reached retirement age, there simply aren’t enough rising CPAs to fill their shoes. As a result, financial workers are facing pressure to accomplish more with less. 

Fortunately, there are some basic strategies that controllers and CFOs can use to boost the efficiency of their teams. Here’s an overview of today’s landscape and how you can learn to thrive amidst a talent shortage.

Understanding the CPA Shortage

What is the reason for the CPA shortage? Widespread shortages have been the result of a “perfect storm” of competing storm fronts.

First, roughly 75% of the CPA workforce has retired since 2020. As more accountants near retirement age, the shortage will likely become more prominent.

Second, there’s simply not an influx of new CPAs. According to one report, there was a 33% drop in CPA exam candidates between 2016 and 2021, and a further drop of 7% in the following year. 

Third is the culture surrounding the CPA profession. Students must complete 150 credit hours to become a CPA, to say nothing of evolving industry standards associated with the financial industry today. Even after receiving certification, CPAs are required to pursue continuing education. Entry-level positions may not offer the kind of salaries needed to encourage a larger commitment of new CPAs.

Navigating the Talent Shortage

Unless a major shift occurs, controllers and CFOs will continue to face talent shortages in their own organizations. What are some strategies for maintaining organizational efficiency despite these trends?

AI and Automation

While no technology can ever replace the decision-making capacities of an actual CPA, AI and automated financial tools can streamline financial processes to boost efficiency. 

AI-powered tools can handle basic repetitive tasks and manage routine activities such as accounts receivable. But automated tools can also be used to improve core business activities and ensure high standards of regulatory compliance.

Thanks to machine learning, AI tools can continually adapt to your most essential business needs. And the real-time data produced by these tools can help leadership teams make well-informed business decisions.

Fostering a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Financial leaders can adapt to talent shortages by cultivating a workplace of continuous improvement. What does this mean? Continuous improvement simply refers to an environment where employees are actively engaged in their core tasks and work together to meet strategic goals and KPIs.

At a minimum, this attitude will form an ecosystem in which workers strive for excellence. Leaders can contribute to this by reminding employees what the company’s long-term goals are and how team members can contribute to this goal through their individual tasks and priorities.

Strategic Workforce Planning

Even if you commit to hiring a CPA for your organization, you could be facing a long wait. Talent shortages make it more challenging to attract CPAs to your company, meaning it could take time to staff your company with the right personnel.

In the meantime, you could consider how you can strategically plan your workforce composition. Start by identifying the skills and priorities that you have, and focus on hiring team members who have experience in these areas. You may not be able to perfectly duplicate the capabilities of a CPA, but you can ensure that your most important priorities are covered until you can make a full-time hire.

Upskilling Your Existing Workforce

In the absence of fresh personnel, it may be time to upskill your current workforce. Encourage your employees to pursue professional development opportunities or educational programs that expose them to new skills and areas of expertise.

Depending on the size of your organization, you might also offer incentives for those who choose to pursue CPA certification. As an added bonus, these types of educational and professional opportunities are good ways to attract and retain new talent in your workplace.

Driving Change Through Leadership

In any organization, change comes from the top. Business leaders can drive change by first embracing change in their own roles. 

For example, leaders can demonstrate agility and flexibility in the face of economic uncertainty and challenges. Leaders might also be open about their own pursuit of learning opportunities that enhance their experience in the workplace.

Healthy leadership can promote a mindset of innovation and efficiency. That’s not just the secret to building a resilient workforce — it’s also necessary to create a workplace culture in which future financial professionals can grow and thrive.

The Future and the CPA Shortage

Unfortunately, the current talent shortage isn’t going away anytime soon. In the meantime, controllers, CFOs, and other high-level leaders can work to create a workplace that adapts to key challenges and thrives amidst the shortage. By taking a proactive approach, your organization can successfully navigate the talent crisis, all while promoting business growth even in the face of future uncertainty.

For tips, check out our recent webinar: Top Strategies to Attract and Retain Accounting and Finance Talent. You will learn how to attract top talent to your F&A team as well as how to improve the team’s engagement, retention, and productivity. Panelists include Joy Mbanugo, CFO @ ServiceRocket, and former Controller @ Google; and Brandt Kucharski, Chief Accounting Officer @ Ethos Life, and former CAO @ Grubhub.