According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), about 75% of certified public accountants (CPAs) reached retirement age in 2020. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also reported that over 300,000 U.S. auditors and accountants left their jobs over the past two years, representing a 17% decline. 

Unsurprisingly, CFOs and controllers around the nation have felt the effects of this talent crunch. Last year, the Controllers Council found that most CFOs, controllers, and related executives were reeling from accountant and CPA shortages

These woes persist in 2024. According to our 2024 Controller/CFO Sentiment Study, talent retention and recruitment rank as a top concern that keeps respondents up at night. 

If you want to successfully navigate this unprecedented shortage, you’ll have to reevaluate how you acquire and retain top accounting talent. With that in mind, here are five strategies to find, hire, and keep CPAs and finance professionals:

1. Embrace Automation of Manual and Repetitive Tasks

The first step in addressing the talent shortage is recognizing the role of automation in reshaping the accounting landscape. By automating manual and repetitive tasks, you’ll be able to streamline your operations and make the accounting role more appealing to prospective employees. 

Let’s face it — many people don’t want to spend their days sifting through never-ending spreadsheets or processing accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) requests. They want to be challenged. 

Automation frees up professionals to focus on more strategic, value-added, and rewarding activities. In turn, this may lead to improved job satisfaction and help you attract individuals looking for dynamic and impactful roles.

2. Invest in Training and Upskilling for Automation

As automation becomes increasingly integrated into accounting processes, the demand for professionals skilled in these technologies rises. If the current talent pool lacks the skills you need, the next best solution is to invest in homegrown talent. Offer training and upskilling opportunities to make your existing workforce more talented. 

Offering programs that teach employees how to leverage automation tools and analyze the data they produce may help retain current staff and attract new talent. By positioning your organization as a place where employees are able to grow their skills and advance their careers, you’ll enhance your appeal to potential hires. You’ll also build a competent, confident, highly-skilled team. 

3. Offer Flexible Work Environments

Onsite-only work environments are quickly becoming a thing of the past, especially for roles like accounting and finance. All of the data that accounting interacts with is already digitized. Therefore, there is no need for them to spend every day in the office. 

Embracing hybrid and remote work models will go a long way in attracting top talent and improving retention. Think about it — the average employee spends two hours of each workday preparing for their shift and commuting to and from the office. By offering hybrid or remote opportunities, you effectively shorten the work week by 5-10 hours per week. 

Flexibility demonstrates an understanding of employees’ needs and shows that your organization values their well-being and personal commitments. 

4. Cultivate a Strong Employer Brand

A strong employer brand communicates your organization’s values, culture, and commitment to employee development. By building a strong brand, you can make your organization a premier destination for accounting talent. When fine-tuning your brand image, focus on showcasing your firm’s investments in technology, training, and employee well-being.

Take to social media and attend recruitment events. Brag about how your business does things differently and treats financial professionals better. Highlight success stories, employee testimonials, and career development opportunities to attract professionals who share your organization’s values. The goal is to differentiate your organization from the average firm. 

5. Engage in Strategic Recruitment Partnerships 

Building relationships with educational institutions, professional associations like the AICPA, and specialized recruitment agencies will streamline your talent acquisition process. These partnerships also provide direct access to a pool of qualified candidates, including recent graduates and certified professionals seeking new opportunities. 

Participating in career fairs, guest lecturing, and offering internships or scholarships are effective ways to engage with potential talent early in their career journey. Connecting with incoming finance professionals makes it easier to attract them to your organization when they are ready to enter the workforce. 

Stop Losing Out on Top Talent

There is no single solution to the ongoing shortage of financial professionals and CPA talent. Instead, you’ll need to leverage a multifaceted approach prioritizing employee well-being, upskilling, and workforce optimization. By empowering your staff with cutting-edge tech and boosting their confidence with targeted training, you’ll be able to fill talent gaps and drive your business forward.

These strategies not only address the immediate challenge of filling vacant positions but also contribute to building a resilient, skilled, and satisfied workforce capable of driving future success. Do more in 2024 by making talent acquisition and retention a top priority!

Additional Resources

10 Tips for Retaining Accounting Staff: From the Great Resignation to the Great Retention

Corporate Finance & Accounting Talent Study Results – Webcast Highlights

Initiatives Address Accountant and CPA Shortages

Retaining Top Talent: Strategies for CFOs and Controllers