The skills gap within the accountancy industry is increasing at an alarming rate. According to a recent study, 60% of employers saw at least a moderate skills shortage in accountancy and finance in 2018. Because of this, firms need to do more to ensure they are attracting and retaining the best talent and investing in ways to promote personal and professional development.
One of the quickest wins for firms, and certainly the most obvious way to attract and retain talent, is to provide the best possible technology which helps them carry out their work in a more efficient and timely manner. However, this isn’t the only benefit of using technology in supporting personnel management efforts – especially in a professional services firms where many are overlooking the value of their data.
If you asked any accountant why they became an accountant, we know for sure it wasn’t so they could spend hours every week carrying out administrative tasks such as time recording. However, if firms were able to improve this function, the data it can yield will deliver the firm with incredible insight into how it can improve the working lives of its valued team members.
Think about it. Time recording, if done well, provides a blueprint of who does what within the firm and therefore delivers a picture of what is working and what can be improved. To attract and retain the best staff, this is exactly the data that firms are looking for – how do ‘we’ reduce the administrative burden on our fee earners and give them back the opportunity to show us their talent and deliver greater value?
If fee earners are recording non-chargeable time, in addition to chargeable time, the firm is able to understand and quantify how much effort is spent on non-value-adding activities. Knowing this – and more importantly, the opportunity cost of this time – helps firms to build a business case that is backed up by data, about investing in a support function that makes the life of fee earners easier and keeps them motivated.
To achieve this, the technology needs to be able to reduce manual errors in recording time. Therefore, many firms have chosen the route of the automated timesheet. This does not mean that the automation software should be used to monitor everything employees do – instead it should be there to support them – helping them to show the firm where they are ‘wasting’ their talent.
In addition to this, having a positive firm environment means that attracting talent becomes much easier. People within the industry talk, and many accountants will move to firms because they know an employee and have heard good things about working at that firm. Knowing that a firm not only values its employees’ time, but that it invests in technology to help staff perform, is a key selling point for many accountants.
Automated time recording will help move personnel management into a new era, where things can be actioned in the ‘here and now’, rather than picking up on pressure points in the firm when it’s too late. This will become integral to tackling staff retention levels as it will show firms are investing in their talent and have an on-going desire to help employees in their professional development.
By Alan Conway, practice group lead – client delivery of professional services platform, Intapp