Recession: Cure for Staff Shortages?


The man with the cell phone was talking loudly in the line for the bank teller about his effort to find a controller. “I can’t find anybody good,” he complained. And it sounded a lot like the reports from many practitioners in tax and accounting and software consulting firms. In fact, in a room of about 300 Intuit software users, a query about how many had faced staff problems problem a sea of hands.

A questions about how many had turned down business because of the inability to find the right people brought fewer, but perhaps 40 percent of the room. And it’s a testament to just how hard hiring and keeping people has become.

That difficulty has led many to consider or broaden the use of remote workers, and with gasoline prices still continuing to rise, the cost of energy is going to become a factor in where applicants want to work—in areas of the country in which long drives are the norm, the cost of the commute has quickly become a calculation of necessity.

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Certainly, this is one area in which the ability to make documents available to staff is likely to propel more firms into the document management and portal business. And it’s going to be easier to have a policy for remote workers if they have the tools to enable them to do so than if those tools aren’t available.

This view rests of one basic assumption—that business will continue to grow and firms will continue to need these hires as has been the case for much of the past two years.

Tax and accounting firms might not feel an immediate or a severe pinch. There’s still not a great supply of accounting graduates coming out of the colleges. Besides, businesses still need tax services and many will want advice on how to tighten operations as the economy also tightens.

Consultants have been in equally short supply on the accounting software side.

But the problem could be different in the computer consulting arena. There are already signs that sales cycles are lengthening and business are more willing and able to forego purchasing new products and services. Most businesses have accounting software. It’s just a matter of when to replace the current version.

With an economic downturn, many complaints about the current job market could be quickly resolved.

One of the more interesting has been that the younger, computer-fed generation wants to do things its way, and it’s difficult to keep those workers. But one good recession could take care of those problems.

After all, many of them haven’t needed to become acquainted with the phrase “Be happy you have a job.”

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Editor Robert Scott also writes “Consulting Insights,” a free, twice-monthly electronic newsletter that addresses issues concerning the consulting and reselling market. It’s insight with an attitude. If you want to subscribe, put the following in your browser address line: You can also visit us at

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