The unlikely heroes of accounting’s shrinking talent pool: boomers

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Accounting, like many professions, is experiencing a shrinking talent pool as boomers retire and younger generations are opting for other careers.

I recently received a call from a public accounting firm whose client was struggling to find the right candidate for a corporate accounting position. They needed someone who had the experience necessary to help them with monthly reporting, ad hoc projects, and corporate accounting work. In our work qualifying and matching “pretired” veteran accounting professionals to company’s specific accounting staffing needs, we had just the right vintage talent to meet the job requirements.

This is the decade the accounting profession has anticipated for years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting is expected to see double-digit growth in the number of jobs available. Unfortunately, even without additional job growth, there are too few accounting professionals to go around. The American Institute of CPAs Q2 Economic Outlook Survey 2018 shows that 43 percent of CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other CPA executives indicate they currently have too few employees, a 2 percent increase over last quarter.

There are tens of thousands of vintage accounting professionals who have retired from the office but want to continue to work from home.

Hiring remains the number one concern within the accounting profession, along with the challenge of retaining current employees. Talent retention is a major obstacle, with 60 percent of millennial employees saying in a recent Gallup poll that they are open to new job opportunities. Likewise, with over 70 million baby boomers already starting their exodus from the workforce, the shortage deepens.

Boomers: The New Workforce

There is some good news for accounting firms and businesses. While boomers are leaving the traditional office, they aren’t necessarily leaving the workforce. A national survey for the AICPA conducted by Harris Poll found that 45 percent of pre-retirees expected to work full-time longer than the originally planned, with 43 percent expecting to work past retirement.

If veteran workers aren’t retiring, where are they going? At least some of them are extending their careers from home. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor reveals that although the gig economy has shrunk overall since 2005, Americans age 55 and older today constitute the biggest share of independent contractors.

Just like boomers across other industries, pre-retiree accountants are recognizing the benefits of becoming an independent contractor.

And why not? As independent contractors, these accounting professionals are drawn to the freedom and flexibility of working from anywhere. Without the commute or the costs associated with going to an office every day, remote workers can tailor their work schedules to suit their needs as well as the needs of their company’s clients. Not only that, veteran accounting professionals can work a modified schedule while still contributing a high level of skill and knowledge.

Benefits for Firms

For firms, the benefits are equally impressive. By employing retiring accounting professionals in a remote work arrangement, accounting firms and businesses have the entire country as a candidate pool. Remote workers remove geographic boundaries, making it easier to find the right-fit candidate. By removing geographic requirements, companies can choose from several carefully vetted candidates and find one that fit its exact needs.

Remote workers also provide an economic benefit to companies in several ways: Businesses benefit from lower overhead and the flexibility to hire either full-time or part-time candidates. Additionally, contracting for a veteran accounting professional means training and onboarding costs are greatly reduced. Highly experienced professionals “walk” right into the job. In my work with remote staffing agency Work at Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE), I’ve helped an accounting firm client find an experienced tax reviewer professional. They wanted someone who had a strong background and a depth of experience. In our vetted candidate database, we were able to locate a few qualified candidates, including one candidate with a 35-year career with the IRS.

The biggest benefits companies and accounting firms get from hiring a veteran worker in a remote arrangement is the level and extent of talent available and the cost savings.

The Future Accounting Workforce

With the new gig economy trend, accounting firms and businesses can expect to see a shift in the traditional workforce model to one that includes remote professionals with long-term tenure. While larger accounting firms may not experience this trend for a while, the local and regional public accounting firms can immediately realize the benefits of such a shift.

The remote worker is the future of today’s workforce. As the accounting industry embraces workarounds for the ever-increasing worker shortage, remote work, particularly that which seeks to re-engage retiring accounting professionals, will be just the solution the industry needs.

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