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Where Accountants Can Go From Here This Year

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In the first of a two-part article series, we look at workplace trends that are impacting your clients in 2022. Your understanding of these shifts can help you be a better advisor – and manage your staff better as well.

Feb 15th 2022
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Right now, most accountants are in the midst of a tax season that promises to be just as challenging if not more so than last year. The impact of pandemic legislation such as stimulus payments, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and employee retention tax credits- will make tax returns more complex than recent years.

Additionally, both clients and accountants themselves are coping with major shifts in how work is getting done. Thousands of businesses, including accounting firms, have employees working remotely or only part-time in the office. Many workers are taking a hard look at their jobs and work/life balance. The pandemic has made a lot of people step back and ask what they want from their jobs, resulting in more open positions than jobseekers. So where can accountants step in?

Employee Visibility Redefined

Workplaces are currently fighting for top talent in one of the most competitive labor markets in recent history. Attracting, and retaining, workers is a top priority for organizations who are offering benefits like remote/hybrid work to stick out from the crowd.

While not all of your business clients can support remote and hybrid work arrangements, those that are able to have accepted that work can be completed from varying locations, and working from home is no longer seen as “playing hooky.” In fact, many have seen their productivity has increased.

According to ADP Research Institute’s (ADPRI) “People at Work: A Global Workforce View” study, within a year of the pandemic, three quarters of the global workforce made changes or plan to change how or where they live, with that percentage even greater (85 percent) among Generation Z. The same study found that there is a sharp increase in the proportion of workers (67 percent) who say they feel empowered to take advantage of flexible working arrangements at their companies, which is up from 26 percent before the pandemic.

What are the implications for clients who need to manage this new workforce, get them paid, and comply with laws and regulations no matter where the work is being done?  Technology is core to managing remote employees.

First, companies must invest in user-friendly – not clunky – collaboration and team software. Second, being able to “see” this remote workforce requires reliable access to in-depth "people data." This can help businesses identify potential issues in key areas like overtime, turnover and compensation – all of which impact cost, revenue and productivity. With this information, managers can better support hybrid teams.

Accounting managers also need to keep the lines of communication open to remote workers. It’s easy to feel isolated when working outside of the office. Employee wellness has become a significant concern during the pandemic. Regular one-on-ones and small “check-ins” unrelated to tasks and business issues, can make a big difference.

Ultimately, for your business-owner clients, keeping their people feeling connected is essential to retaining talent. According to further findings from  ADPRI, U.S. employees who trust both their teammates and their leaders are seven times more likely to feel "strongly connected" to their organization. The more connected they feel, the more likely they are to stay with the company.

During times of high stress for accountants – like tax season – these actions become even more crucial. Businesses should periodically revisit their policies around flexible work schedules, remote work options and time-off parameters, including sick time.

People & Purpose Will Drive Workplace Culture

The social and economic upheaval brought on by the pandemic has caused many workers to reevaluate their lives and especially their work. Family and health have moved up in priority, for example. As this reassessment takes place, it’s impacting workplace culture.

Employees aren’t willing to go the “extra mile” if their employers are not acting to meet their needs. Workers also see a labor market with more opportunities and are more willing to leave unsatisfactory jobs. Consequently, employers are trying to adapt to these evolving talent demands in any way they can.

But your small business owner clients don’t have the time or resources that large corporations have. They need convenient and cost-effective resources and tools they can use to successfully recruit, engage and retain talent.

One way for them to accomplish this is with software that uses their own data to identify trends, as well as national data to benchmark against. Being able to measure changes in turnover, or diversity, equity and inclusion goals, or participation in benefit offerings, can help business owners see the result of their efforts over time.

With clients, this focus on workplace culture and retention can have real rewards. The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) can save businesses tens of thousands of dollars. And accountants can show their real value, by walking their businesses through how your services can help them claim ERTC or other credits like the R&D Tax Credits. This focus from accountants on their clients will create a long-term culture of trust.

Going forward into 2022, it will be essential for organizations to ensure employees feel a sense of purpose in their work. As trusted partners, accountants have an opportunity to help their clients identify gaps and foster a positive workplace culture.

Conclusion

After the turbulence of the past two years, your small business clients are beginning to realize that you can do more than just prepare taxes and compliance work. Accountants have, for the most part, stepped up and helped clients with cash flow, retirement programs, real estate negotiations, bank loans and more. As such, you can provide value-added offerings such as HR advisory services, pointing clients to resources that can meet the expectations of a changing workforce.

 

 

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