Breaking Geographical Barriers: The Future of Staffing in Accounting

By Julie Smith and Liz Branch

Recently, we had the opportunity to discuss a topic that is near and dear to most accounting firms: staffing. In an era where CPA firms grapple with a talent shortage, there are good solutions if you are willing to think beyond your town or metro area.

In fact, traditional confines of geographical borders are no longer a limitation; they’re an outdated way of thinking. 

The Rise of Remote Work in CPA Firms

The pandemic changed everything. We proved that we can go completely digital. 

But before we embrace the paradigm shift of adding remote employees, what about accounting firms that have always required their teams to work in the office? Candidly, it’s time to embrace a staffing strategy that empowers firms to find the best talent- wherever that talent is located. So, where do you start?

The more we talked, the more we realized that there are three strategies every firm should put in place to successfully add remote talent to an existing team. 

1. Technology: The Great Enabler

It’s no secret that to integrate remote workers seamlessly, firms need to ensure they have the right technology and security in place. This means embracing systems that work effortlessly both in-house and for those connecting from afar. From client consultations and internal team meetings to practice management and tax software, access to data and internal and external communication channels have to be well thought out. Everyone should be using the same technology- and using it the same way.

Addressing security concerns is obvious, but think through all of your daily work processes as if you were a remote employee.

For example, what virtual meeting tools will you use for meetings with clients, staff meetings, and quick one-off internal meetings?

How do you track time? Even in an era where more firms embrace value billing, if time is tracked, what are the expectations? How do you access client data? Who do you go to for questions?

2. Communication Processes and Protocol

Which brings us to communication and the importance of organized processes. How are you doing the work?

Think about it from a remote employee’s perspective.

How can you shorten their learning curve and assimilate them into your processes and your culture? 

We advocate creating a “Getting Started” document that is shared with your new remote employee. This document should outline key firm processes and expectations. It’s more than an employee handbook. For example, it should include things like:

  • Your tech stack and how it’s used internally
  • Time tracking processes and expectations
  • Where to find client information
  • FAQs
  • Helpful tips from others who have come into the firm recently

Organized communication is paramount. Make sure your onboarding process is documented, and engage your new remote employee virtually with every person in the firm individually.

3. Find an expert

While embracing the idea of remote talent opens up a whole new channel of opportunity, it comes with its own challenges in terms of finding the right people. Partnering with a firm that specializes in sourcing remote talent can take tremendous weight off your shoulders. There are specialized firms with established networks of accountants looking for remote work opportunities. 

Create one team

Finally, an employee’s initial days set the tone for their journey ahead. A well-crafted onboarding experience that draws them into your culture is crucial. Be intentional about ensuring that remote employees don’t just understand their roles but also see how they fit into the firm’s overall vision. And, make sure they feel intrinsically connected to the team. 

Ultimately, at its core, hiring is about defining the role you need to fill, finding the right person for that role regardless of location, and forging a bond. Whether local or miles away, employees want to feel connected, understood, and valued. 

By planning for and embracing the idea of adding remote talent to your team, CPA firms can move beyond the talent shortage and run an efficient, profitable business.

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