Mike Guelker

Attracting and Retaining Top Tax and Accounting Professionals

Seven building blocks for building a stable, productive workforce.

February 28, 2008
by Mike Guelker

The talent pool for qualified tax and accounting professionals has dwindled over the past few years. And, even through these difficult economic times, companies are struggling not only to seek out fresh talent, but to hang on to the experts currently keeping corporate tax and accounting departments afloat. The creation of legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley 404 and FIN 48 has placed insurmountable pressure on professionals in the tax and accounting departments. Processes are now more closely scrutinized, corporate accountability is making its way up and down the internal food chain and individual departments are still expected to do more with fewer resources.

Today’s talent landscape is difficult to traverse; below we’ll look at some of the tips and techniques for attracting and retaining the right tax and accounting professionals.

The Cost of True Talent

How much does turnover cost? What are the hard and soft dollar costs? Both are great questions that should seriously be considered when reflecting on the current employee status and impending recruiting efforts that every company undertakes.

Let’s start with the hard dollar. Time must be taken to analyze where money is currently being spent and to recognize that each of these areas is equally important:

  • Salary
  • Training
  • Benefits
  • Replacement Costs

You may not initially believe that soft dollar costs deserve the same amount of attention as the factors above. However, it is important to understand that the items listed below can cause an enormous shift to your bottom-line if they are not given the proper attention:

  • Lost Knowledge
  • Continuity
  • Client Relationships — both internal and external

So yes, there is definitely a significant dollar value — one way or another — that is a repercussion of turnover.

Talent Replacement

In addition to the dollar cost, according to Workforce Study conducted by the Hudson Institute, it is and will be even harder to replace talent.

During the 1970s and 1980s, almost 76 million baby boomers flooded the market, meaning that talent was literally a dime a dozen. Then in the first half of the 1990s, corporate America began an era of “reengineering” or downsizing, which only reinforced the idea that people were just an expense to be cut.

It was not until the late 1990s and the turn of the century when the Hudson Institute’s prediction of a workforce shortage — presented in their Workforce Study — would begin to ring true.

Let’s take a look at what some of the data from the study indicated:

  • Seventy-seven percent said that it is either very difficult or difficult to ATTRACT talent.
  • Fifty-nine percent said it is either very difficult or difficult to RE-TRAIN talent.

And then, again, how about the actual talent pool:

  • Fifty-eight percent said that entry-level professionals are in short supply.
  • Seventy-two percent said that experienced professionals are in short supply.

The McKinsey Quarterly has conducted numerous employment studies over the past 10 years and continues to indicate in their latest talent-focused articles that most major employers are locked in a “war for talent.”

Anymore good news? To burst the positive-outlook bubble, additional talent surveys indicate that your customers expect to be served by competent employees who know their jobs, their products and their customers. They want continuity.

Given that your staff costs are probably two-thirds of your budget and that replacing employees is getting more difficult, your company will suffer if you continue with high levels of turnover. Doesn’t addressing the issue of retention or workforce stability become a foregone conclusion?
Let’s examine the seven building blocks for building a stable, productive workforce.

To view the seven building blocks — branding/reputation, selection and hiring practices, orientation process, employee development and training, compensation and benefits, reward and recognition and leadership that can guide companies to attract and retain top tax and accounting professionals — please view the full article at: vertexinc.com/AICPA.

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Mike Guelker, Director of Tax Services, Vertex, Inc. Throughout his career and as a former Tax Partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mike has led many Fortune 500, middle market, and emerging industry engagements. As both an income and sales and use tax expert, Mike regularly hosts tax thought leadership Webcasts offered by Vertex. He has been published in many journals and magazines, including those by the Tax Executives Institute and Association for Computers and Taxation.