How to address shortages in accounting staff

Any organization that employs accounting staff — small or large, for profit or nonprofit — is facing shortages in that department. As more baby boomers retire, fewer graduates are entering the workforce to take their place, leaving holes with not enough talent to fill them. That’s driving competition for the accounting staffers already in the field, and driving organizations to find creative ways to attract increasingly fewer candidates.

“It’s required organizations to look at engagement programs that they have with their staff,” says Sam Lickert, Director of Talent Acquisition and Interim Solutions at Clark Schaefer Strategic HR. “That can include growth and development opportunities, pay increases — anything to improve their employment brand and encourage people to stay for the long term.”

Other solutions include using new technologies to automate accounting process, or working with an outsource partner to help bring in talent, create a plan to develop internal talent, or handle the work altogether.

“Outsource partners that focus on accounting can have multiple specialties,” says John Throckmorton, Director at Clark Schaefer Strategic HR. “From retained search firms, contingent recruiting firms to outsourced recruiting models, they can have a depth of experience from bookkeeping all the way up to CFOs.”

Smart Business spoke with Lickert and Throckmorton about the issues facing accounting departments and the solutions that exist to address them.

What are the more effective methods for dealing with accounting staff shortages?

Something that can help address this issue is to get ahead of it by focusing on retention. That can be done through stay interviews to help organizations understand what’s important to their staff and make improvements that would encourage them to stay. Organizations can also increase employee longevity through clear career progressions, investments in technology to increase productivity and efficiency, and ongoing training and skill development that benefit both the company and the employee. Focusing on these areas can help organizations of all sizes backfill talent and minimize turnover.

Recruitment is another area that can help. Some organizations have started employing signing bonuses and other tactics to entice candidates to come work for them, drive more interest in their positions and try to create a competitive edge over other organizations. It’s also required them to develop and strengthen their talent management programs to improve their internal candidates, and build a pipeline for future leaders within the organization.

Who can help with these accounting challenges?

To backfill the accounting position, an organization could rely on their internal recruiting, or they could develop a relationship with an outsourced recruiting organization that has specialized skills in accounting. Organizations can work with outsource partners that have staff who could be dropped into positions to help address short-term positional needs, like a controller or interim CFO. There are also options to outsource the entire accounting function to a provider, which will then manage the bookkeepers, and provide strategic reporting and direction. Some outsource partners can help organizations on the strategic and human resources side, creating retention plans and strategies to drive engagement so staffers are happy and stay longer. Then, there are partners who can perform the recruiting as an extension of an organization’s team. In this relationship, the outsource partner talks with the management team and direct report to learn what skills, characteristics and experience are important in the role, then finds candidates that match that profile.

As accounting staffers leave, it often creates a gap in an organization’s ability to be efficient, drive productivity and make good business decisions. Without an internal pipeline or a fast and efficient hiring process, it could mean several months of working to find the right person to fill that role. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy. That could mean investing in technology to reduce the hours the position requires, investing in people, or finding an outsource partner with creative solutions to address the issue. Whatever the choice, organizations need to act because the accounting professionals shortage is not expected to be resolved anytime soon.

INSIGHTS Accounting is brought to you by Clark Schaeffer Hackett.

John Throckmorton


Sam Lickert

Director, Talent Acquisition & Interim Solutions
For more solutions to address the accounting shortage, connect with Sam and John, or visit: