Can accountancy firms catch up on diversity? 3 ways tech can help

Andrew Bone, CEO and Co-Founder of Dayshape

Accountancy practice management software has come a long way. Today, features like automated billing and reconciliations are easily integrated into the day-to-day practice workflow of Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK customers.

Our employees work side by side with our customers to create and manage these solutions – driven by a deep understanding of their needs and addressing the rapid changes in their environment.

However, it’s often hard to look beyond improving performance in day-to-day operations. Amid Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and other disruptions, accountancy practices and their clients are dealing with an unpredictable economic landscape. Future business planning can appear daunting.

However, technology can support accountancy practices (and their clients) in making informed business decisions, and planning for the future. In the first part of our Accountancy Practice Management for Future-Fit Growth series, we’ll explore how they can use technology to define and easily track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Doing so gives practices closer control of performance tracking, and deeper insights that will inform strategic growth plans.

Saving Time

For several decades, business technology platforms have enabled practices to track performance metrics that they have customised. This highlights areas that qualify for improvement and underpins strategic planning.

Contemporary technology, such as CCH KPI Monitoring, makes setting up KPIs faster and easier for accountancy practices than ever before. This is vital today. The current business landscape demands that firms assess and amend KPIs more frequently, based on fresh market variables. KPIs such as client retention rate and business time-to-recovery have become increasingly prominent performance indicators in the past year. If clunky technology makes KPI management difficult, practices have less time and insight to plan future growth.

Reducing Risk
CCH KPI Monitoring makes it far easier to track KPIs and report on them. This is fundamental in minimising risk. For example, if a KPI is set to track and escalate debt filtered by overdue dates, the ability to easily set alerts and automatically generate reports is critical to practice performance management.

Some practices are manually running monthly reports to measure KPIs. Others are running real-time reporting engines, a key feature of CCH KPI Monitoring. This latter solution allows practices to review essential data at any time – covering both performance management and compliance requirements. They can do so remotely or on-premise.

This means that firms can assess issues before they become problems, and thus act proactively. Real-time reporting is a true asset in building a future-fit practice.

The Proof is in the Practice
A number of Wolters Kluwer customers have been using CCH KPI Monitoring for several years now. Our customers look to us when they need to be right. Ryecroft Glenton has successfully integrated CCH KPI Monitoring with its own system. This consolidates information from several sources, including CCH Central and CCH Practice Management.

“We can use the year end date to trigger a sequence of reminders. Have we asked for the books? Have they been received? If a request to a client has been outstanding for a certain period, the partner will receive an alert via email. For limited companies, we can monitor the corporation tax and Companies House filing deadlines – as well as the different deadlines for pension schemes”

– Ian Smith, partner at Ryecroft Glenton

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Corporate events agency who benefited from greener graphics initiative

“Apogee are not just aprinting company, theyconsult with us and go onto deliver a full end to endservice from concept toinstallation. They go aboveand beyond and we lookforward to continuing ourjourney with them”

Despite accountancy firms investing in diversity and inclusion programmes, recent figures suggest that the diverse make-up of the accountancy workforce is falling behind its counterparts. So what’s holding them back?  

According to recent figures, accountants’ attitudes on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are behind the curve when compared to other industries. The findings suggest that accounting professionals are less likely to agree that addressing DEI is important compared to the cross-industry average (29% vs 43%). Similarly, those in accountancy are less likely to agree that diversity improves decision making (48% vs 73%).

The comparatively poor perception towards DEI in accounting seems to have embedded itself within the firm demographics (considering characteristics such as race, gender, age, orientation, religion, and class) as further figures indicate that accountancy workplaces are fairly homogeneous compared to the cross-industry average across both a team and a leadership level.

Given these insights across DEI attitudes and existing firm demographics, it’s not surprising that accountancy firms are struggling to attract and retain diverse talent. In today’s hyper-competitive market, employees expect a lot more from the companies they work for.  Likewise, clients are increasingly looking to work with firms that can offer diverse experiences, perspectives, and skills. So how can firms meet these expectations and support the DEI culture they need to succeed?

For a growing number of firms, advanced resource management technology has opened up new opportunities to achieve this.

How resource management technology can help
1. Resource objectively with suitability scoring  
In professional service industries like accounting where getting the right person, on the right engagement, at the right time, is crucial for both engagement performance and client satisfaction, we argue it’s also important for championing unbiased career progression.  

Without objective systems in place, it can be easy to create an opportunity gap. Resource managers (especially when under stress) resort to old habits of assigning tasks to resources who are top of mind without truly considering how their skill set and availability compares to other resources. This diminishes decision making and results in short cuts to unconscious bias - precisely the patterns firms need to break to enable more DEI in accountancy.  

With technology, firms can formalise this process. Dayshape automatically calculates a suitability score for each person, to assist resource managers in assigning work without bias. Similar to ‘blind resourcing’ this approach focuses only on the best match of available skills, knowledge, and availability for the task. Hence enabling resource managers to make the most informed, merit-based decisions, without bias. This in turn positively impacts on retention by promoting DEI; supporting career development of all staff objectively without favouritism or recency bias.  

2. Develop talent by recognising skill shortages
By inputting a record of skills and preferences into a software system like Dayshape, not only will this help to retain talent by giving staff work that they prefer, matching skills to work results in higher quality engagements and provides visibility of skill shortages.  

For example, it may be discovered that language skills in Mandarin are required more often than they can be sourced. With this knowledge in mind, firms can make proactive steps to develop those interested in learning Mandarin to fill this gap. This is a win-win for both the individual and the employer; developing the skills that the business needs while focusing on individual interests and aspirations of those already in the organisation.

3. Empower your team with visibility and flexibility
Offering visibility and flexibility within schedules allows for a much more inclusive workplace as rigid schedules don’t foster a supportive DEI environment.

In Dayshape, resources are given the freedom to suggest changes to their schedules and self assign work. For those with home, family, or other commitments, this is particularly useful as it provides them with autonomy to plan their work schedule around their personal lives. Hence reducing burnout and encouraging retention by providing people with confidence that their needs and interests are being recognised and prioritised.  

In conclusion, to provide the best opportunity to retain and develop diverse talent in accountancy, the people, processes, and systems used must support a DEI culture. With a greater sense of agency and belonging, people will form greater loyalty to the firm, teams will be better positioned to deliver the best quality work for clients, and investors will recognise the intangible benefits of a diverse workplace leading to greater company growth.

The first step to improving your DEI culture can be as simple as changing how you manage your engagements and resources. Discover Dayshape’s people-first planning to learn more.

Dec 2022

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