Primetime Interview Series - IAB World Survey 2023

Talent Development
March 8, 2023

PrimeGlobal CEO, Stephen Heathcote, spoke to International Accounting Bulletin (IAB) about his views on recruitment strategies in 2023 and how the likes of DEI targets, AI and automation encourage a holistic approach to recruitment and retention.

Access our Talent Development Insights hub to access similar tools and resources to help your firm adapt to current challenges and opportunities that face the accounting profession.

IAB: In terms of recruitment, what strategies have been put in place to retain and onboard joiners to meet DEI targets?

Increasingly our member firms are separating out parts of the HR function to really focus on effective recruitment and retention of staff. The firms onboarding team checks in with new staff to ensure they are having a great experience. For example, one firm will issue an invitation from the CEO to a '100 Days Dinner' to monitor employee satisfaction and retention. All new colleagues who started three months previously are invited to informally share their experiences from their first 100 days, as well as put forward questions, ideas, and recommendations. Firms regularly check with the team to understand potential challenges – recognising diversity goes beyond age, colour, or gender. For example, many firms have raised awareness regarding the impact of the menopause and what support can be given.

What’s your view on how digital investment is changing and replacing roles via automation and AI?
Steve Heathcote CEO
"Skills shortages are driving more efficiencies through automation and AI. Our firms are seeing roles change significantly. Routine tasks are being automated and moved to the cloud. This is impacting all roles across the firm – not just professional staff." Stephen Heathcote, CEO, PrimeGlobal

In support functions such as IT or payroll, firms are investing more in development of staff to improve retention and develop higher level analytics and insight skills.

Professional staff now need to develop higher level skills such as communication, empathy, innovation, and business acumen. To develop these skills, our firms create professional development programmes which are often structured to provide work experience and access to mentors.

RPA is helping take away routine tasks providing staff with more time to add value using data to provide insights to clients. Continuing Professional Development is more critical than ever. PrimeGlobal provides a range of learning to help professionals share experiences, benefit from good practices, and obtain certifications which demonstrate they have the required skills for the future.

Outside of those recruited via a traditional accountancy background, what other key academic and other technical skills are networks looking for in a candidate search? Why is this?

Our firms are often looking for the following characteristics:

  • Experience – does the candidate have a knowledge of the industry or sector? Are they able to provide the insights which clients will find valuable?
  • Digital native - Are they able to use analytics which will provide additional insights? Are they aware of different software packages so they can provide value quickly?
  • Communication – Will they be able to communicate effectively with clients – both virtually and in person? Can they use visualisation software – which clients increasingly expect?
  • Team player – Delivering services increasingly requires a range of skills. Are they collaborative? Will they fit with the team?
  • Empathy – they need to see other perspectives to deliver the right solutions and obtain the right support.
  • Entrepreneurial – With limited resources, professionals need to be able to be creative and champion change.
  • Problem solver – Increasingly firms are valued for their advice. They need to provide solutions which clients most value.

Firms needs people who understand their clients, can communicate with them and proactivity provide insights. That requires a mix of experience and higher-level professional skills.

In 2022 we entered a partnership with the group MindShop to help us develop advisory skills across our firms. Mindshop provide coaching services to engage a range of professional to provide business

What is your recruitment and retention strategy in 2023? What do you need to balance going forward in terms of new required specialists in management and in member firms staffing requirements globally?

Firms are taking a holistic approach to recruitment and retention of their teams. Increasingly firms are focused on employee experience above customer experience, as they know if they have the right people they will successfully deliver to their clients. This requires ensuring that:

  • Individual professional development is supported in a structured way
  • Staff are listened to, and action is taken to address concerns.
  • Well-being is a top priority – including support with mental health.
  • There is clear sense of purpose. The firm is known for making a difference in the wider community and reducing environmental impact. The next generation want to work for organisations who have a positive purpose. Several of our firms are becoming B Corps. Firms are exploring new service lines around environmental impact.
  • Outsourcing, and moving to cloud managed services, is being used to reduce the pressure on existing staff.
PrimeGlobal is investing to automate services provided by the association by introducing a cloud-based Association Management System (AMS). This will provide more capacity for team members to focus on providing added value through targeted insights.