The Gig Economy: 5 Ways Accounting Firms Can Prepare for It
Until a few years ago, almost everyone’s idea of a successful career followed more or less the same pattern. It involved working with a high-profile company for many years, rising through the ranks and most importantly, drawing a steady income every month. Today, however, the mould has been largely broken, giving way to a new phenomenon: the ‘gig economy’. Millennials, who comprise a major portion of the modern workforce, are increasingly choosing to be their own boss. They are marketing their talents independently as freelancers and working with a number of clients simultaneously.
The rise of the gig economy is poised to be one of the greatest influential factors for businesses. It can fundamentally change how organisations structure themselves and conduct their processes. Depending on how an accounting firm’s management decides to approach the gig economy, this development can be either very advantageous or disruptive.
Here are five strategies to help accounting firms tackle the rise of the gig economy head-on.
1. Take Advantage of the Gig Economy
Many firms view the gig economy as something that could pose a threat to their business, however, this isn’t always the case. In fact, there are numerous ways in which it could actually prove beneficial to accounting firms. The nature of accounting work allows individuals to work remotely and independently when it comes to basic tasks. Because of this, there has been a steady rise in the number of accountants who have opted to freelance. Accounting firms, who are typically overburdened with routine compliance and processing work, can capitalise on this opportunity by outsourcing this work to independent contractors. Not only will this prove to be more cost-effective, but it will also help your employees focus on higher-value work.
2. Modify Required Skill Sets
As the gig economy becomes larger and more pervasive, it might also impact a firm’s hiring process. Typically, entry-level employees in an accounting firm spend a majority of their work doing basic compliance and other routine work. But once a firm decides to outsource these tasks to an independent contractor or a third-party vendor, an employee’s workload will also change. The amount of time lower level employees spend on routine tasks like transaction processing will be reduced, opening up more time for higher-value responsibilities. While client-facing roles generally come much later in an accountant’s career path, now, accountants can expect to spend face time with clients much sooner. Because of this, firms should also look at hiring employees with excellent communication skills and domain expertise, instead of only focusing on their technical knowledge.
3. Actively Train Employees
With changing roles for accountants in the era of the gig economy, firms need to ensure that their employees have the capabilities to adapt to the new requirements. In the new market, client-facing and advisory expertise are going to be valued more than just technical skills. If you do choose to automate or outsource certain processes, your employees will move on to more critical roles that add higher-value to your firm. But are they equipped to handle their new responsibilities? Without the right training, your employees might feel alien in their new roles, hampering their ability to perform to their full potential. Your accounting firm’s management and HR departments should provide your talent with regular training sessions that can prepare them for their new roles. Equipping them with high-demand advanced skills will go a long way in contributing to your firm’s success.
4. Embrace Technological Advancements
Technology and the gig economy go hand-in-hand. Without technological advancements enabling remote work and real-time updates, freelancing would not have been possible. For your firm to be able to increase efficiency through the gig economy, it should first have the necessary technological infrastructure in place. Migrating to the cloud is one of the most important measures you can take to transform your business processes. If you plan on outsourcing work, it becomes even more essential. It allows you to transfer files seamlessly and securely to different geographies, keep track of outsourced work and stay updated on their progress. There are also various platforms and software tailormade for accounting firms to streamline their workflow and provide greater visibility. However, first doing a complete background check of the credibility of the provider is one of the important cybersecurity tips for accountants. Setting in place these processes and training your employees to use them can increase the quality and efficiency of your firm’s output.
5. Focus on Ensuring Employee Satisfaction
An oft-cited reason for individuals leaving a stable job and choosing to work independently is dissatisfaction with their work life. As an accounting firm, if you want your most-valued talent to continue working in the organisation, you need to ensure they feel appreciated and fulfilled in their current role. Today, most people aren’t content with doing mundane, routine work that often goes unappreciated. Instead, they want to learn more advanced skills, make meaningful contributions and grow as individuals. Rather than being a cog in the wheel, they want to take ownership of their work. Does your accounting firm provide your employees with an environment that lets them achieve this? If not, the most talented people in your organisation might leave for a more fulfilling career. Outsourcing lower-level tasks and training your employees to take on more complex and rewarding roles is an important way to do this. Your firm should also take steps to recognise employee contributions so they understand that their work is valued.
Contrary to popular belief, the gig economy can prove to be very beneficial to accounting firms. Not only can it improve efficiency within your organisation, it can also boost employee skill sets and prepare them for future-oriented roles.
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