Attracting and Retaining Talent: A Four-Day Workweek for Accountants

Managing Director and Practice Leader of our Executive Search practice at Felix, J. James O’Malley, recently had the opportunity to contribute an article to Accounting Today outlining a new way of thinking about the four-day work week with particular application to accounting firms. Leveraging years of industry expertise in the talent space, below is the article authored by J. James O’Malley and Jennett Douglas, Client Services Manager at Felix.

Click here to view the article on Accounting Today or continue reading below:

Attracting and Retaining Talent: A Four-Day Workweek for Accountants

You can attract talent and get people into the office

With high burnout rates and decreasing enrollment, the accounting industry is under intense pressure to solve the talent pipeline problem – and do it quickly.

As more and more professionals express their concerns and share insights into potential solutions, the AICPA & CIMA are responding. This March, they released a draft of their Pipeline Acceleration Plan outlining some of their upcoming initiatives which include blending work experience into the 150-hour requirement, revamping the business model and culture, increasing awareness of the profession, providing scholarships and fellowships, and extending the exam window.

While these solutions can all impact students’ attraction to, and attainment of, a CPA license, they may not address what today’s employees want more than anything else: flexibility.

The reality we face is that the pandemic shifted priorities and empowered employees to strive for greater balance between their work and personal lives. They are now willing to trade traditional incentives like prestige and pay for a work environment that values not only their contributions to the company but also their personal needs.

Research recently conducted by Aston Carter, a UK-based professional talent and solutions firm, confirms that accounting and finance candidates want flexible work options. In fact, when choosing a new job, respondents ranked remote work as their number one choice 82% of the time, with better pay coming in second. These accommodations are in high demand, and employers who try to take a hard stance for returning to the office run the risk of increased resignations and reduced applicant pools. Yet remote and hybrid work structures come with significant challenges that can be difficult for both managers and their employees to overcome.

You may already feel familiar with some of the common grievances that employers have about remote work. Many managers struggle to trust that their employees are maintaining productivity and using work hours appropriately. Reduced collaboration, inconsistent responsiveness and availability, project management challenges, and difficulty acclimating new hires and junior employees have become the new norm that leave leaders in a desperate search for creative solutions.

Learn how Felix can help your organization drive talent strategy to attract and retain talent.

In one way or another, these circumstances often lead to more work added to their already overloaded list of responsibilities. It makes sense that there may be an overwhelming drive to bring everyone back to the office and gain a sense of cohesion, community, and a unified direction toward a shared goal.

Managers aren’t the only ones struggling with the lack of in-office time. Microsoft’s New Future of Work Report highlights the mixed effects remote work has on employees’ wellbeing and some of the obstacles it presents for them, too. Many face longer working hours in an environment with little separation between work and home, and they often find that their definition of “productivity” is much different from their managers’.

The reduction of social connections makes it difficult to build and maintain relationships, leading not only to isolation but also reduced knowledge sharing and network building that are essential for seeking new opportunities. Even environmental influences such as temperature, light, and noise pollution can impact an employee’s experience. All of these factors can create stress and emotional exhaustion that eventually lead to burnout.

A New Solution: Leveraging Flexible Work with the Four-Day Workweek

If flexibility is paramount to attracting today’s talent, but working remotely also hinders the ability to collaborate, build relationships, and explore advancement opportunities, other work structures could be more viable in the long run. Hence, the four-day workweek.

Like remote and hybrid work, a shorter workweek with fewer hours and the same pay can provide the flexibility employees desire. What differentiates these work structures is the opportunity for accounting firms to meet their own needs and continue to flourish while still accommodating the evolving demands of their workforce.

The four-day workweek is no longer just a buzzword. Companies are implementing it and discovering true success both for their organization and their employees. Pilot studies of various sizes supported by the not-for-profit 4 Day Week Global have demonstrated that, for employees, the most significant benefit of a shortened workweek involves a greater sense of work-life balance. Because they have more time for their personal lives outside of work, 78% say they feel less stressed and burnt out. This leads to greater job satisfaction and increased efficiency, even with fewer days to complete their work.

For 63% of employers, these benefits translate into decreased turnover rates and better talent retention, as well as increased access to top talent, greater productivity, and higher revenue. The outcomes of the most recent study performed in the UK were so overwhelmingly positive that 95% of the 61 participating companies have permanently implemented the four-day week.

With a four-day workweek, the benefits to employees are the same (or better) than working remote/hybrid, and the benefits to employers can be even greater, so it is certainly worthwhile to consider putting it into action! A cultural shift like this could be just what the accounting industry needs to not only attract great talent but also ensure they’re in the office for the vital collaboration, learning, and client facing that can only take place in-person.

The transition takes meticulous planning, consistent collaboration, and dedicated leadership, but the benefits are clear. Click here to learn more about considerations companies must make when deciding if the four-day week is right for them.

Would your team and company thrive if all or most of your employees worked from the office, and if so, could a shorter workweek provide the flexibility that would help you get them back through the door? Tell us what you think. Get in touch here.

Discover Felix’s Integrated Talent Solutions

About the Authors

J. James O’Malley is a managing director and practice leader for Felix’s Executive Search business. For 30+ years, Jim has developed talent acquisition solutions to ensure that leadership talent aligns with changing business needs. Jim has served: Private Equity and their portfolio clients across all industries in addition to his background with Management Consulting firms, Architecture, Engineering, Accounting, Tax and Law firms in addition to IT, Healthcare, Operations and Supply Chain consultancies. He also helps large Commercial, Consumer and Private Banks with their hiring needs.

Jennett Douglas is a senior client services manager for Felix. Jennett brings her decade-long experience working in education and nonprofit management to serve our clients. In her work, Jennett utilizes a wealth of knowledge and experience in project management, research-based practices, human development and learning, and coaching.

About Felix

Felix is a North American-based talent and organizational advisor with over 30 years of successful client engagements. We offer a partnership with a team of thought leaders who deliver integrated solutions for achieving excellence in talent and organizational performance. Felix works with numerous organizations of global reach in a variety of verticals including financial services, healthcare, industrial/manufacturing, technology, professional services and more. We are experts in developing effective behavioral change & skill growth among executives and leaders with significant experience across multiple industries and functions. Felix is headquartered in Chicago with a Canadian headquarters in Toronto.

More Insights That Might Interest You