A guide to best practices in hiring and retaining employees in the tax industry

Written by: Nick Milledge

A Guide to Best Practices Blog Pos

In a Pulse Survey conducted by PwC, 77% of executives say the ability to hire and retain talent was most crucial this year. Tax industry leaders, in particular, are feeling the strain of finding and keeping great team members.

Let’s dive into the challenges tax leaders face when hiring and retaining employees, impacts of talent fluctuations, best practices in recruiting and retaining talent, and more!

Jump to the topics below:

Challenges in recruiting for tax

Currently, 40% of the workforce is looking to change jobs, and tax leaders feel the impact. Employees with institutional knowledge are retiring, and with fewer people going into tax, filling those positions is more complex than ever, leaving a talent gap in tax departments.

Students in accounting programs are pursuing traditional career paths in public accounting, CPA certifications, and in-house accounting roles rather than looking to tax as an area of focus.

To bridge that talent gap, some tax leaders are making offers years in advance to candidates that are both a technical and cultural fit for the team and organization.

Additionally, slow hiring processes can discourage talent from moving forward when seeking employment.

In a survey by WTW, 56% of respondents said pay was the top reason they would look for a new job. Some organizations are struggling to meet compensation expectations in the market which can turn away qualified candidates.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are looking for flexibility in the workplace and freedom to work where they want. Organizations with hybrid or remote work models may find a wider pool of candidates but companies that can’t meet those market expectations may lose out on top talent.

Impacts of workforce fluctuations

Loss of institutional knowledge

With turnover in essential positions, industry leaders are losing people with institutional knowledge of tax processes and strategies. If not passed down, the loss of that knowledge can weigh heavily on the tax department, increasing the risk of errors and setbacks.

Increased risk and cost

Tax teams are overworked and burnt out trying to navigate the everchanging tax landscape, creating a cycle of turnover and increased risk associated with human error.

The current tax process at many companies is stressed leading to higher audit rate. On top of that, the magnitude of fines is increasing, making mistakes more expensive.

Hiring & Retaining Tax Talent - Infographic

Best practices for hiring and retaining tax professionals

According to Robert Half, 46% of companies are hiring for new and open positions between July and December 2022. We’ve walked through the challenges of hiring and retaining tax professionals, now, let's talk about some best practices to help secure top talent.

 

Compensation and benefits

Let’s get this one out of the way right off the bat. For hiring and retaining the best talent, paying team members a fair and competitive wage is essential.

Pro tip: Create a one-pager of compensation and benefits you think candidates would find necessary during the hiring process.

Some companies are even evolving benefits based on employee feedback.

 

Internship programs

Internships are a great way to create a hiring pipeline and give students an opportunity to learn about the tax industry. Think outside the box when you’re creating your internship program. Every company is different, and your program should reflect that. Consider adding perks such as paying interns for study time or allowing interns to shadow different leaders in the business for a day.

 

Career and mentoring programs

Keeping employees in the tax industry engaged is also key to retaining the best talent. Through career development and mentoring programs such as an emerging leaders’ program or tuition reimbursement, team members see a future in tax and a future in the business.

It's also essential to continue offering training after the onboarding process. Providing training that allows employees to learn a new skill set or work upward into a leadership role can give them a clear vision of their place in the business.

 

Hiring and promoting from within

The right person for a position may be in-house already. Internal candidates will already have knowledge of the industry and can make a valuable addition to the tax team with training on tax process and strategies.

Tax leaders could look for internal people that are detail-oriented, skilled in Excel, and have good analytical skills as potential candidates for tax roles.

 

Looking outside of the degree

More well-known career paths for accounting majors are public accounting, CPA certifications, and in-house accounting roles, so, finding people to fit open tax positions can be difficult.

Consider looking outside traditional accounting degrees and focus more on skill sets needed for the role.  Students in economics and management information systems often have the core competencies needed for tax. With that, leaders can build off experience with training and tax education.

Tax professionals can also tap into non-traditional forms of hiring, like military personnel, parents returning to the workforce, and working alongside organizations that help people reenter the workforce, agencies that place candidates in roles, and networking groups.

 

Company culture

Industry leaders are focusing on hiring people who fit the team's personality and company culture.

Bringing in the best people begins with the recruiting and interview process. Start by including a hiring manager, human resources, and others in the tax department.

To build on company culture, some tax leaders are requesting candidates take part in a personality test or behavioral interview before the technical interview so leaders and hiring managers can gauge if they’re a good fit.

 

Be visible in the hiring space

These days it can be challenging to find a good pool of candidates through traditional forms of hiring, like simply posting the job online.

Work with marketing and human resources to promote the tax department and build campaigns showcasing tax talent. Utilize job fairs and industry associations to tap into soon-to-be graduates, recent college graduates, or those reentering the workforce.

 

Flexibility

Industry leaders are seeing that people want the power in their hands when it comes to where they work, how many hours they work, and work-life balance. According to Robert Half, 46% of employers use remote work as a retention strategy.

Be open to flexibility by offering hybrid work options, which can draw in more candidates for the position and keep your A+ employees on the team.

Hybrid & remote work

A flexible environment can look different in every organization. That's why keeping a pulse on the organization and community is crucial to ensure you're meeting remote work expectations.

While some organizational rules cannot be changed, there are ways leaders can bridge the gap between traditional and non-traditional work while allowing flexibility.

 

Remote/hybrid work structures

Some companies have established core in-office days where team members are in the office or core business hours where everyone is available in person or online.

To engage teams, create opportunities that bring people into the office, like having a lunch and learn event to intertwine training and team building.

 

Team events

To support a sense of comraderie, consider having a monthly lunch or outside-of-work event that helps build and maintain the culture even if teams aren’t always together.

 

Workstations

Having the right equipment for all team members to succeed is essential. Companies could consider offering duplicated workstations for both the office and home, reimbursement for their home office set up, or a stipend up to a certain amount for equipment.

Challenges in remote/hybrid work

Modern work models aren’t without their challenges.

According to a WTW survey, 52% of people working remote feel disconnected from their team, and 44% are worried working remote will negatively affect their careers.

A best practice for retaining employees is continued education and helping them see a future in the business. But being out of the office or in a hybrid position and not having in-person training or face time with a leader can affect professional development.

Keeping teams and organizations connected while not being together during a workday can be strain on the company culture, often leaving team members feeling undervalued.

Augmenting your team with technology

One thing we hear from our clients all the time. “We want our tax analysts to analyze”.

Tax professionals have the knowledge and expertise to do more than manual data preparation tasks. With higher turnover rates and difficulties filling tax roles, your remaining team members will only have more on their plate.

With the right tools in place, your tax team can focus on tasks that move the needle for the business such as strategizing assessment reduction, identifying valuation issues and assessment errors, or implementing solutions to recurring challenges.

Automation and technology can help you elevate the tax team to focus on strategic tax initiatives that drive the business forward.

To learn how to capitalize on your compliance, visit IGEN.

 

It’s clear that hiring and retaining tax professionals is a challenge for leaders in the industry leading to loss of institutional knowledge and increased risk and cost for the business. But with best practices like internship and mentoring programs, a flexible work environment, and focusing on company culture, tax leaders can hire outstanding talent to join their team.

This analysis is intended for informational purposes only and is not tax advice.  For tax advice, consult your tax adviser. See the full disclaimer here.