Salary is just one element accountants consider when applying for a job, a new survey shows, suggesting start-ups should offer non-cash benefits as the war for accounting talent continues.
The 2011 Public Practice Salary Survey, published by recruitment firm Lucky You Found Me, is based on the responses of 3,350 accounting professionals in firms ranging from sole practitioners to those with more than nine partners or directors.
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The survey reveals salary is just one piece of the package accountants look for in a job, which is good news for cash-strapped start-ups in need of good talent without the massive price tag.
According to the survey, job candidates want other non-cash benefits such as a positive working environment and a work/life balance. Also on their wish list is career progression.
Greg Hayes, director of accounting firm Hayes Knight, says the quest to improve work/life balance is one reason why his firm is picking up quality staff from larger accounting firms.
“The main reason is they want a better work/life balance. The smaller firms have got that right and are not burning through staff,” he says.
According to Hayes, the Public Practice Salary Survey is the single largest survey ever to be conducted among accounting professionals in Australia.
“It picked up a broad cross section of the typical marketplace,” he says.
“It reflects the difference between the large corporates – where it’s all about the bottom line and shareholder value – and the smaller businesses where the owners and their staff are connected, and some of those other areas bubble to the surface.”
When recruiting an accountant, Hayes says an employer’s first priority should be to hire someone who understands their business, particularly if you’re a start-up.
“You need to sit down and talk with a couple of accountants, and find someone who understands you… It’s important they understand your business,” he says.
“While the cost area shouldn’t be the first thing to look at, it should be the second. Ask yourself, am I getting this service at a reasonable price? Make sure your needs are being met and then match that at a price level that works for you.”
Sole practitioner charge rates are currently $125 to $550 an hour.
Hayes says while it is important for your accountant to understand your business, they do not need to “buy into” the workplace culture, suggesting this can be to the detriment of the company.
“In terms of the accountant being made to feel inclusive – almost as if they’re part of the family – this is less important,” he says.
“You’re not engaging them to be your friend. You’re engaging them to be your professional advisor.”