The accounting industry has undergone significant changes in recent years, and one of the most notable shifts is the emergence of alternative staffing models. Alternative staffing, also known as contingent or flexible staffing, is an approach to hiring that uses temporary or contract employees instead of traditional full-time staff. In this blog, we'll explore why alternative staffing is becoming more popular in accounting firms and how it can benefit both firms and employees.
Reasons for Alternative Staffing in Accounting Firms
1. Increased Demand for Specialized Skills
As the accounting industry has become more complex, firms have a growing need for specialized skills. For example, a firm may need an expert in tax law to help clients navigate the complexities of the tax code. Alternatively, a firm may require a forensic accountant to investigate financial fraud or embezzlement. Rather than hiring full-time staff with these specialized skills, firms can turn to alternative staffing models to bring in experts on a project-by-project basis.
2. Fluctuating Workloads
The workload in accounting firms can fluctuate significantly, depending on the time of year and the demands of clients. During tax season, for example, firms may need to ramp up their staffing to meet the increased demand for services. By using alternative staffing models, firms can bring in additional staff during busy periods and then scale back when the workload returns to normal.
3. Cost Savings
Hiring full-time staff can be expensive. In addition to salaries, firms must also pay for benefits, training, and other overhead costs. By using alternative staffing models, firms can save money by only paying for the services they need. For example, if a firm only needs a tax expert for a few weeks, they can hire a temporary employee for that specific period rather than hiring a full-time employee who may not be needed year-round.
Benefits of Alternative Staffing in Accounting Firms
1. Access to Specialized Skills
Accounting firms need to tap into a wider pool of specialized skills. Rather than relying solely on the skills of their full-time staff, firms can bring in experts with specific knowledge and experience to work on projects as needed. This can help firms provide better service to their clients and increase their competitiveness in the marketplace.
2. Greater Flexibility
Alternative staffing models provide greater flexibility for accounting firms. Rather than being locked into long-term employment contracts, firms can bring in temporary or contract employees on a project-by-project basis. This allows firms to adjust their staffing levels to meet changing demands, without incurring the costs of hiring and training full-time staff.
3. Cost Savings
As mentioned earlier, alternative staffing models can help accounting firms save money by only paying for the services they need. This can be particularly beneficial during busy periods when firms may need to ramp up their staffing levels. By hiring temporary or contract employees for these periods, firms can avoid the overhead costs associated with hiring full-time staff.
4. Reduced Risk
Alternative staffing models can also help accounting firms reduce risk. For example, if a firm hires a full-time employee and the employee doesn't work out, the firm may be stuck with that employee for a certain period of time. With alternative staffing models, firms can bring in temporary or contract employees and, if the employee doesn't work out, simply not renew their contract. This can help reduce the risk associated with hiring full-time staff.
Challenges of Alternative Staffing in Accounting Firms
While there are many benefits to alternative staffing in accounting firms, there are also some challenges to consider. Here are a few of the most significant challenges:
1. Integration with Full-Time Staff
One of the challenges of alternative staffing is integrating temporary or contract employees with full-time staff. This can be especially challenging in accounting firms where teamwork and collaboration are essential to success. Temporary or contract employees may not have the same level of investment in the firm as full-time employees and may not be as invested in building relationships with colleagues.
2. Training and Onboarding
Training and onboarding can also be a challenge when using alternative staffing models. Temporary or contract employees may not be as familiar with the firm's processes, procedures, and culture, and may require additional training and support to get up to speed. This can be time-consuming and may require additional resources from the firm.
3. Limited Availability
Another challenge of alternative staffing is the limited availability of skilled professionals. In some cases, firms may struggle to find qualified candidates for temporary or contract positions, especially during peak periods when demand is high.
4. Potential for Misclassification
Finally, there is the potential for misclassification of workers when using alternative staffing models. Misclassification occurs when an employer improperly classifies a worker as an independent contractor rather than an employee. This can lead to legal and financial penalties for the firm.
Alternative staffing models are becoming more popular in accounting firms due to the increased demand for specialized skills, fluctuating workloads, and cost savings. By using these models, firms can access a wider pool of specialized skills, increase flexibility, and save money. However, there are also challenges to consider, such as integration with full-time staff, training and onboarding, limited availability of skilled professionals, and potential for misclassification. Accounting firms that can navigate these challenges are well-positioned to take advantage of the benefits of alternative staffing models and succeed in a rapidly changing industry.