Transform #1 Challenge of Staffing into an Opportunity
In AICPA’s biannual PCPS survey, finding qualified staff is the number one challenge for all CPA firms across the country. But why is it a major challenge only for small or mid-size regional accounting firms? Why the larger firms don’t consider this as a top challenge?
This is because Big 4 and large accounting firms transformed this challenge into an opportunity around 20 years ago. How
They leveraged offshore staffing to find qualified talent in emerging economies specifically India where there was abundant talent pool. This started during the 1990s with back-office work which has currently transformed into full-scale operations. Today, each of the Big 4 has 10+ offices in multiple cities having a base of 20000+ employees. There are even more offices that cater to European, Australian and Canadian operations of the Big 4. They have leveraged offshore staffing to such an extent that 18% of their total global workforce is in India and this figure is expected to cross 30% in the next five years.
Yet, why small or mid-size regional accounting firms didn’t grab this opportunity with both hands?
Shawn Parikh, Founder & CEO of Entigrity Remote Staffing which specializes in providing offshore staffing solutions to small and mid-size regional accounting firms says, “This is due to lack of scale & bandwidth, the sporadic nature of work, compliance issues, and the underlying risk of expansion in unknown territory. We have helped 500+ accounting firms nationwide in transforming the number one challenge of staffing into opportunity by leveraging remote (offshore) staffing.”
When we talk about offshore staffing, India should be considered as the most desired of all the destinations. This can be attributed to the fact that India was a British Colony for over 200 years which resulted in English becoming the second most spoken language and an education system which is immensely robust. India has the second largest English speaking population right after the United States. On top of that, India being a knowledge-driven economy, it is already the most preferred destination for information technology, the medical industry as well as the tax and accounting industry.
As a result, you can easily find qualified and experienced accounting professionals having relevant knowledge and skills of US accounting and tax in India. Also, you don’t need to worry about compliance issues, payroll taxes, overheads and infrastructure costs, and recruitment/replacement hassles.
In terms of hiring and working with the offshore staff, it is quite similar to that of local staff. You can interview and test the person before hiring (using any video conference app like Skype, zoom, etc.), they directly report to you, follow your firm’s protocol and work as a part of your team. For the small firms with team size 20 or less where workflow is sporadic and workload can be seasonal, you can have a flexible hiring model suited to your requirements. You can have full time or part time staff for the long term, short term or as per your work season, project-based or even for on-demand requirements. On the other hand, for mid-sized firms, having offshore staff can help you build a bigger team working completely under your control and management and can help you save more and more as your offshore team size grows.
As I said earlier, the workings of an offshore staff is quite similar to that of onshore staff. The three most important pillars to help you work effectively are communication, access (to documents & software) and monitoring. Communication is easily facilitated by the information technology of today. You can send emails, speak over skype or slack, or send instant messages to connect, or more often than not you can pick up your phone and dial to speak with your staff. Secondly, when it comes to providing access to the documents and software, it can be done in three ways. You can try providing remote access to the employee. He can log in to your systems, finish the work and logs out when done. You can also have cloud storage where all the files are stored and can be accessed for use. Both of these methods are easy to operate and secure. Shedding more light on the subject, Shawn believes, “The most important thing is that your data never leaves your office”. File transfers or sharing is also one of the methods but is least preferred among the three, as sometimes it leads to repetition and redundancy in work done. For software access too, remote installation, cloud systems, and local installations are the three ways. Cloud access is most preferred because it gives you the mobility to work from anywhere and anytime.
To monitor the time and tasks of the employee you can have an online timesheet system that employees can fill, just like any local staff. You can have regular online review meetings to track the progress in the assigned tasks.
Working in different time-zones can be a concern for you initially but instead of thinking about it as a shortfall, it should be considered more as an opportunity. You can have 4-5 hours of overlap time which can be utilized for communicating with your staff directly and to guide, instruct and review the work. You assign the tasks in the evening before leaving for the day and find the work done when you return in the morning.
Nevertheless, for the time being, out of all the types of tasks that are commonly carried out in accounting firms, offshore staff can perform almost 70-80% out of them. What they can’t do is meeting in person, however, they can always meet online over video calls. They can’t deliver or pick up documents in person, can’t perform on-site work, neither they can do final reviews, or take CFO or other high-level decisions.
Hiring an offshore staff is not just about saving money. Instead it helps you build capacity in terms of manpower, so that you can take more work; it gives you the competitive edge where you can take more projects but still do not need to increase the pricing; and lastly, helps with reduction in workload where you can easily observe close to 20% reduction in working week and have a better work-life balance.
Entigrity Remote Staffing has been trusted by 500+ accounting and tax firms nationwide. With Entigrity, you can hire dedicated staff accountants, bookkeepers, data entry professionals, tax preparers, tax auditors, starting at $8/hour. No matter if you are a small firm, midsize firm or a large regional accounting firms, Entigrity provides remote staff on weekly hiring options including 10/20/30/40 hours/week.