No, I do not believe that accounting isn’t worth it, fun, and hiring…

But I thought It.

You might have similar thinking or doubt the accounting profession’s ability as a going concern after reading these recent articles.

It isn’t worth it. In a 2020 survey by the Illinois CPA Society, respondents identified the time commitment of taking the CPA exam as the most significant challenge to becoming a CPA. More than half of these same respondents did not “strongly agree” that the value of the time and cost of acquiring the CPA outweighs the value of earning the credential.

It isn’t fun. According to a study by the University of Essex published in March 2022, accountants and tax consultants took the number 2 and 3 spots (behind data entry) in most stereotypical occupations of boring people. Characteristics of boring people include dull and not interesting, and they have no interests, sense of humor, or opinions.

It isn’t hiring. Finally, and according to the AICPA’s 2021 Trends report, accounting graduates decreased 3% in the 2019-2020 academic year and total hiring of new accounting graduates in 2020 decreased 10% (by public accounting firms). For the first time in the AICPA’s report, there were more hires of non-accounting graduates than bachelor’s degree accounting students by public accounting firms….8% more.

The “It” is different for each article. “It” being the CPA exam, accountants, and accounting firms, respectively. If you had read them in conjunction, as I did, “It” feels like accounting, or simply a person’s perspective of the profession.

This news is not new. The AICPA, by my count, has at least 25 CPA pipeline initiatives and programs in place and have been working on “It”. But current events have accelerated existing trends in the accounting profession, just as it has with theaters and shopping malls, and to very measurable proportions.

I thought about the perspectives of those polled and what had led them to their opinions or actions. I thought about the perspectives of audiences reading these articles, thinking, and creating their own doubts.

I do not believe these perspectives are right, but those holding them are not wrong. The perspectives are established, and based on objective proof or, even trickier, subjective truth (like these articles). That is tough to change, let alone debate.

I’m willing to bet you’re feeling the impact of these perspectives. Whether it be for lack of talent to hire (because you ARE hiring!), increased turnover, disengaged teams, mental health concerns, poor client service, or otherwise, you’re living with the impact.

What can we do about these perspectives?

We can influence them, by offering an unfamiliar perspective.

Let me explain.

If you tried to persuade an individual that baseball was fun, they might be skeptical. They may have been to games at the ballpark which were more theme restaurant than event, fallen asleep between pitcher rotations while watching on television, or suffered the consequences in miles and hours of being a parent to an active and competitive little leaguer. They might not be convinced.

But if you took them to Grayson Stadium in Savannah, Georgia to watch a baseball game, you would not have to convince them. Their perspective would be influenced by their experience. They would most definitely agree it was fun because the ball players in Savannah changed the game of baseball.

Grayson Stadium is home to the Savannah Bananas, and they are certainly different. They use different rules to play the game of baseball. They dance, wear kilts or cowboy boots, or have a pep band that escorts batters to the plate. If a fan catches a foul ball, it counts as an out. The Bananas have challenged the way baseball is traditionally played. Their website states simply, “WE MAKE BASEBALL FUN. Fans first. Entertain Always. All Inclusive.”

You can see where this analogy is going…

We change the game of accounting.

I am not encouraging accounting to become akin to the Harlem Globetrotters or go from profession to entertainment. I am asking you to consider what lies between.

We can change the game of accounting by becoming more creative with how our staff, partners, peers, communities, or clients experience it. We can challenge the norms, biases, and assumptions to re-introduce accounting from a different perspective. And in doing so, influence these troubling perspectives with evidence that accounting is not what they thought.

As an example, one of my former firms provided staff with the option of an 11-month year. In exchange for 1/12 of their salary, they could buy an extra month of vacation. This was in addition to the standard holidays and vacation provided. Game changed.

What we need are ideas and evidence. And this is where you, unsuspecting reader, come in.

I respectfully ask of you three things:

  1. Destroy my inbox. Send me your ideas, insights, thoughts, or experiences on how the game of accounting can be changed. The more creative the better. Contact me with ways in which accounting can be different.
  2. Send this article to your peers, staff, department heads, teachers, students, and any one you can think of who might also have ideas.
  3. Change your game. Be the change. You ARE THE EVIDENCE.

To help change your game, I am going to explore ways that accounting can be different over the next year and write more articles. Some of these I have ready to share, but I’m looking forward to including your own thoughts and ideas. Just like the Savannah Bananas, we should take chances, toe the line, test the rules, and challenge the way accounting is experienced.

I am a work coach, and accountants are my work. This effort is important to me because while accounting is valuable, fun, and hiring, I know it could be better.

To be honest and obvious, I have no idea the impact this will have, or if anyone will even notice. I’m doing it anyway.

That’s it for now. Until you hear from me again, and you will, I look forward to hearing from YOU.

Douglas M. Slaybaugh, The CPA Coach