Addressing the talent shortage in accounting

Institute's Education and Training Department

An overview of the Institute’s study which identified core messages to attract talent and approaches for talent retention

Update 22/11/2023: The Employer Toolkit mentioned below has now been published. It provides presentation materials to assist members in delivering consistent and impactful message about the role of accountants and the profession during the engagements with potential talents. An editable version in PPT format and Guide to the presentation are also available for Institute members. Please log into the members’ area first to access the links.

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Institute's Education and Training Department


Talent shortage has become a prominent issue in various industries, including the accounting profession, despite the steady number of university graduates with accounting degrees. The Institute believes that this shortage has arisen partially due to wide spread misconceptions about the profession among university students, such as the belief that technology will replace accountants, that accounting jobs solely involve working with numbers and are dull, and that the value of pursuing the Qualification Programme (QP) lies mainly in obtaining an audit license.

To address this and enhance talent retention, the Institute has conducted research and studies to formulate a set of materials that communicate the employee value proposition to potential candidates to encourage them to join the profession.

Core messages to attract talent

Professional accountants are irreplaceable by technology

Those not privy to the nuances of the industry often perceive technology as a threat to the accounting profession, fearing that automation and artificial intelligence will eliminate accounting jobs. However, this perception stems from a misunderstanding of the accountant’s role. Employers should emphasize that while technology can have a profound impact on the profession, professional accountants possess higher-order skills like professional judgement, critical thinking, communication, and ethics that are difficult to replace. By making this clarification, the younger generation can gain confidence in the future prospects of the profession.

Professional accountants play critical and diverse roles in the business world

The perception that accounting is solely focused on managing financial information creates the misconception that it is dull and unimpactful. Employers should highlight that professional accountants are business advisors with unique capabilities to analyze financial information and provide valuable advice for decision-making across industries. Their roles extend beyond number crunching and encompass financial accounting, management accounting, auditing, taxation, financial analysis, forensic accounting, and more. Emphasizing the impact and variety of functions performed by accountants can inspire the younger generation to join the profession.

Value proposition of the QP

Many believe that the QP and CPA designation primarily benefit those pursuing audit careers in Hong Kong. Employers should emphasize the broader benefits of the QP, such as the extensive knowledge and skills acquired through the programme, which are applicable across various accounting roles and industries. Highlighting the global recognition of the qualification and the global opportunities it provides can attract talent interested in international mobility and diverse career paths.

Approaches for talent retention

Establishing purpose for the work

Employers should connect employees’ work to the larger organizational goals and societal impact to foster a sense of purpose. Clearly communicate how their contributions as accountants positively influence businesses, economies, and communities. Providing opportunities for employees to engage in meaningful projects and community initiatives can enhance their sense of purpose and job satisfaction.

Health and wellness

Promote work-life balance and prioritize employee well-being. Implement policies and initiatives that support physical and mental health, such as wellness programmes, and access to counselling services. Encourage employees to take breaks, vacations, and engage in activities that promote their overall well-being.

Collaborative work culture

Create a supportive and inclusive work environment that values collaboration, teamwork, and open communication. Encourage knowledge sharing, mentorship programmes, and cross-functional collaboration to foster professional growth and development. Recognize and appreciate diverse perspectives and contributions from employees at all levels.

Transparent career paths

Establish clear and transparent career progression frameworks within the organization. Provide regular feedback and performance evaluations to help employees understand their strengths, areas for improvement, and potential growth opportunities. Offer training and development programmes to enhance employees’ skills and competencies.

Flexible work arrangements

Recognize and accommodate employees’ individual needs by providing flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options, flexible hours, compressed workweeks, or job-sharing opportunities. This flexibility helps employees balance their personal and professional responsibilities, leading to increased job satisfaction and retention.

Staff recognition programmes

Develop and implement employee recognition programmes to acknowledge and reward employees’ contributions and achievements. Recognize outstanding performance, innovative ideas, and exceptional teamwork. Celebrate milestones and provide opportunities for employees to showcase their accomplishments within the organization.

To better attract and retain talent in the profession, employers should deliver consistent core messages that emphasize the indispensability of professional accountants, the diverse roles they play, and the value proposition of the QP. Additionally, implementing approaches for flexible talent retention can contribute to attracting and retaining talent in accounting firms and companies. The Institute is developing an employment toolkit to support these efforts.

This article was contributed by the Education and Training Department of the Institute.

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