Barden Insights: Attracting and Retaining Audit Talent in a Competitive Market

Barden Insights: Attracting and Retaining Audit Talent in a Competitive Market

It’s a good time to be an accountant but a challenging time to be a hiring manager!

The near-full employment environment has created an employee-led market, where accountants have multiple career options to choose from.

Furthermore, a disruption to travel caused by COVID has accelerated the trend of accountants emigrating to Australia, Dubai, or Canada post-qualification to spend 2-3 years living and working abroad. This has significantly contributed to further diminishing the supply of accountants in Ireland, making it even more difficult for hiring managers to attract and retain talent.

What talent challenges are unique to practice and audit in particular?

📉One of the greatest challenges that practice firms face is the intense competition for talent from industry and financial services organisations. All sectors are vying to attract talent from the limited pool of people.

⏳A prevalent perception about a career in audit is that the hours are longer than in industry. The reality? This isn’t always the case. Whilst audit does have busy seasons, so do industry finance roles during month/quarter/year-end periods, which can lead to industry professionals working longer hours than their audit peers. Audit hiring managers need to better communicate this to potential talent, outlining the busy seasons of the year and the periods of more flexibility.

💶A prominent blocker for accountants considering a career in audit is the misalignment in salaries. According to our 2024 Chartered Accountants in Leinster salary survey (see here>>>), there is a 5-20% pay disparity for newly qualified accountants who remain in audit compared to those who move to industry. Interestingly, this gap closes and even reverses for those with 5+ years of post-qualification experience. In the long term, practice roles can offer competitive salaries due to structured promotional cycles and other factors.

What can audit employers do to attract and retain talent?

In our experience, there is no single solution for attracting and retaining talent. Instead, a variety of initiatives can make incremental but meaningful changes to people’s lives.

Here are some key strategies to consider:

📌Flexibility: We know from the data and from chatting with our accounting & finance community each day that work-life balance and flexibility are top considerations for accountants. Implementing flexible working policies, such as hybrid working, flexible start and finish times, reduced working weeks, career breaks, and parental leave, can significantly enhance your ability to attract and retain talent. The more flexibility you offer, the more appealing your firm will be.

📌Mentorship: NextGen-ers seek role models within their work environments, especially female talent. Profile key leaders across the organisation and allow those people time to mentor and develop the next generation. The concept of ‘Can’t see, Can’t be’ is a real challenge but one that can be easily addressed by showcasing diverse leaders and fostering an inclusive, encouraging culture.

📌Varied Experience: Many accountants are keen to broaden their experience and gain exposure to different areas of finance. During quieter times, allow them to work on projects with other teams or second them to client sites. This approach not only develops your employees but also solves client problems, creating a win-win situation.

📌Boomerangs: Don’t overlook the potential of former employees, or “boomerangs,” who trained at your firm and moved on to other organisations. Keep in touch with these individuals to ensure they know the door is always open for their return. One effective strategy is to host annual alumni events; for example, one firm we work with saw a 10% increase in reapplications in the quarter following their alumni drinks reception. Seeing former colleagues return can be a powerful motivator for current staff, demonstrating that the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere.

Building Your Audit Team?

Our dedicated Practice team is where practice professionals go to, in Ireland, before they start looking for a job. And where leaders go before they start looking for talent! In Barden, we understand that each professional, team, role, and requirement is unique. Our approach is people first, supported by real-time data insights.

Contact our team here in Barden –

Aoibhín Byrne | Business Lead | Tax, Treasury & Practice | Leinster –

Kate Flanagan CTA | Partner | Tax, Treasury & Practice | Ireland –

At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future. Got a topic you would like us to research? Got an insight you would like us to share with our audience? Drop us a note to and we will take it from there. Easy.

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