Sign up


Professional Services Employment Survey

Over the past 2 years, through our involvement with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, meeting with 100’s of businesses, interviewing 1000’s of candidates, Ford Peterson now has an incredible amount of information to assist candidates and clients in the decision making process.

We can paint a very clear picture to clients of where each candidate is coming from and equally important we can advise candidates on what each firm is really like to work for.

In our first in a series of studies on the professional services industry we surveyed 282 accountants working at accounting firms to help understand why people change jobs.

Having worked in recruitment for several years, in my experience you can break down the reasons why people change jobs into two broad categories:

  • Pushes, are the things that motivate someone to want to leave an organisation;
  • Pulls, are the things that motivate someone to want to work for an organisation;

Generally speaking if someone is unhappy in a job the Pushes will be the driving force and for people that are happy it will be the Pulls, however it is usually a combination of the two.

For reasons that will become clear, we were also interested to find out the different levels of study support and average working hours in the industry.

Respondent Profiles

The people we surveyed, all worked within professional services in Sydney.

The majority of which were working in business services and in firms with 3 partners or less.

Study Support

As you can see, the majority of firms (79%) support the CA, 1/3 of which paid upfront.

The numbers were slightly lower for CPA.

In addition to CA/CPA support, 22.34% of accounting firms also supported employees completing a Masters of Tax.

Hours of Work

As expected, 94.74% of respondents reported that they started work between 8am and 9am and 89.37% finished work between 5am and 6pm.

In addition 28.73% of respondents are required to take lunch at set times with the remaining 71.27% having flexible lunch breaks.

What are the Pushes and Pulls?

The main purpose of our study was to find out what motivates someone to leave and what makes them want to accept a job.

We asked respondents to rate the following as either not important, nice to have, moderately important, important, or very important:

  • Training and Development;
  • Career Progression;
  • Social Activities;
  • Study Support;
  • Client Base;
  • Move to Commerce;
  • Work Life Balance;
  • Staff Management;
  • Size of Firm;
  • Supportive Manager.

Pushes and Pulls

To consider an item as a “Push” we would expect to see a trend towards people rating them as either moderately important or nice to have.

To consider an item as a “Pull” we would expect to see a trend towards people rating them as either important or very important.

Important – Very Important

100% of respondents rated items that were directly related to professional development and career progression as either important or very important.

These included:

  • Training and Development;
  • Career Progression;
  • Supportive Manager.

Client base also scored very highly with 95% of respondents rating it as either important or very important.

Moderately Important – Nice To Have

What was interesting is that items not directly relating to the job or professional development including:

  • Social activities;
  • Work life balance;
  • Working close to home.

Rarely rated as very important (8-10%) in considering a job, however were either nice to have or moderately important to 60-62% of respondents.

Other Findings

Looking a little closer at the results, we noticed a trend based on the type of firm people are working for.

Respondents working at smaller firms were more likely to rate size of firm and clients higher than those that weren’t.

People working in the Top 10 firms, rated moving to commerce higher than those that weren’t.

Implications and Future Study

Because items relating directly to the job and professional development were either important or very important to 100% of respondents it is reasonable to conclude that these are what attract people to a job.

So then, to attract the best people to your firm you need to make it clear throughout the interview process that you invest in:

  • Training and Development;
  • Career Progression;
  • Supportive Management.

The most obvious way to differentiate your firm from the majority of other firms is to pay for the CA upfront rather than on successful completion.

If you consider that as too great a financial risk because people in your firm are regularly failing CA units then it is worth looking seriously at the training and development you are actually offering employees.

Because items relating to the culture of the firm were moderately important for the majority of respondents and rarely very important it is reasonable to conclude that these are the pushes.

So then, if good people are leaving your firm, especially if they are going to similar businesses, it is worthwhile looking seriously at the working conditions you offer employees.

The main limitation of our survey is that we didn’t ask people to rate their current employer on the criteria with which they asses future opportunities. The reason this would have been beneficial is that it would have given us a baseline rating and is something we will address in future studies.

Ford Peterson has a wide network across the professional services industry so if there are questions you want answered in the future or if you would like to discuss this study in more detail please get in contact with Peter Kibble on (02) 8007 3632 or via email



Sign up