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Guide to hiring outsourced accountants for your accountancy practice

13 Feb 2019  |  
Tags: Outsourcing accounting
Guide to hiring outsourced accountants for your accountancy practice

The way we work has changed a lot in recent years. Technology, globalisation, cloud computing, customer expectations, labour costs, and skills shortages have created a world where many UK accountants use outsourced workers in overseas countries like India to complete routine accounting, tax and payroll jobs. 

This guide explains how you’re accounting and bookkeeping practice can make the most from hiring outsourced workers.

Outsourcing - it is a partnership

You're probably used sub-contractors or been a sub-contractor yourself. If you have partnered with suppliers to look at the non-core tasks of your practice, then you are familiar with the concept of using the right partners at the right time

The benefits of using offshore accountants 

Hiring offshore staff can be good for your practice. Consider these benefits before you decide:

  1. Offers your front-end staff more time to focus on clients. 

If you offer your in-house teams higher-end tasks like working with clients, they are more likely to be happy in their jobs. They did not qualify and become ACCAs and FCCA accountants so they could keep books and file taxes. They want to offer technology-based solutions to clients.

Offering them high-value jobs shows that you are modern and ambitious accountancy practice with a concern for their growth. If your staff loves the work they do, outsourcing may help them from not leaving for corporate jobs. The savings you make from retaining your best staff will add up.

  1. Open immediate access to global talent 

There may be a shortage of the skill you require for accounting jobs in your practice, but by using outsourced workers you open your access to talent far and wide. When you outsource to companies for whom compliance is daily bread and butter, there are no limits to the number and quality of applicants. Plus you can scale your teams up and down as per the peaks and troughs of the practice. 

  1. Improve front-end staff's job satisfaction levels

People do their best work when they are happy. Using outsourced workers means your front-end staff can focus on client servicing and growth of the practice. When you give your staff opportunities they will be eager to perform better. Plus they won't spend 30% of their day or 2 hours a day of their time in compliance work. This can increase productivity.

  1. Reduce your overheads

Think about the salary you pay a senior accountant. You can get 2.5 outsourced workers for that money without the costly overheads that come in the form of power, infrastructure, telecommunications, food and drink, hardware, software, and cost of rehiring. With outsourced workers, there are no overheads at all.

  1. Lower costs

If you hire outsourced workers, you benefit from engagement models such as lower hourly rates and Full time employee rates. In either case, the cost is lower because of cost arbitrage. Plus you don't have to pay employee benefits, taxes or worry about holiday pay, sick pay, maternity/paternity leaves. This can reduce your in-house costs.

  1. Be more productive

For many accountants who outsource, it is very beneficial to get a competitive advantage because of the 4.5 hour time difference between the UK & India. They can send work in the late evening and have it done long before they get to work the next morning. If you want outsourcing companies has qualified accountants working in different time zones, which means work can continue round the clock. Outsourcing gives productivity a great boost if used properly.

  1. Enjoy being part of the future 

If you have staff working for you overseas you are truly participating in the era of globalisation. It is the future. It is how you gain a competitive advantage and start operating on an international level.

The risk of using outsourced workers 

Don't shelve the idea of outsourcing because of the risks. But make sure you include them in your thinking.

  1. Cultural difference between home and outsourced accountants

When you hire accounting talent overseas, there is definitely going to be cultural dissimilarities. But in our experience to our clients, this has always been a case of cultural diversity. We also think it is the beauty of a global world. Working closely with our clients, we have both been able to increase our horizons, have better interpersonal dialogue and exchange of ideas. To us, it has always been about introducing our clients to the aspects of a new culture. 

  1. Language barriers

There is a change in how you communicate instructions and provide clarification when you are not interacting with someone face to face. This may cause some challenges at the onset. Therefore, it's important to carefully choose your outsourcing partner and be a part of the overseas hiring process. 

  1. Time-zone conflicts

This is in fact not true. Many outsourcers will have their offshore teams aligned to work UK hours. In fact many outsourcers provider out of hours service round the clock.

  1. They don't become part of the teams 

This could be partly true. Even if you are using the best technology, outsourced workers are still distanced from social events and discussions in the host country. We suggest that when it becomes practical you consider inviting your outsourced accountants to your offices to meet and work with the front-end teams for a few days each year. You may find they become a more meaningful part of your team when they get a better context of your business.

5 things to consider when you are ready to outsource

Once you have considered the above pros and cons of using outsourced workers and you are ready to outsource, make sure you cover the following: 

  1. Choose the right partner & overseas team

If you are going to use outsourced staff offshore, it's better to be a part of the hiring process. When it comes to building a global team overseas, you have to have a highly engaged local team, one who can truly be perceived as a business partner. Because after all choosing the right partner and overseas team is like choosing a life partner. You need someone you can work with and someone who is not afraid to give you honest advice. These is a 6-step process of building an overseas team:

  • Identify by assessing the outsourcer
  • Evaluate their process, technology, communication and best engagement models
  • Prepare to get your local team on board
  • Recruit your offshore team and get them up and running
  • List the best ways to manage your global team
  • Ensure long-term success via regular reviews and engagement with your offshore teams
  1. Establish the hours your overseas staff will be available

While outsourcing teams are available 24/7, it critical to establish specific hours when they will be available to you and your appointed front end staff in he UK. This should ideally be during the core working hours but if you have larger volumes of work and quicker deadlines it's better to use the time-zone advantage and use the outsourcer's out of office hours and weekend support staff. 

  1. Always agree the KPIs & SLAs

With any staff hiring, whether in-house or outsourced, you should clearly describe the job requirements. These include specific goals, deadlines and reporting requirements that are part of the daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly and yearly KPIs and SLAs. You'll also need to agree on your expectations, benchmarks, and standards of work. 

  1. Make sure to not outsource and forget it

Working with outsourced accountants is not for everyone. The ability to manage teams is a challenge even when working on the same premises, so always make sure both your practice and outsourced workers clearly understand each other before you begin. 

  1. Make sure their technology is secure and your data is protected

Your outsourcer should have all the security and quality assurances in place, but it is still your practice's responsibility to ensure that they have the correct technological safeguards to protect your data. Look for something called ISO 270001 for data security and BS 10012:207 certification for GDPR compliance. You should have the data processing clauses in the contract. Be sure to address technology issues such as fast internet and telecommunications and what all is their responsibility. 

Build your global offshore accounting team

Like any decision, there are pros and cons to hiring outsourced accounting workers. But it’s clear that the rise of using offshore global teams is a trend that will only increase. Especially due to the continued shortage of skilled accounting staff in host countries. Many accountants are already expecting this as an option when they have to scale their teams. Talk to us about using outsourced accountants to improve the productivity and performance of your practice.