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The advisory all rounder bridging the skills gap

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Andrew Whitelaw

Mar 6, 2023

Amidst an industry-wide skills shortage, Xero’s State of the industry report shows that over a third (38 percent) of practices today are struggling to hire experienced team members. Despite this, Dinesh Aggarwal – founder and Managing Director of Fortuna Advisory Group – has his sights set on growth. In fact, he’s determined to win the war on talent, all while creating an engaged and connected global team. 

Over a decade ago, Dinesh Aggarwal had the vision to create a multi-service advisory practice; a one stop solution for small businesses to build a pathway to success. He studied the characteristics of the top 100 accounting firms in Australia, and created a strategic roadmap that would one day see Fortuna Advisory ranked among this very list. And just last year, Dinesh’s dream became a reality. 

He says, “It feels phenomenal to be named as the fastest growing accounting firm of 2022.” However, in the current environment, this has come with challenges – particularly within the people and culture space. “A few years ago when a practice wanted to expand, you would have a pool of candidates to choose from. This isn’t the case anymore. Many firms are now competing in a much smaller talent market.”

The skills shortage has forced many practices to think outside the box when it comes to recruitment and managing workloads (among other HR priorities) – including Fortuna. But in recent years, Dinesh has learned exactly what it takes for an ambitious firm to stand out in a tight employment market. 

Embracing flexibility to attract talent

Although hybrid ways of working have been around for many years, the pandemic became a catalyst for widespread flexibility. As a result, the majority (83 percent) of practices have adopted some form of flexible or remote work. In Fortuna’s case, this transition was relatively smooth thanks to its digital foundations. Dinesh explains, “We’ve had to be agile because we have offices and clients all over regional Western Australia. The cloud and our online systems have been big enablers of this. But from a people perspective, it wasn’t until recently that flexibility became the standard.” 

Embracing the new world of work has opened up the employment market for Fortuna. “Many people are looking for hybrid or remote options now. And because we’re open to this, we’ve seen an increase in workforce availability, with talent from our local area and beyond,” says Dinesh. 

He also believes expanding the practice’s recruitment net has raised the stakes in making the right hire. Workplace culture is one of his key priorities, and with a geographically diverse team comes the risk of diluting the camaraderie he’s worked hard to build. 

So how has he managed this? By becoming more involved in recruitment and staff retention. Dinesh explains, “There’s more time invested at a senior management level in processes and decisions that would’ve previously sat with HR. Because of the skills shortage, our industry has realised that people mean everything. So hiring decisions and staff engagement strategies now come from the top.”

The team at Fortuna Advisory Group meet in a board room-style setting. There are some team members dialling into the call, with their faces showing on the video call screen.

Outsourcing to build a global team 

As well as sourcing skilled professionals from across Australia, Dinesh has expanded the Fortuna team globally. In fact, the State of the industry research shows that a quarter (25 percent) of firms are now looking overseas to fill employment gaps, given the challenges of recent years paired with the tight talent market.

“There’s been a big ideology shift when it comes to outsourcing. It’s no longer considered a standalone entity but part of a holistic recruitment strategy encompassing in-house, remote and global staff. This approach can unlock huge potential from a capacity and growth perspective when demand and supply balance out” says Dinesh. 

The most important consideration, however, is culture. “No matter where someone is based, they’re part of our team,” he adds, explaining, “We’ve worked with employees in the Philippines and India in the past, and found that a global perspective can offer real value to a practice’s culture if it’s implemented in the right way. Our profession still has a way to go when it comes to learning best practices, but I’m confident there’ll be greater understanding in the future.” 

With an open mind, Dinesh is adapting to some of the industry’s biggest challenges. His story proves that embracing change makes for a dynamic, more capable practice that moves with the times.

Dinesh’s tips to overcome the skills shortage:

1. Create a workplace culture people want to join

To attract skilled professionals, you must be able to articulate why they should join your firm. This starts from within. What benefits (like career development and flexible work) do you offer? If you haven’t considered hybrid working, now’s the time.

2. Learn from others who are actively recruiting

As the skills shortage indicates, there’s plenty of work to go around for advisory firms. So if you’re struggling to fill roles or expand your team, get involved in industry forums or online communities and head to networking events to learn how others are actively recruiting.

3. Consider outsourcing if you’re struggling with workloads 

To learn more about outsourcing, start by talking to an employer solution company. Many outsourcing firms have sophisticated global infrastructure, and will be able to connect you with quality candidates. Just be sure to consider how you’ll integrate international employees into your existing team structure before making your first hire.

Head to our State of the industry page to download the full report today.

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