The Changing Landscape Of Workplace Expectations: Insights From The Best UK Accountancy Companies 2023

When it comes to a candidate searching for a new role, or a practice looking to stand out from the crowd and attract and retain the best talent, there are common themes for finding a great match between the two. While traditional pulls like salary, brand and client prestige will always be factors, the expectations from candidates around flexibility, culture and opportunity are now far more nuanced and personal than before.

Updated: 5th February 2024

This is evident from the results of the Best Companies 2023 rankings, where the priorities and praise from employees came from across a wide range of areas. Team culture and engagement were key factors for many of the leading firms, as well as the impact of strong and supportive leadership. Wellbeing in the form of work life balance and the company having a good social conscience were also common among those high on the list.

The top 10 accounting firms, along with their main three reasons for success, were:

  1. Albert Goodman – team culture, management support, social conscience
  2. Richard Luckin – team culture, fair pay levels, personal growth opportunities
  3. Price Bailey – team culture, work-life balance, strong values from leaders
  4. RSM UK – work-life balance, can play a valuable role in success, social conscience
  5. Sapphire – team culture, personal growth opportunities, work-life balance
  6. CBW – supportive team, strong values from leaders, can play a valuable role in success
  7. Wilson Partners – fair pay levels, can play a valuable role in success, confidence in leadership
  8. Audit Scotland – charitable activities, strong values from leaders, management support
  9. Rayner Essex – work-life balance, strong values from leaders, team culture
  10. Alliotts – work-life balance, strong values from leaders, charitable activities

While there is variation on the specific reasons for success among the top 10, there is also commonality in the type of response. Supportive and engaged companies who lead by example and provide a positive workplace, are rewarded with great responses and reviews from their employees.

From our years of experience working with clients of all shape and size, and candidates from school leavers to the most senior figures, our work is always focused around finding the right fit between a person and a role. As the market has shifted towards being more candidate-led, and expectations on businesses employers change when it comes to wellbeing and work-life balances, it’s never been more crucial for accounting practices to keep up.

As we work to assess the right roles for candidates, there are a number of areas we discuss – judging how important each are to the person, and what drives their performance and interest. For the practices we work with who are looking to attract top talent, the following checklist provides a useful guide to help them understand what candidates are asking for, and where the company stands in the current recruitment landscape of a modern accounting business.


  • Do you already work with the latest digital software, or are you implementing it?
  • Do you have a firm commitment in place to digital solutions, and dedicated staff tasked with monitoring and implementing the latest software and products that help clients and improve working practices?


  • Is there a true focus on employee development within the business?
  • Does this extend beyond statutory qualifications, and include a range of client-facing and internal business skills, training and support opportunities?
  • Are employees encouraged to undertake external learning and development to broaden their experience and skillset?


  • Do you communicate regularly with employees on business wins, losses and results, as well as the immediate business strategy and how it may impact them?
  • Do you provide updates on the industry, competitors, internal changes and how employees can get the support they need?


  • Can you demonstrate a company approach that is quick to react and adapt to client and business challenges and opportunities?
  • Do you engage with colleagues on day-to-day issues and ideas that can improve their working environment, or how the company works with clients?


  • Do you offer remote or hybrid working in a way that allows employees to do their job just as effectively?
  • Do you also offer more options around tailored working hours and days that suit employees with children, commitments or just that gets the best out of them?


  • Do you ensure employees are given opportunities to challenge themselves and to work across a variety of tasks and client types to give them a more broader job remit?
  • Do you ensure all employees have an opportunity to complete more interesting or complicated work, or to work more closely with other teams and individuals in the business to expand their knowledge?


  • Do staff understand where the business is heading and its longer-term aims?
  • Do they know the part they can play both now and in their future roles to help achieve these goals?


  • Do you make a concerted effort to recruit not just to meet workloads, but to focus on having the right balance of specialists, experts, people leaders and ambitious junior staff?
  • Do you have a recruitment process that assesses whether new hires are truly a good fit for the business and the existing team, with complementary skills and a well-matched working style that will stand the test of time and bring the best out of others?


  • Do you have an effective benefits offering that meets what your employees actually want?
  • Do you engage with employees on which are the most valuable and meaningful benefits, rather than simply an off-the-shelf solution?


  • Do you have specific environmental policies and practices in the business?
  • Do you have other community, charity or social responsibility policies or actions built into the culture of the practice that you can demonstrate as part of your business values?

In summary

It may seem like a long list and some high expectations, but the reality is that these questions and more are on the minds of anyone looking to apply for a role in practice – as well as by existing employees.

The landscape of practice work is evolving and businesses need to do the same as a result. With greater competition from industry roles and other sectors, practices need to ensure they are an adaptable, forward-thinking and supportive place to work. Only then will the highest calibre employees want to join and stay, knowing they will be challenged, en

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