There’s a perfect storm happening in the accounting industry. And like most storms, it’s been brewing for a while. Many in the accounting profession are getting older and leaving, and few qualified people are available to fill the void.
That talent shortage has people worried. Accounting Today found that 28 percent of midsized firms and 57 percent of large firms cited recruiting and retaining good employees as one of the biggest issues keeping them up at night.
One person who isn’t too worried: Ryan J. Niedoba, a partner and chief operating officer at Niedoba, Beppel & Co. LLC in Berlin, New Jersey. In fact, Niedoba’s firm has found a few ways to overcome the current hiring challenges.
At Niedoba, Beppel & Co., it starts with investing time and resources to make the firm competitive in the digital space. “The first thing a person who’s considering your firm does — whether it’s a potential employee or a client — is go to Google, type in the name of your firm and see what pops up,” Niedoba says. “If we give them a good online experience that they can compare to other firms, it gives us a strong advantage.”
Weathering the Storm
Once Niedoba has the interest of prospective employees, he cites these strategies for hiring and retaining talent:
Off hours: Work-life balance matters to millennials. So why not give it to them — and to all of your staff? “Because of our seasonality,” Niedoba says, “there are few professions in a better position to take advantage of worklife balance.” Work is light in June, July and August, so Niedoba’s firm takes Fridays off all summer. “During the busy season, we take our employees’ time,” he says, “so when we can, we want to give it back to them.”
Charting a Proper Course of Hiring for Your Firm
Running a good ship means finding good people for all of the posts. But for many firms, the hiring process is steered at the partner level. Ryan J. Niedoba, a partner and chief operating officer at Niedoba, Beppel & Co. LLC in Berlin, New Jersey, says this top-heavy approach can focus too much on hard skills and not enough on intangible attributes.
Niedoba starts hiring by looking at culture. After a basic phone screening, candidates have a culturebased interview with three members of the firm. No partners. No technical evaluation. Just conversation. If any of the team members — or the candidate — has hesitations, it’s a no. “If you’ve built a good team,” Niedoba says, “you want to know that this candidate will be a good fit.”
Off site: Accounting is becoming ever more reliant on cloud-based technology, allowing people to work and access client files from anywhere, including Florida, where one Niedoba, Beppel & Co. staff member lives and works. To make it successful, firms need to fully embrace the tools and technology, Niedoba says.
Off shore: While the U.S. has a talent shortage, other countries don’t. That’s why Niedoba and his partners looked offshore to build their team, adding two accountants who live and work in the Philippines. “We cast an extraordinarily wide net when we’re recruiting,” he says. He and his partners have had such success, in fact, that this summer they launched GSD Staff (gsdstaff.com), a staffing service to help other firms recruit their own offshore employees.
Niedoba’s other tips to find talent include:
- Maintain a standing job posting. “I’d rather find someone good when I don’t need them than be in a pinch and scrambling when I really do need someone,” he says.
- Leverage networking events. The Thomson Reuters SYNERGY Users’ Conference and Partner Summit are great places to start.
- Actively seek out referrals. Niedoba says you should always be asking your employees, “Who do you know? Can we talk to them?”
- Work with a headhunter. If you find one who gets results, he says, the person is worth the expense.
All Hands on Deck
When you have a team in place, how do you keep everyone engaged? One key is to build a culture of shared responsibility. When people can be involved in projects that are challenging and rewarding, they are more likely to stay.
Niedoba acknowledges that partners can have difficulty handing over projects and relinquishing control. “I guarantee you that people are going to make mistakes,” he says. “But if you create an environment that allows mistakes, they’ll learn and grow.”
The payoff: a more satisfied — and competent — staff.
Ryan J. Niedoba will be doing a workshop on this topic at the SYNERGY 2017 Users’ Conference. For more information on the conference, November 8–11 in Nashville, visit https://tax.thomsonreuters.com/synergy/accounting-firms/.