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  3. 4 ways to elevate your accounting firm’s talent

4 ways to elevate your accounting firm’s talent

Attracting and retaining top talent in today’s job market goes beyond a competitive salary

Do staffing concerns keep you awake at night? If so, you’re not alone.

Attracting and retaining top talent is a leading concern for many tax and accounting firms — and for good reason [1].

Faced with a constricting pipeline of accounting graduates [2]. and shifts in employee expectations, generating interest from qualified candidates and retaining such talent can prove challenging for firms.

Plus, staff turnover can be expensive. The average cost to replace an employee is about 50% of that employee’s annual salary, when you factor in separation costs, recruitment/training costs, and productivity costs. And the more skilled the position, the more expensive it is to hire a replacement. In fact, replacing a supervisor could cost your firm as much 150% of that employee’s annual salary [3].

Unfortunately, the profession has long been associated with long hours, mundane tasks, and a lack of flexibility. This has placed many traditional firms at a disadvantage, especially when competing against innovative tech companies that tout attractive perks and employee benefits.

The time for change is now. Competition is bound to only intensify and firms must break through the long-held misconceptions in order to better compete in a fierce job market. This means extending beyond just monetary compensation and sharpening the focus on more intangibles like employee engagement and nurturing a positive and inclusive workplace culture.

To help firms break the mold, this white paper explores four ways to better attract and elevate firm talent.

1. Find and Attract New Talent

When it comes to marketing, chances are your firm spends a good deal of time increasing visibility among prospective clients and differentiating your services from the competition. After all, these are essential priorities to growing your practice and increasing revenue. But shouldn’t your attention to recruiting accounting firm talent be just as diligent?

A study by Hinge Research Institute, however, found this to be an area where too many firms fall short. The study found that while recruiting, retention, and succession planning are top business challenges for professional services firms, making their firms seem attractive to potential employees is viewed as a marketing priority by only 36% of those involved in the recruiting and hiring process [4].

Furthermore, Hinge found that three of the top five business challenges facing firms have to do with recruiting and talent retention [5].

  • Attracting top talent/recruiting (57%)
  • Reducing staff turnover/retaining talent (43%)
  • Succession planning/grooming leadership (43%)

Change begins with developing and raising awareness of your firm’s reputation as a place to work. This helps you differentiate your firm from the competition. In other words, strengthen your “employer brand.” [6].

“Firms that focus on strengthening their employer brand are able to position themselves not only to attract talented professionals, but also to attract a very important audience: the future leaders of their firm,” the Hinge Research Institute study stated [7].

You may have invested much time and energy into creating a positive workplace culture, or perhaps you already offer staff a host of attractive perks and benefits. That’s great, but is that effectively communicated to prospective candidates? The visibility and awareness of your “employer brand” among prospective candidates is important.

Your firm’s website could be an ideal vehicle to showcase your firm’s brand to prospective candidates. In fact, Hinge research found that many (63%) employee candidates will turn to a firm’s website in their search for career opportunities versus recruiters, general job-listing sites, or niche job boards [8].

When crafting your message, think about what an employee candidate is seeking in a new position. Also think beyond qualifications and technical abilities; consider the personality traits and soft skills needed to be a good fit for your firm.

Mo Arbas, a consultant for the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters, agrees and said, “I’ve seen websites and I’m like, wow, you can tell that they have put a lot of thought and planning into the message they want their website to convey. They show: Who we are, why work for us. That’s what is interesting. They have some sort of culture or something that tells me they are unique. … It is a major source for people.” (Arbas, Mo, phone interview, April 23, 2020).

Additional channels that employee candidates are more likely to use in their search for career opportunities include [9]:

  • LinkedIn (86%)
  • Networking/asking colleagues for recommendations (70%)

Tapping outside talent can be great, but firms often find the greatest success by looking internally. This is part of the reason why fostering a culture of growth and career development is so important.
 

2. Focus on Career Development and Learning

Most employees want to work for a firm that places an importance on career progression and professional development for its staff. This is especially true among younger associates.

Consider this: A survey by The Muse of more than 8,000 next gen professionals found that compensation is not the most important thing to job seekers. Learning and growth opportunities and work-life balance rank No. 1 and No. 2, with compensation coming in third [10]

Meanwhile, separate research by Gallup found that more than half (59%) of millennial job seekers — compared with 44% of Gen Xers and 41% of baby boomers — say that opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job. Millennials are also most likely to say advancement is extremely important when looking for a new job (50% of millennials, compared with 42% of Gen Xers and 40% of baby boomers). [11]

The impact of younger associates on a firm’s future and work culture is not to be underestimated. Millennials became the largest generation in the labor force in 2016 [12] and, more recently, surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation [13].

Creating a corporate culture rich in career progression, professional development...

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