As many firms wrestle with the growing recruitment challenge, Ben Steele argues that the profession should consider a new strategy in recruiting staff
Businesses are opening and closing quicker than ever before, social media is the world’s largest instant marketing platform, and more and more businesses are going online and offering instant goods and services.
So, what does this have to do with recruitment? Well, a lot. It isn’t just consumers or clients that expect instant results, it is employees too.
Employees expect instant results
The road to increased salaries, roles and responsibilities used to be a long and hard one. Most in professional industries held the aspiration of working their way up from the tea boy or girl to partner. But in a world where you can order meals to your door within minutes and drones are used for same-day delivery, employees aren’t ready to wait 10-plus years for more.
On top of this, most qualifications have shortened the time it takes to qualify. ACCA, for example, used to take a minimum of three-to-four years, with exams only being taken twice per year. Now, exams can be done many times throughout the year, meaning it is possible to become chartered within two years (with a lot of hard work, I hasten to add).
Employers will have to change
What does this mean for employers? It means you have to offer more. More than just study fees paid and a secure job for the next 10-15 years. It means you must be attractive to potential employees.
Why should they pick you over the other 20+ firms who are recruiting in the area? What makes you different? Are you a modern firm staying ahead of the game? You must stand out to potential employees, just as much as you do for clients.
It means you have to offer more. More than just study fees paid and a secure job for the next 10-15 years. It means you must be attractive to potential employees.
Yes, you will have to be attractive with the remuneration package you are offering. However, you will also have to show them that you are keeping ahead with the technology changes and understand the modern world.
The profession is changing... are you?
The accountancy profession is massively changing. These days, digital tech capabilities and know-how are wanted by firms. It is no good recruiting someone who can barely turn on a computer. Sadly, those days are long gone.
We need employees who understand technology, internet, software and how this can make our services and our clients’ businesses more efficient. Then, as a second requirement, they need to have an accounting qualification too.
As well as this, many firms fear recruiting someone without experience. You have all heard of the chicken and the egg conundrum, right? Well, this is the same thing. Without employers giving the younger generation a chance, how can they ever gain experience? Yet this is the generation who were born and raised on technology. They can work it in their sleep.
Take advantage of tech-savvy school leavers
We are using this to our advantage at my firm Steele Financials, and have recognised that we can train this young, tech-savvy generation fresh out of school or college. The hard work is already done. They truly understand that tech makes life quicker and easier. They breathe it daily. We do not have to convince them of this.
Without employers giving the younger generation a chance, how can they ever gain experience?
Instead, we set them up at college to learn the accountancy knowledge and gain the qualifications but can train them full-time on our exact systems and how we would like them to work, rather than try and change what they are used to from their previous firm, as well as giving them real-life skills. We make a connection with them, help them grow and learn, and give them a chance.
Naturally, they may choose to leave after a few years, but sadly, we all must get used to this. It is 2019. Longevity in relationships is a thing of the past. Both employees and clients are constantly looking for more and better. You just need to have an action plan on how to handle it and stay ahead.
Look beyond university education
As someone who didn’t take the university route, I used to find this a set-back when I started in practice almost 12 years ago. That's why I want the younger generation to understand that university is not the only route in this profession.
They may not have the grades or money to go to university, but that doesn’t need to stop them from succeeding in the profession. University fees are bigger than ever. They do not have to burden the next 20 years of their life repaying this debt.
Of course, there is a place for University – that is not what I am saying. What I am saying, is that there is also a place for those who cannot or choose not to go to university. It worked out OK for me.
So, this is how many of you could look to solve your recruitment problems. Consider trainees. This doesn’t have to mean young. Trainees come in all ages and packages, and some of the older generations understand tech just as much as the younger ones. Give someone a chance to learn. Mould them into the dream employee you need.
Mould the employee you want
Roles and job specs aren’t the same as they used to be. In a good way, cloud accounting and apps are to blame. Consider what it is you need exactly, not just “accounts assistant”. What exactly do they need to do day-to-day? What skills would help you and your firm? Can a trainee do this? Can someone tech-savvy pick up most of these tasks and skills quickly? Can a trainee take work off the plates of your more senior staff and free up more of their time for you?
Yes, sometimes you really do need someone qualified and experienced to manage a team and client base and hit the ground running. This is difficult and costly, especially if you go through agencies, but that is a conversation for a different time.
As job roles are changing and the profession is becoming more digital, maybe it is time we consider a new strategy in recruiting our staff too?