Tactics a Real-Life Firm Uses for Hiring Successby
The accounting industry has been embroiled in a war for talent for many years. Our industry is facing new seismic shifts from labor shortages, declining accounting program enrollments, the lowest CPA exam rates in history, the Great Resignation, new employee requirements, and the fact that people are still moving around the country.
The pandemic shifted the way accounting firms seek out employees. Before it started, we had ten fully remote employees. These staff members had started their careers with the firm; we knew them really well even before they became remote employees.
When COVID-19 happened, we shifted our mindset and quickly started to look for talent outside our geographical area. Expanding our recruiting efforts across the United States also gave us access to diverse communities, helping us become a more diverse company. Today, over 40 percent of our workforce lives more than 100 miles from our Silicon Valley headquarters across 25 states.
Our strategies so far have focused on the following:
Here are some unique aspects to our recruiting process that we think are particularly noteworthy:
1. Offering hybrid, flexible and fully remote schedules from the start. Candidates rethinking what they want and what they need don’t have to wonder what our policies and flexibility might be when they read our job postings. We clearly state the options at the top of the page. How we work, why we work, and where we work are top of mind. We have collectively moved well beyond the conversation about work-life balance into a broader discussion about how we as an employer help people integrate the parts of work and life that matter most to them.
2. Expanding our search to be nationwide, not just local. Top talent lives everywhere, not just concentrated around our brick-and-mortar locations. We have had strong success with national candidate searches.
3. Focusing on strategic relationships. We’ve always invested time and effort into working with and maintaining close relationships with top recruiters. We’ve also kept close tabs on firm alumni, and we check in with them periodically on a personal level. All that is nothing new for us, but they have been extremely worthwhile investments during the pandemic, as we continue to gain access to new top candidates and keep the door open for boomerangs.
4. Maintaining our internship program. It's imperative to stay connected with universities and colleges and continue the investment in campus recruiting. When the pandemic happened, we quickly shifted to a virtual internship program, which gave interns a glimpse of our culture and firm during unprecedented times. And yes, our efforts were successful, with several hires of internship alumni.
5. Offering a human-centric recruiting process. The candidate's recruiting experience is a representation of what it will be like to work for your firm, so communicate frequently and transparently from the start.
6. Making policy discussions the norm. Early in the process, discuss opportunities for career progression, training and development, inclusion, and flexibility in when and where candidates will work. Strong firm-wide policies are great, but you need to spend time translating how that might work for someone individually, especially if they are fully remote.
7. Showcasing awards and recognition. We are incredibly proud of being named a Best Place to Work for a few years and share this and other accolades with prospective employees.
Here are nine elements we have found to contribute to healthy retention rates.
1. Trust. It's the single most important key ingredient to retention. Our leaders have risen to the challenge of incorporating more empathy into their personal styles, adjusting how they measure success (outcomes, not outputs), and building stronger two-way communication pathways with their teams.
2. Onboarding experience. Employee experience begins even before someone’s start date. We’ve reengineered how we interact with new recruits, as well as overhauled our orientation and onboarding processes. We are laser focused on doing everything we can to help employees feel they are welcome, belong, have purpose and are empowered in their careers from day one.
3. More frequent employee engagement surveys. Gone are the days when an annual survey is enough. We now conduct more frequent surveys, sometimes on very limited-scope topics, to keep up with how people feel and what’s important to them.
4. Stay interviews. We’ve become more disciplined and, at the same time, more casual about stay interviews. The question we find works best is, “How are you really doing?” We all have to work harder to break through the everyday noise of work life, home life and the latest story in the news. It’s a lot. And when a trusted manager asks this question to a direct report, it’s a powerful tool. We train our leaders to ask this question authentically, casually and regularly.
5. Upskill training for managers. Our training for new managers and leaders includes much more content around inclusive leadership best practices and the importance of belonging when it comes to retention and performance.
6. Opportunities for internal mobility. We’ve always been strong at creating growth opportunities, and being a mid-sized company that has both structure and flexibility is key to making this happen.
7. Work-related expense stipends. This year, we introduced a quarterly stipend bonus for all our employees (local and remote) to help offset work-from-home costs.
8. Normalizing mental health conversations and talking more about wellness in general. We talk more frequently about what quality of life really means for people as individuals, and we have worked hard to make discussions around mental and emotional health normal, everyday parts of our work. This isn’t about new buzzwords. We want to create an open dialogue about health and integrity and focus on pillars supporting mental and physical health, career, social and connection, and financial well-being.
9. Continue to look for ways to enrich employee benefits. This year, we introduced unlimited PTO for exempt employees to help combat burnout and promote work-life balance. It’s been a huge success.
It’s crucial for all accounting and finance professionals to consider the following questions: What needs to change in the accounting firm to withstand the Great Resignation? Here are some ideas:
- Be disciplined about emerging thought leadership in this area. Best practices are evolving at a more rapid rate, so you have to be more forward-thinking, more curious, more agile, and more adaptive than before.
- Be open to hybrid, remote and flex schedules. Give your people the freedom to choose how they work best. That can’t be implemented inconsistently or change abruptly. Employees definitely talk with each other and compare notes with colleagues in other firms. Your flexible schedule policies have to be well thought out and solid. Remember: Retention is ultimately about trust! Show your employees you trust them, and teach them how to earn your trust in return. This will help you remain competitive, not only in accounting, but in other industries as well.
- Foster a geographically inclusive culture. Ensure all employees (local or remote) feel included at all times.
- Genuinely and effectively embrace technology. Video conferencing, chat and messaging tools, and other digital platforms can help keep your employees connected.
One additional challenge is removing prejudice and bias in your hiring practices. We are imperfect human beings, and everyone has blind spots no matter what we do to work against them. It's essential to have recruiting teams who can review decisions through an equity lens to help improve your hiring and promotion process. We should strive to be more intentional toward cultural visibility efforts, bias training, blind resume reviews, creating safe spaces for candid conversations around cultural challenges, individualized leadership curricula, and making coaching more widely available to everyone.