According to the 2019 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, staffing is a major concern for firms of almost every size and they continue to worry about getting and keeping great people. Staffing was also identified as the issue most likely to affect their practice in the next five years by all firm sizes with two or more professionals.
Future success will depend on developing a sustainable staffing and retention environment in your practice. This begins with purposeful action to build a solid foundation. Chances are good your firm already has a number of positive initiatives in place. The key is to expand on them. Implement standards and processes to create an atmosphere that perpetuates the ongoing attraction and retention of the talent you desire.
No time to do it on your own? This issue of Feature Focus will help you explore staffing and retention best practices and resources your firm can put to use whenever you are ready.
Five Proven Strategies
Let’s take a closer look at practical approaches to consider in your firm.
1. Provide the Flexibility Today’s Workforce Desires
Gallup research shows that flexibility, sense of purpose and opportunities for development are the top three factors people --especially millennials-- look for when choosing a workplace.1 People want to work in ways that help them achieve a better work life balance. The scenarios are countless, working from home to spend more time with children, caring for an aging parent or participating in an extended adventure abroad. Technology such as Smartsheet, Zoom Video Conferencing and Google Docs make it easier to support remote employees and allow them to engage, collaborate and feel a part of the team. Another key component of a flexible culture is the firm’s approach to work itself. To better accommodate future talent and client needs, many are reimaging how work is done and who does what. Hot topics include utilizing data analytics for greater knowledge and decision making along with implementing AI, machine learning and cloud technology to perform repetitive tasks such as data entry. As a result teams can become more efficient and assist clients at a deeper level to advance their objectives and profitability. This shift can provide professionals a greater feeling of accomplishment, while building client trust and strengthening valuable relationships.
For more on workplace flexibility, take a look at the resources
2. Become an Influencer on the College Recruiting Scene
Take an active role in campus recruiting. Students are searching for the best place to begin their careers, so engage them in conversation. Learn what they are looking for and what is most important to them. Encourage them to get to know you and your firm so they can envision their future on your team. Strengthen your influence by offering internships and scholarships to qualified students. This will create a buzz on campus and provide students the type of experience they want, while discovering what it is like to work inside your firm. For an exciting opportunity, consider the PCPS George Willie Ethnically Diverse Student Scholarship & Internship where five firms are selected to provide busy season internships to students who have been awarded scholarships up to $20,000 each by PCPS. Firms should apply by November 1 for the 2021 program.
Check out these resources for more tips to make an impact on your recruiting:
- Internship Program Quick Start Guide
- Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit
- Accounting Advisory Council Toolkit
3. Get Good at Telling Stories
One of the most compelling ways to spread the news of positive initiatives in your firm is to tell stories. This strengthens your employees’ pride for their workplace and enables potential hires to picture themselves in your practice. Tell stories often and encourage your team to share theirs. Show people the human side of your firm by talking about what you are passionate about and making strides to advance. Storytelling is not just for face-to-face interactions. Use your website and social medial platforms to communicate powerful narratives such as events you are hosting, initiatives in which your team is volunteering and conferences where your thought leaders are speaking. Make these easily accessible so they can be tapped into whenever it is convenient. Check out 10 Initiatives for Employee Engagement for other ideas.
4. Focus on Clients That are a Good Fit
Your clients play a significant role in your team’s satisfaction, engagement and retention. A client who is gratifying to work with and provides opportunities for growth can be the reason a professional enjoys working in your firm. These positive experiences can shape their learning, offer a sense of purpose and help them advance. Make it a tradition to review your client list each year. Get your staff involved in these discussions. This process will enable your team to feel more involved, appreciated and empowered in firm decision making. Identify clients the team enjoys serving and the opportunities they provide. Take it a step further by ranking them so you can focus on the ones most beneficial and best suited. Look closely at those who do not align well with the practice and its professionals. Consider whether there is an opportunity to improve the relationship and if not transition them out. To assist you with this analysis, put the Client Evaluation Tool and the Good Fit Client Tool to work.
5. Consider the Impact Billing has on Your Firm
Did you know there can be a correlation between your firm’s billing practices and its culture? In this podcast Getting started with value pricing: Part 2 with BNA Accountants (a part of the Small Firm Philosophy Podcast series) firm leaders discuss the positive things that began to take place that ultimately reshaped their firm, its work ethic and culture following a move to value pricing. They found a new pricing structure can have real benefits for team building. Staff began reaching out to more senior professionals for advice on their engagements and senior professionals provided greater support to younger staff. Managing by timesheets was replaced by leaders walking around more and engaging with their team. As a result the firm improved its efficiency, people are working less and can work remotely when desired.
Here’s to creating a sustainable staffing and retention ecosystem in your firm. Small steps now will create lasting benefits for your practice.
1 How to Help Employees Look Forward to Mondays, Jane Smith, January 22, 2019, Gallup, Inc., gallup.com
2 The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, p. 12, May 20, 2019, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL), deloitte.com