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It takes a lot to grow an accounting practice. It takes time, connections, money, resources, marketing, advertising, and strategic planning. But more than anything else, it takes people. Without the right people on your team, it’s impossible to experience meaningful and sustainable growth. Unfortunately, recruiting is harder than ever before. But this doesn’t give you a free pass on building the right team. You must act with greater purpose and focus.
The current state of the accounting labor market is interesting, to say the least. Right now, there are more college students majoring in accounting than ever before. Yet, at a time when more young people are choosing to pursue careers in accounting than ever before, the number of people sitting for the CPA exam has dropped to levels that were last seen in 2006. The trend is firmly pointed downward and there isn’t a clear explanation.
As a result of this trend, we’re left with a candidate market that’s shaped a lot like an hourglass. At the top of the market, there are lots of established leaders who have been in the industry for decades. At the bottom of the market are thousands of college students. In the middle – at the skinny portion of the hourglass – is a very tiny segment of lateral hires. These are people who’ve been in the industry for two to seven years and are now in managerial roles.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the accounting and financial sector is right around 2.2 percent (well below the overall national unemployment rate). On top of that, the employment of accountants is projected to grow by 11 percent between 2014 and 2024 (faster than the national average). The result is high demand.
In terms of recruiting, the competition is high and the qualified job pool is relatively small. If you’re looking for recent college graduates and/or applicants in the skinny portion of the hourglass, you can’t just post a job listing and wait for resumes to flood in.
You need a very specific plan of attack – one that accounts for the nuances of this evolving industry.
There’s no cookie-cutter approach to recruiting that works for every practice, but there are some proven techniques that have been shown to increase an organization’s chances of reaching and hiring the right talent. Let’s explore these methods in further detail:
You can’t develop any meaningful recruiting funnels if you don’t have a clear idea of what your practice stands on. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to brainstorm your identity and compile a list of core values that you can use to shape how and whom you recruit.
If you’re unsure of what your core values are, meet with your current team and ask for their input. Come up with a list of values that are priorities and then figure out a way to communicate them in the recruiting process. As much as people care about money and benefits – which we’ll discuss below – they want to work for a company that has a clear and convincing purpose. Articulating this to potential hires will improve your chances of success.
If you look at recruiting as a task that you complete and check off, you’re viewing it through the wrong lens. Recruiting is less of an isolated task and more of an ongoing process.
One of the more important elements of hiring is how you introduce a new hire into your organization. This is known as the onboarding experience and should be carefully optimized in order to make new employees feel welcome.
A good onboarding process informs, educates, and includes. It makes the new hire think, “I made the right decision.” A bad onboarding process, on the other hand, leaves the individual feeling disheveled and regretful.
When it comes to hiring green talent, your best option is to cultivate a relationship with nearby colleges and universities. In doing so, you’ll establish a talent pipeline that consistently sends candidates your way. Assuming the school has a good reputation of producing quality candidates, this is a great way to engage potential hires without consuming a lot of your time and internal resources.
In addition to establishing relationships with school administrators, take the time to network with accounting professors at these universities. Sometimes it’s these professional relationships that lead to the best hires. When a professor notices a talented individual in the classroom, they’re likely to recommend them. As a result, you get introduced to the cream of the crop (not just any old Joe who gets a diploma).
With recent graduates, you can get away with offering smaller salaries and compensation packages. For more established professionals who already have jobs, you can’t expect to offer a low-end figure and lure them away.
Pay top dollar for lateral talent. It’s the only way to entice them to go through the painstaking process of putting in a resignation letter, signing an offer, moving stuff, and adjusting to a new employer. In the end, paying a premium will unlock the door to talented professionals that would otherwise turn you down.
While salary is important, it’s not always enough. A large portion of today’s talented accounting professionals are millennials and, as a group, they’ve made it clear that money is just one factor that’s important to them. They also want to work for companies that care about social causes, offer work-life flexibility, and promote education.
Develop a competitive benefits package that’s specifically tailored to your target group of candidates. In doing so, you’ll find that you’re “speaking their language.”
Recruiting is an ongoing process that you must commit to over a long haul. However, there’s a difference between an accounting practice with low turnover and a practice with high turnover. The former understand the significance of recruiting the right type of candidates.
The right type of candidate is someone who is likely to stick around for at least five years. This individual is cost-effective and worth investing in. Anyone who is likely to stick around for less than five years will be resource intensive.
Want know the cold, hard truth? Any truly exceptional accounting professional is already employed. So you can’t just post openings on job boards and expect the best people to apply. If you want top talent, you have to seek out these individuals.
Thanks to LinkedIn and other online resources, proactive recruiting is easier than ever before. You can find candidates who aren’t actively seeking new jobs and build relationships over time – eventually generating a pool of potential hires that you can dip into in when the timing is right. (But remember, in order to pull these professionals away from their current employers, you have to make a sensational offer. In other words, expect to pay a premium.)
At Taxfyle, we make things easy on your accounting firm by providing you with the resources and solutions you need to keep things moving during your busy season. Because while it’s important to have the right employees in your organization, it’s just as important to have connections on the outside. Request a demo today to learn more about our tax preparation outsourcing and how it can help you take your practice to the next level!
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