Purpose-driven work – the secret weapon in the talent war?

Why purpose-driven firms hold a recruitment advantage these days

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At Accountex London 2023 we gained valuable insights from our members who kindly took the hotseat on the panel:

  • Lorna Williamson – early careers manager at ACCA
  • David Whitson-Black – group head of talent development at Azets
  • James Lizars – founder and CEO at Thrive Accountants
  • Laura Whyte – managing director at Whyfield Accounting.

They covered various topics on people talent within the profession, from the very beginning of the candidate journey, through to how to keep employees engaged, developing and, ultimately, retained.

On the whole, our panellists felt that ‘purpose driven work’ – work that employees find rewarding and they feel has a positive impact on society and our planet – is without a doubt becoming more and more important. Luckily our profession is evolving in a way that means our focus can be and is required to lend itself to this and therefore job roles are naturally adapting to include elements of this work within them. 

This means employers can use this as an attraction tool within job specs, adverts and as part of their employer value proposition. It's important for employers to be wary though, as candidates and current members of the workforce are more alert to ‘green washing’ than ever, and to ensure that bold statements about sustainability are genuinely being put into practice and not merely being used for hiring campaigns or as a PR tactic.

As Thrive Accountants is proudly a B Corp organisation, James Lizars talked through how B Corp employers are held to account and therefore authentic in their claims by tracking software, policies and procedures which non-B Corp organisations should also be striving to implement.

We discussed some of the innovative ways our panellists are attracting new employees in both the early stages of their career journeys and those who are more established in their careers or looking for a career change. David shared their work with 55Redefined, an initiative which supports getting more mature candidates into the workforce, and Laura spoke about attracting the younger generation, both of which are vital in bringing different but complementary skills and attributes into an organisation.

It’s not just about hiring more talent, it’s about holding on to the great talent we already have. Our panellists also touched on what they do to nurture their current employees in terms of their development and engagement. Some of the subjects that were touched on included the impact reverse mentoring can have on both junior and more senior employees, apprenticeships for 40-plus-year-olds and women in leadership programmes.

The role of accountancy is changing and bringing purpose driven work into people roles is easier and indeed more needed than ever; we spoke about the value of some of the ACCA certificates such as sustainability in finance, which can upskill current employees who are keen to be driving societal impact as part of their daily work.

ACCA’s UK Talent Trends in Finance impact report, which launched at Accountex, includes useful insights into what your current and future talent want, and how you as an employer can meet their needs during this war on talent.