Practice Room: Attracting talent for future success
Top tips from our ACCA-qualified PR hosts, Heather Smith, Anastasia Chalkidou, and Lock Peng Kuan
The opportunity for small and medium sized practices to grow in today’s business environment is unprecedented. Digital transformation, in particular, is truly enabling smaller accountancy firms to reimagine the services they offer, but successful change is critically dependent on attracting, developing and retaining the right people. SMP is an exciting careers destination which offers a broad spectrum of opportunities and far more than just job security and good remuneration. SMPs also have a clear purpose of helping small businesses achieve their objectives and growth targets and provide recruits with the opportunity to see concrete results of their work. However attracting talent can be challenging as small practitioners are competing with larger organization and other sectors that have more resources to market their professional opportunities, furthermore the market has been significantly impacted by Covid-19 both leading to the “great resignation” and “ great rethink of careers purpose. So how can SMPs attract talent for future success?
Even before you begin to search for new employees, you need to have a strategic plan. This means answering questions like:
- What kind of person am I looking for?
- What kind of benefits might my perfect candidate be keen on? And what might attract them to my company?
- How do I describe the practice - and do current employees agree with me?
- How do I describe the people who work here - do they agree?
- How long do I want this person to stay? Is this a position for life with a partnership track, or a stop-gap - or somewhere in between?
- Does our current application process work?
- Monitor staff turnover and address leaky buckets
If you can answer these questions, then it’s likely you’ll be able to attract the right person for the right reasons.
Once you have the job specification structured, and have a handle on what you can offer candidates, you then need to market the position. Company branding is a really important way to attract job applicants - without them having to come across your advert first. If you can communicate your brand, what you stand for, what kind of culture your company has, and can show people the human face behind the company, you’ll reach more people and they’ll have a better idea of what they’re applying to. You can always use ACCA Careers SMP section to advertise your opening
Hiring someone else to do your hiring for you is a controversial topic. Some SMPs feel like they have to do this - some because they simply don’t have the time to do it themselves. But it can be expensive and it can also be a process that is less targeted than you might think. The most important thing is to work out whether it represents value for money - in the case of recruiting for more senior positions, it can be more useful. If you do decide to outsource, it’s really important that you interview the recruitment firm! That will give you the opportunity to explain to them the things you want from a candidate beyond the basics and it will give you confidence that they’ll be searching in the right places and using the right tools to select candidates for you to interview.
Be a magnet for attracting magnificent humans: tips, tricks and tactics
Attracting and retaining talent is by no means straightforward, so here are some of the top tips SMPs came up with in our Practice Room:
- Encourage your staff to post on social media, about activities happening within the firm, from celebrating successes, to receiving home care packages and create and create FOMO -a feeling of missing out
- Use social media yourself - you’ll reach a wider range of people, and be able to put a face to a name before candidates come in for interview. You’ll appear more friendly and approachable too
- Try the entire online application process yourself to weed out any issues of bias or bumps in the technology
- Look for people who have left big recruitment firms - are they looking to, or have they already, set up their own small search firm? Sometimes they will offer lower prices for recruitment but have big-firm expertise
- Use employee engagement surveys to understand what it’s like to work at the practice, identify areas of improvement around wellbeing and productivity and showcase aspects of this that might attract new recruits (like Everperform)
- Make use of ACCA’s own resources such as it’s Talent development advice, Career Navigator, and ACCA Careers SMPs section, ACCA's Careers in SMPs Report
- Get ready for questions from particularly Gen Z on sustainability, diversity, and working from home policies
- Make sure there’s a single point of contact for interviewees where possible
- Poll results from the session, indicated that 71% of attendees used social media, 53% used networks and 35% used past candidate applications, to keep tabs on the future potential talent pool.
- Go back and look at candidates who applied for past roles – work out where they are now and whether they might be suitable for this role
- Share stories from all levels of the business, from intern to partner – it’s what people like to read and it gives them the best sense possible of the company culture
- Join The Practice Room LinkedIn group to share your views about attracting talent to your practice with your peers from around the world.
- Find out more top-tips and SMP stories about attracting talent to your practice in ACCA and CAANZ co-branded report Careers in SMPs report
Links to useful resources:
Practice Connect – Developing talent
ACCA’s Career Navigator
ACCA Careers – SMP section
Careers in SMPs report- containing practical insights for practice leaders and candidates