Beat your recruitment challenges

Follow these tips to help you attract and retain the right people

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Finding the right people is currently one of the top issues for accountancy firms. And it looks like the problem won’t be going away any time soon.

A study by Caseware of 4,000 accountants found that 90% were finding it challenging or extremely challenging to hire skilled talent. And 85% also said that retaining talent is somewhat or extremely difficult.

Fewer candidates, higher expectations and competition from outside as well as within the accounting sector are contributing to this major headache.

While I can’t pretend there’s an easy solution, there are some things you can do that will help you to attract and keep the right people for your firm.

Make your firm stand out for all the right reasons

Of course, if you can offer an amazing package of salary and benefits, that’s great! But even smaller firms with fewer resources can appeal to great candidates.

A lacklustre job description will do nothing to attract good candidates – so give them a reason to choose you.

Whether you use a recruitment agency or post job ads yourself, show the personality of your firm, not just the job title and salary. The key is to emphasise what makes your firm special, whether that’s your focus on work-life balance, your fantastic team culture, your amazing training programme, your commitment to the environment or anything else. Highlight the core values that drive your business – this is increasingly important if you want to attract Gen-Z employees.

There’s so much more to a job than the actual role, so show them what it’s like to work there. Do you have team days out? Or volunteering days? How do you support each other? You could even include comments from existing team members.

Define your USPs from an employee perspective and then put them front and centre of your recruitment process.

Don’t just do what you’ve always done

Before you place an ad or contact a recruitment agency, do a thorough review of what tasks actually need to be done. It could be that the role has changed, that some aspects could be automated or outsourced or that others in your team are better placed to take on part of the role. Being specific about what you’re looking for will give you a smaller but more targeted pool of applicants.

Don’t rely too much on CVs to assess candidates. Even the best CV won’t tell you whether they’ll be a good fit for the culture of your firm. Make sure your application process reveals their values and their willingness to learn so you get a good idea of the person, not just the qualifications.

Also make sure that their softer skills – like communication and teamwork – are up to scratch, particularly for a client-facing role. These things matter so much in terms of fitting into your team.

And be aware of unconscious bias when you’re recruiting. We often look for PLUs – People Like Us – without realising we’re doing it, attributing them with the right characteristics for the role simply because they’re familiar. And that means you discount other candidates who could bring huge value to your firm. Your diversity and inclusion policy should be something you live and breathe, not just a piece of paper.

Make your firm a great place to work

Of course, one of the simplest ways to solve your recruitment challenges is to retain your existing team. How can you help them develop and grow so they don’t look elsewhere?

What I recommend to our AVN members (and what we do with the AVN team too) is to hold career development reviews (CDRs) at least twice a year with each team member. This is a structured one-to-one session that goes beyond a standard appraisal. We look at what they’re doing, what they want to do more or less of, what their goals are (personal and professional) and how they will reach those goals. It’s an effective way to uncover any ongoing issues and any gaps in training and to get a better understanding of what really motivates them. 

As well as developing your team individually, how can you promote a great team culture? After all, the people and the culture are often what makes us want to stay in a job. With working from home or hybrid working so prevalent now, this is arguably more important than ever. Make sure that there are plenty of opportunities to build relationships and support networks within the team.

Do you have a wellbeing strategy? It’s increasingly important for employees to know that their health (mental and physical) is being looked after at work. Show your team that this is important to you too. After all, a healthy, happy team is a successful team.

And of course, as mentioned above, bring your team onboard with the vision and values of your firm. Working towards a shared purpose is one of the most effective ways to unify and motivate your team.

When you make your firm a great place to work, with an engaged and enthusiastic team, the sky’s the limit. 

There are plenty more ideas on how to develop your team in my Amazon best-seller book, Putting Excellence Into Practice; download your copy

Shane Lukas – AVN for Accountants