Three ways to recruit top talent to your firm in 2020

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The tight labor market is impacting every industry, including accounting. As the national rate of unemployment hovers near a 50-year low, firms of all sizes are struggling to find and retain quality employees. The 2019 "Paychex Pulse of HR Survey" found that talent is among the top factors impacting HR leaders this year.

For the first time in this survey’s three-year history, attracting talent surpassed regulatory compliance as the top HR concern. More than two-thirds of HR leaders say it’s difficult to find and hire quality candidates, up from 59 percent last year. When asked specifically about challenges related to hiring, HR professionals most often cited: finding qualified candidates (49 percent) and retaining their best employees (49 percent).

Here are three tactics accounting firms can use to attract and retain high-quality workers:

1. Upskilling or training workers on the job: When hiring for open positions in the current labor market, hiring managers and their HR teams should assess the job description to determine which skills are must-haves from the start and which can be learned on the job if necessary. This practice is becoming increasingly common. Eighty-five percent of HR leaders surveyed would be willing to train and upskill an underqualified candidate, and 78 percent said their organizations have already benefited from upskilling underqualified workers.

2. Nontraditional benefits and perks: Younger generations of employees place a high value on work-life integration and weigh benefits offerings (including health care, retirement, ancillary perks and more) heavily as part of their overall compensation package, so firms must seriously consider these perks when creating job packages and workplace policies today. The most common nontraditional benefits offerings in 2019 are:

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Career development programs
  • Financial counseling
  • Free meals
  • Employee assistance programs (EAP)
  • Free wellness wearables

Leaders should be open-minded in deciding which perks the firm can feasibly offer. Maybe flexible scheduling won’t work for your firm right now based on client needs, but career development programs are an investment that can benefit employees greatly as they prepare for their CPA exams. EAPs, which provide employees and their families with on-call counselors, referrals to local resources, online self-help tools and more, are another important perk, especially during tax season when accountants can feel overwhelmed and burnt out.

3. Employee engagement: Though recruitment efforts are key, retention is the other big piece of the talent puzzle and employee engagement plays a major role in getting employees to feel fulfilled and stay at your firm. According to the survey, just 53 percent of HR leaders reported that more than half of their employees are engaged (defined in the survey as “fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and taking positive action to further their company’s reputation and interests”).

To foster engagement, firms may want to offer employees training to develop new skills, empower employees to suggest new work methods or projects, and regularly ask employees for feedback about their job satisfaction. Communication is the root of many employee frustrations, which can be resolved by creating channels for honest, specific two-way discussion with employees, utilizing these to provide praise and feedback in real time.

From effective communication to perks to training and tech, accounting firms should take full advantage of every tool at their disposal to ease the burden of finding and keeping top talent. In addition, clients increasingly expect their accountants to advise them on every aspect of their business, including HR. It’s important that firms stay familiar with the latest workplace trends for both the benefit of their own employees and the benefit of their clients.

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