As the national rate of unemployment hovers at its lowest rate since the late ’60s, businesses (including accounting firms) are struggling to find and retain quality employees. For the first time since the Paychex Pulse of HR Survey began in 2017, attracting talent surpassed regulatory compliance as the top HR concern with more than two-thirds of HR leaders citing difficulty finding and hiring quality candidates, up from 59 percent last year. These professionals said finding qualified candidates (49 percent) and retaining their best employees (49 percent) are their top hiring-specific challenges.
There are several tactics accounting firms can use to widen the field of eligible candidates. One of which is upskilling or training workers on the job. 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. When hiring in the current labor market, hiring managers and their HR teams should assess based on the job description which qualifications are required versus desired and which are must-haves from the start date versus and which can be learned on the job, if necessary. While the accountants you employ are undoubtedly required to have certain skills and certifications to be hired, you may be able to be slightly flexible as you fill office support staff positions at your firm.
Nontraditional benefits and perks are another offering gaining popularity among companies trying to attract and retain top talent 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), and free wellness wearables.
Younger generations of employees tend to place a high value on work-life integration and weigh benefits offerings (including healthcare, 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. However, before implementing a flexible work policy, ensure your HR team and managers are prepared to manage the challenges that come with nontraditional work arrangements, including engagement and retention, oversight of work, and ensuring consistent productivity.
Though recruitment efforts are key, retention is the other big piece of the employment puzzle and employee engagement plays a major role in getting employees to stay (and feel fulfilled) at your firm. According to the Paychex survey, slightly more than half (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 better engagement, firms may want to offer employees training to develop new skills. While accountants’ training is naturally tied to keeping up with certifications, every employee can benefit from enhancing their non-technical skills (also known as soft skills), including problem-solving, conflict resolutions, professionalism, and more. Employers should also empower workers to suggest new work methods or projects and regularly ask 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, and utilizing these channels to provide praise and feedback in real time.
From effective communication to perks to training, accounting firms should take full advantage of every tool at their disposal to ease the burden of recruiting and retaining top talent in today’s labor market.