The importance of human capital toward the success of a business is indisputable. It's critical to review strategies and develop best practices for managing talent related to each part of the talent management cycle from recruiting to development to retention.
Our Micron Systems' Editorial Team highlights six strategies to consider when looking at your firm's talent management systems.
The war on talent is a reality for professional law and accounting services firms. So how do we effectively manage talent? Human capital is the most important part of any business, even above strategy and marketing. After all, it is the human working with your clients, building professional relationships, leading by example, and contributing to the overall success of your firm. Recruiting, hiring, developing, retaining, and promoting the right employees are critical pieces to the puzzle of a successful organization.
To help you review your firm's current practices and better manage talent going forward, we've outlined a few ideas for you to consider implementing in your firm. Already implementing some of these strategies? Kudos to you and your firm!
Effectively Managing Talent from Recruitment to Retention
Recruit the Best Talent
- Focus recruiting efforts on specific schools and build on-campus relationships.
- Allow interns opportunities to work on "real world" projects.
- Look to recruiting firms for experienced talent.
Hire the Best Talent
- Evaluate your firm's hiring process & analyze your turnover rates.
- Establish critical DEI initiatives to avoid biases in your hiring process.
- Post job openings internally.
Develop Your Talent
- Offer training.
- Track utilization and provide equal engagement opportunities.
- Provide consistent formal and informal feedback.
Foster the Desired Culture
- Cultivate a culture where people can have fun and connect.
- Consider competitive benefits packages and a hybrid work model to attract new talent and retain top employees.
Retain Your Talent
- Continually analyze HR processes and adjust them to meet your firm's goals.
- Consider an alumni program to keep connected with employees who leave.
Increase Client Satisfaction
- Recognize talent and keep an eye on areas your people excel in to find ways for them to perform those actions more frequently.
- Happy, engaged, productive staff leads to better business, happier clients, and more opportunities to hire additional talent.
1. Recruit The Best Talent
College and university students are a primary resource law firms and accounting firms use for acquiring staff. Focus efforts on specific schools and assemble outgoing recruiting team members to build on-campus relationships. Internships are a great way of identifying excellent employee-firm fit. Be sure to wow your interns by giving them plenty of attention and the chance to work on "real world" projects.
Firms searching for experienced hires are often building new practice areas or filling gaps made by vacating staff. Know the specific skillsets and experience your open positions require. Consider focusing your recruiting efforts on people who already have steady and proven careers but want more challenging opportunities.
Recruiting firms are great resources for finding experienced talent. Once onboard, be sure to get them involved in projects as soon as possible, adding value and feeling like they belong. Avoid the tendency to leave experienced hires alone, thinking, "Hey, they know what they're doing." Help them acclimate to your firm culture and be a valued member in their new home.
2. Hire the Best Talent
Evaluate your hiring process to determine if it leads to great hiring and allows for building your pipeline for promotions from the staff level up to partner levels. Analyze the effectiveness of your recruiting team members, recruiting efforts, cost per employee, time investment per new hire, retention percentages, and overall success of filling positions. Analyze trends in your firm's turnover. Compare your company with industry leaders on the above items to determine if your firm is making the most of your efforts. Create a hiring plan that prioritizes diversity and fosters your firm's values and vision.
Do not rely on software keyword searches and AI to choose your best candidates; rather consider having a recruiter review resumes for a holistic view of a candidate. Virtual or face-to-face interviews are the best way to get a true sense of a candidate, vs. a phone interview. Remember that, while skill sets are essential, hiring a person who is a culture fit and has a great attitude is vital to your company's success. As Peter Schutz said, “Hire character. Train skill.”
Be aware of conscious and unconscious biases when hiring. Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are critical in professional firms. The benefits of a more diverse staff are higher innovation, increased profitability, a broader pool of talent, and a more desired culture.
According to a study done by the University of North Dakota in 2019, only 27% of partners and principles at accounting firms are women, yet 49% of all new hires are women. When considering race and ethnicity, accounting professionals in the US are predominantly white, at 79.7% of the workforce. Even though women have made up at least 40% of the U.S. law students for decades, a Glass Ceiling Report by Law360 reports that only about 23% of equity partners in U.S. law firms are women.
Work allocation tools can help DEI initiatives by adding automation to job assignment decisions. Remember that a candidate for an open position may already work for your organization. Post job openings internally, too.
3. Develop Your Talent
Offer training to all staff to show that your firm is interested in their team's growth, increased knowledge, and skills to improve job performance. Listen, ask open-ended questions, mentor, and coach all staff regardless of their position. Recognize that careers can take different journeys and paces as people advance in their careers, so think of lateral movement and promotional movement.
Track utilization and give equal engagement opportunities to all staff. Offer a "shadow" and "reverse shadow" on-the-job training program. For example, a junior accountant may follow a more senior accountant through several audit report deliveries. During each delivery, the junior accountant is tasked with noting observances and questions and following up with their coach/mentor on tackling the notes. As the junior accountant gains familiarity, give them project responsibilities to help grow skills in the area. Give staff some control over their career trajectories and watch them blossom.
Provide continual positive and constructive feedback. Use both formal and informal feedback sessions and use performance management software to document these conversations. Want to deliver a kinder message? Use the "sandwich method," which sandwiches constructive comments between two positive comments. A resource that is helpful for suggestions on giving and receiving feedback is the book, "Where's the Gift," by Nigel Bristow.
4. Foster a Desired Work Culture
Employees today desire a work culture that aligns with their values. Firms that operate on high trust, high ethical standards, open and honest communication, and provide an optimal work-life balance environment can and will retain the incredible talent they worked so hard to acquire.
Benefits, such as health and life insurance, retirement matching, arrangement, wellness program, PTO and sick leave, and even sabbaticals for tenured employees, also aid in building a strong firm culture. Salary and bonuses are tangible benefits and should be evaluated annually to ensure they are competitive with other professional services firms.
Additionally, hybrid work models are becoming the norm due to younger workers growing up in remote work environments, the internet, and the pandemic. Since accounting and law firms are already metrics-driven, they have accountability measures to gauge employee effectiveness. Attract new talent and retain your existing staff with flexible working models.
Cultivate a culture where people can have fun and connect. Ideas include virtual game nights, happy hours, awards, rewards, and recognition for well-done jobs.
5. Retain Your Talent
Retention happens organically when firms practice the points noted above and are conscientious of their approach to talent management success. The key is to continually analyze HR processes and adjust to meet your firm's goals.
Unfortunately, the reality is that great employees do leave their firms, despite the best efforts to retain them. At times, the firm's clients hire CPAs, and they go to the industry, or CPAs leave your firm to start their own practices.
Keep connected with these former employees. Consider creating a firm Alumni Program where you maintain a professional relationship with these individuals. If they return to your firm, as a "boomerang" employee, they may help serve one of your existing clients or become a referral source for clients or future employees.
6. Increase Client Satisfaction
The outcome of having the best staff is that you develop a succession plan with talented, proficient, and happy employees that serve your clients for life, which in turn increases fees and helps your firm grow, so you can hire more talented staff.
As author Jim Collins wrote in his book, Good to Great, "Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus." Recognize talent, capture that talent, and if you find a better fit in your organization for people, make adjustments! Organizations are full of opportunities to thrive, and the role you hired a person for may not be where they can contribute the most. As a leader, keep a close eye on areas your people excel in and determine how you can have them perform those actions more frequently.
By keeping the human element of your talent management processes front and center, whether you are recruiting new hires, developing your people's skills, or fostering a healthy firm culture, your firm will succeed in retaining top talent. When firms manage their talent well, employee retention increases, clients are delighted, and incidentally, profits will increase - a win for everyone involved!
Learn more about Micron Systems' Solutions for Talent Management