Recruitment resource: three tips to attract and retain talent by IRIS Elements image

Recruitment resource: three tips to attract and retain talent by IRIS Elements

In the current job market, patience for poor management and dull workplaces is thin.

onWednesday, 3 April 2024

In the current job market, patience for poor management and dull workplaces is thin.

For accountants, this is particularly challenging as not only is finding and retaining talent challenging, but the number of candidates entering the workforce is also reducing.

A tough predicament which sets the stage for some innovative thinking.

On our AccountedFor Podcast, we recently spoke with Jonathan Mackie, Director at NRB Chartered Accountants, to understand how they are revamping their operations and strategies to attract and retain talent.

Below we’ve covered some context from the episode and highlighted three practical tips you can take away today!

Reflection: state of recruitment and retention

According to Jonathan, accountancy firms are not just grappling with each other for top talent, but also with other sectors and existing companies – such as Google and Facebook – which offer more exciting places to work.

These innovative companies provide an enticing work environment that resonates with the values of modern-day workers who don't want to be stuck in an old-fashioned firm.

Current job seekers are looking for aligned values, better ways of working, flexibility, modern processes and everything else that comes with the evolving work culture.

It’s a challenge that demands an urgent shift in how you perceive and design your firm.

This shift demonstrates the need to adapt the workplace – it’s time to step up, modernise and ensure you’re not just keeping up with the times, but also with the workforce’s expectations.

However, what can be done? Consider the following three areas as part of your efforts.

1) Provide staff more freedom

During the podcast, Jonathan reflected on the old-fashioned link between input and output.

Jonathan explained: “If you sat at your desk for eight hours a day, you knew what fees you were going to generate in that period because you generally charged by the hours or knew you could get through a certain number of accounts in that period of time.

“However, slowly but surely the link between input and output has been eroded to a degree, so it's less and less.

“I think in the next couple of years, the link will be shattered, if not shattered already, with the advent of AI and automation.

“Regarding retaining and attracting talent, you need to understand that you don't need people to sit at a desk for eight hours a day to get the same level of fees or to look after the same number of clients. 

“Some people who have embraced the digital journey might be able to do the same job in four hours.

“This poses the question: what do you want to do with that additional time you've now got?” 

Jonathan makes a great point about the advantages of technology and what that means for workers.

In its most basic form, you could do twice the amount of work throughout the day, but it is urged you think more broadly, especially in relation to being an attractive employer.

Are there more meaningful ways to use the added time? Perhaps staff can:  

  • Invest their time in marketing the firm

  • Seek clients in new industries

  • Run firm-wide wellbeing sessions

  • Embrace learning & development to broaden their skillset

  • Improve their work-life balance

  • Offer advisory services

A great way to make your firm stand out is to show you're not purely money-driven and that you value creating an environment which focuses on its people.

Remember, the most successful employers value people over profit.

IRIS Elements: One Platform, One Experience, One Shared Client Record


2) Create a value-driven firm

In today's employee-driven recruitment market, candidates are placing values and alignment at the top of their employer wish list.

Jonathan reflected on his own experience regarding values, saying: “About two years ago we had some external coaches come in to run a session on values and how we can implement them.

“Our session started by pulling up our values, which were on our website at the time, and the coaches asked us to guess what they were.

“The highest anyone scored was two out of six - and this was at a board-level!

“If you went through these old values, they were what you'd expect from an accountant like technical excellence.

“That's not a value, but something you should be doing as a bare minimum.”

Values should reflect your purpose, goals and vision – the elements which determine what you stand for and what you want.

When it comes to defining your values, deliberating what is important is a great starting point, but to truly uncover what makes the business tick, ask your people what's important to them.

After all, your people are living and breathing the true values of your business every day.

That’s what we did at IRIS and what Jonathan did at his firm.

Run employee surveys or simply sit down and have a conversation with your people.

Once you’ve developed meaningful business values which truly reflect the culture, you can use them as guidelines for recruitment.

If a candidate falls outside of these values, you know with confidence that they aren’t right for the firm, and vice-versa.

3) Build staff confidence

The experienced accountant comes with a lot of strengths - they know the client, have lived through issues, understand legislation and also possess the softer skills required to form meaningful client relationships.

However, as with all things in life, once you've built up that wealth of knowledge, understandably you're scared of losing it.

To make the most of your people, you need to give them the confidence and security to thrive in new areas without fear of change. 

Jonathan explained: "People are worried if they do something new, it exposes them and they once again have to start from ground zero as opposed to staying in their comfort zone."

Firms need to help staff overcome the fear of no longer being an expert because it won't take long to upskill and once again regain that confidence.

Once existing staff are comfortable with new areas, they can then apply their wide array of existing knowledge to come up with innovative new solutions.

To overcome the fear of the unknown, employ change management tactics, creating awareness of, and desire for change – this could be for new software, training or ways of working.

Awareness: people need to know why the change is happening and what’s in it for them. Answering these questions will help people understand the purpose. 

Desire: build desire by showcasing the benefits, helping ensure people are eager to embrace the change.

More content: How to successfully manage change within your accountancy firm


Full episode: what does the accountancy workforce of tomorrow look like?

In a candidates’ market, there’s no room for poor management or uninspiring workplaces.

Want to learn more about helping a modern workforce thrive?

Check out the full episode where Jonathan Mackie, Director at NRB Chartered Accountants and Emma Crawford-Falekaono, Accountancy Sales Director at IRIS Software Group, detail how firms can set themselves up for success.

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