Tips & Tricks: How to recruit & retain talent

What does the Great Resignation mean to Australia’s Accounting Industry?

There is no denying that the Great Resignation is a hot topic at the moment as Australia waits to see if our job markets will go the same way as the US.

In a recent webinar on recruiting and retaining the best talent, accounting industry experts Bruce Coombes – QuickFee, Craig West – Succession Plus, Alistair Barr – Striver and Stephen Watts from TOA Global discussed the potential impact of the Great Resignation on the accounting industry in Australia.

Who are the hardest to recruit and retain right now?

There is no clear-cut winner (or loser) in this respect. Striver’s Founder and CEO, Alisdair Barr indicated that finding and securing the best talent for those in 2–5-year entry-level roles are extremely competitive at the moment. This is mainly because whilst they may be fresher recruits – and less expensive – they have some experience and can provide billable hours from the moment they start.

Conversely, Succession Plus are seeing the market for higher-level roles tightening up and recruiting senior positions is becoming increasingly challenging. The power that desirable senior-level staff have in this shifting job climate means that more money and more benefits are making it to the negotiating table than ever before.

What are recruits looking for?

What happens in our job market is not just about a need for compensation in the traditional monetary sense. Instead, there is a greater desire for increased flexibility in working hours, days and location, and different benefits to what is generally on offer.

The flexibility and freedom many of us have experienced with working from home is not something most people want to give up that easily. On the contrary, there is a definite appetite for it.

However, not all employees love the idea of working from home every day. Sure, it has benefits in terms of flexibility, but how does that impact the incidental networking in the lunchroom or social get-togethers. For a graduate, bumping into the managing partner and striking up a conversation over coffee gives them a level of visibility they cannot achieve through zoom. Craig West, CEO and Founder of Succession Plus, says one of the most complex challenges right now is how employers can successfully build a corporate culture for people who have never met face to face. Weighing up all of these factors will undoubtedly be challenging, and we will likely see some creative solutions in the near future.

How important is a good culture fit?

Finding an employee that is right for the role and the company culture has always been a challenge, but it is has been even more challenging recently working remotely.

Having a clear understanding of the drivers for employees in this new environment and being able to put into place strategies that you can execute well and believe in is essential. Employees want to work for something they believe in. For younger workers, this may mean providing clarity on growth and development, and for more senior employees, it may mean giving equity options.

Keeping in touch with the community also has value, especially for the younger employees. Corporate responsibility and genuine community support keep your business connected to things that your staff believe in.

What makes employees want to leave?

Craig West calls this the Decision Point. This is the point when you weigh up your level of satisfaction with your current situation and whether there are better, more attractive situations. Many factors go into this decision, such as limited growth opportunities, reduced work/life balance, being underpaid, job insecurity, poor workplace culture, and high-stress environments.

If there are more attractive offers available, then the decision to move away from these stress factors becomes that much easier to make.

How do you balance the various flexibility needs?

As the pandemic drags on and the operational requirements continue to change, managing the differing preferences can be challenging. Therefore, creating a balance between working from home and working in the office is vital.

Stephen Watts from TOA Global calls this strategy Perform to Play. If your team is performing well while working remotely and it works for the business, it is reasonable to continue allowing this option. When expectations are clearly set, and dialogue is kept open, there is no reason not to allow flexibility.

Being consistent across all channels of the business is even more critical. For example, if one team has the option to work from home and another doesn’t have the same opportunities, it will generate discontent. Being consistent across the business will circumvent this.

How do smaller firms compete with the big players?

Providing employees with a voice at the table is easier for smaller firms than for big players. At the large firms, the table is just too big to hear every voice! Being able to speak up and be heard has enormous value for everyone, from the freshest graduate to the longest standing team member.

Providing good mentoring opportunities is also essential. Opportunities for growth and development tailored to the individual and their goals will always have a place in keeping staff happy.

So how can you recruit and retain the best talent in the face of a looming Great Resignation?

Have different options in your toolkit. Whether those options are flexible working arrangements, increased wages, paid paternity leave or a day off on your birthday – the most important thing is that they need to be visible to your team. Communicate these things clearly and openly and be ready to answer questions around them honestly. Transparency is the key here.

Offer appropriate compensation. This means offering a wage within or above market value and providing a compensation model that reflects the return on investment you will see. You are investing in an asset at the end of the day. Understanding what motivates the employee and trying to meet what is reasonably in your power will drive their engagement and increase their return on investment to the company. It’s a win-win if executed successfully.

Give people a voice. Ensure your team feel that their voice counts and that they are empowered to speak up. However clever you think you are, there will always be better, more creative ideas from your team. You may not implement every idea, but if you don’t give people an opportunity to be heard, you will never hear that great idea.

Effectively collaborate. One thing is sure – collaboration skills will be vital not just for employees to work effectively but also for businesses to ensure they have the suitable systems in place to facilitate a varied working style.