XEROCON - August 17 – 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Jeff Phillips, CEO, AccountingFly
The race for talent is over. And talent won. Ask Jeff Phillips, and he will tell you that this sentiment goes a long way to defining the changing face of today’s accounting profession.
“Millennials have done the accounting profession a great favor. They have forced the profession to open their eyes – and to change.”
Today, in a marketplace driven by technological advancements in how people conduct business and communicate, accounting firms are having to refocus their efforts on building their staffs, especially as it pertains to the Millennial workforce. Phillips, CEO of AcountingFly, specializes in matching talent in the accounting industry with firms looking to expand. He will help shed light on the steps it takes during his upcoming presentation, "Recruit Better Than the Big Four,” at Xerocon SF 2016. The presentation is slated for the Practice track on Recruiting (Day 2), Wednesday, from 9 a.m.-10 a.m.
“Millennials have done the accounting profession a great favor,” Phillips says. “They have forced the profession to open their eyes – and to change. This is a profession that is resistant to change. It is interesting to watch. The employers that get it succeed in recruiting, and those who don’t, fall behind.”
Phillips says this impact will continue to hurt firms that cannot adapt to employees who want to work remotely or take advantage of technology that complements to do the job more efficiently and effectively.
A recent AccountingFly survey that asked Millennial accountants and CPAs what they prefer in a job found that 59 percent seek a work/life balance. Other important factors included the mission/vision and culture of the company (31 percent), compensation (9 percent) and other factors (1 percent).
There are questions today’s accounting firms have to ask themselves. Are you a good place to work? Do you offer the kind of technology that high performers want to embrace and use? Do you offer the kind of flexible work arrangements or remote work arrangements that high performers want? Is your culture, mission and values attractive?
“The question is not, ‘How do I attract Millennials?’” Phillips says. “The Millennials are now the base line. The thing you have to focus on is whether your firm is good place to work? Will you choose to make it one? Are you interested in taking advantage of the things that people want – remote work, distributed work and flexible work arrangements? Firms that embrace products like Xero – firms that operate in the cloud – are going to have a major leg up.”
Your job is your life – Not so fast
A recent study by accounting consulting firm, Boomer Consulting, may shed additional light on the challenges the accounting profession has hiring in today’s climate.
In the throes of interviewing professionals who left the market over the past four to five years, one of the early indications is that more than 70 percent exited because of work/life balance issues. “That is frightening to me, because we're already dealing with a time where it's very difficult to hire,” Phillips says. “We have to solve these work-life balance issues.”
Millennials seem to be the key, as they are forcing firms to think about how they want to treat and integrate this balance. “What is really exciting about the technology, is that flexible work arrangements are completely possible when you embrace technology,” Phillips says. “As hard as it is to hire accountants, if you’re using products like Xero, and you buy into the concept of remote work and flexible work arrangements, and you offer work-life balance, you'll win. To me, that’s the biggest trend we've seen today.”
The key to everything is in the process. What good is attracting candidates if you don't use a good piece of software and a clean, simple process to rapidly respond to candidates?
To help accounting firms build world-class teams, Phillips breaks down the strategy into five decisions you need to make:
No. 1 – Decide what drives your culture
What kind of HR policies are you going to put in place to build a culture that's attractive to high performing accountants? Encourage vacations. Offer unlimited PTO. Extend maternity and paternity leaves. Offer location flexibility. Set clear working hours expectations up front and treat everyone’s schedule individually.
“We've taken a hard look at internet companies that tend to be very progressive on the HR policy side,” Phillips says. “One example is unlimited time off. When I say that to a room full of CPAs, they roll their eyes. The problem is that you're competing with companies which offer that. You're competing for talent. You've got to decide the right HR policies.”
No. 2 – Articulate your recruitment brand
To attract good people, you need to have a strong brand. Questions to ask include: Why work in a firm of your size? What does your firm stand for? Why should they trust their career to your firm? What is their future like if they’re effective? What is unique about your culture?
“You have to invest in building an employer brand,” Phillips says. “Those are the key questions firms have to ask themselves – and answer. If they can communicate why it's a great place to work in every conversation, every written material that they produce, the process and your brand works.”
No. 3 – Recruit every day
Recruiting every day is a must – no exceptions. Post jobs to build a pipeline. Develop content around recruiting. Tap your team for referrals. Always be willing to meet with great, new talent. Build an alumni network to re-recruit. “I want employers to understand that the time to fill a job is not when somebody just walks out of your office,” Phillips says. "You should have been investing and building a pipeline of talent, communicating a brand, from Day 1.”
No. 4 – Use content to attract quality candidates
Candidates these days consume content on social media, not job postings alone. Tell them your story. The art of “post and pray” does not work. Use content in multiple forms – articles, videos, infographics, images – across multiple platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, news sites and Instagram. Accountingfly research found that a professional senior applicant who sees a piece of content your company produces is 270 percent more likely to apply to a job posting with your company's name on it.
“What does work when it comes to recruiting is selling the employers, selling the company,” Phillips says. “There's a lot more job seekers on Facebook than everybody realizes, and a lot fewer on LinkedIn. Job postings don't sell candidates, but educating through multiple channels of content absolutely can sell your company to a candidate.”
No. 5 – Have a process to make fast decisions
The key to everything is in the process. What good is attracting candidates if you don't use a good piece of software and a clean, simple process to rapidly respond to candidates? “We've had clients who waited four or five days to respond to a Millennial CPA who might be relocating to their city,” Phillips says. "It was too late. It was over, because they didn't have a CRM for candidates. You need the kind of software, like Acccountingfly builds to rapidly make decisions on hires.”
In the end, the process comes down to discuss building your recruiting strategy so it tells the right story, at the right place, to attract the right talent. And, as Phillips emphasizes, there’s no better time to start than now.
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