Accountant & Bookkeeper Guides

Hiring the right staff for your firm

6 min read

Finding and retaining qualified staff is one of the top issues facing accounting firms today. So here are some pointers on how to hire the right staff for your firm.

Clients look for experience

Clients know the value of working with experienced professionals. They know a qualified and experienced accountant or bookkeeper will keep their finances in check and their business on track. Experience generates confidence. It makes clients feel their business is in safe hands.

Hiring the right staff is the best way to give your clients the experience they are looking for.

The six best ways to hire and retain good people

There are many ways you can attract and retain the right professionals:

1. Offer competitive remuneration and benefits

If you want to offer an attractive package, you can reward your employees with bonuses, retirement plans and training. Career development opportunities, flexible working hours and additional sick leave are other great options.

Aim for a competitive package that includes salary and a range of benefits. Start by reviewing what you currently offer. Then benchmark your firm against similar companies. Use accounting and finance salary information published by staffing services company Robert Half. Their online salary calculator will help you compare your salary package against those of other firms in your area.

2. Have flexible workplace practices

The idea of working 9 to 5 seems old fashioned today. Times have changed. It’s not uncommon for people to start and finish work early, or to split their working week between time spent in the office and time spent working remotely.

Dress codes are more relaxed. Office walls have (literally) come down as a way to break down hierarchy and improve communication.

Make sure your firm is keeping up with these trends. Use them to attract top people looking for greater flexibility in the workplace and a more relaxed company culture.

Remember, it shouldn’t result in staff simply doing as they please. Instead, it means a shift in focus on your part.

Rather than tracking an employee’s start and finish time, track the things that matter. Did your employee complete her work to the standard required? Did she deliver on time? Is the client satisfied with the end product or service?

3. Give your staff recognition and rewards that don’t cost

Recognising and rewarding staff for high performance or going the extra mile builds loyalty and goodwill.

It’s also great for boosting morale and building a positive company culture. And it needn’t cost your firm a lot or reduce productivity.

Identify cost-effective ways you could recognise and reward staff. Options include allowing staff to work from home occasionally, come in later, or have paid time off to go to a family event. Thanks, praise and shout-outs in emails and team meetings also make employees feel appreciated.

4. Provide technology for improved productivity and work satisfaction

By embracing technology, your firm will be seen as a modern organisation that values new ideas and innovation. Use it to improve productivity at work and solve problems creatively. Help your team embrace social media and get them to share relevant information about your firm and what it is doing. This will help to build engagement with current and potential clients.

Many firms allow staff to bring personal devices like a smartphone to work for both work and personal use. Policies like this help firms save on the capital expenses associated with buying technology.

Recognising and rewarding staff for high performance or going the extra mile builds loyalty and goodwill.

5. Give your staff broad learning opportunities

Small and mid-sized accounting firms have an advantage over large corporates when it comes to the range of learning opportunities on offer.

In big corporations, new employees often have to specialise in a particular area such as payroll or taxes. In large firms, they may have to specialise in corporate tax, individual tax or auditing.

Smaller firms can attract top talent by offering more choice within the workplace. A new staff member may want to hone his general accountancy or bookkeeping skills. Someone else may want experience in customer service, management or a particular niche area.

Give new staff the chance to pursue their career interests as soon as they start.

6. Offer in-house training

In-house training is another way to keep your people at the top of their game. It’s also an excellent way to retain your best and brightest.

A study by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) found new accounting professionals value the opportunity to learn and grow in their careers almost as much as they value remuneration and benefits.

Look into the options. Would you need to involve an external trainer? Could you do it yourself in-house? Is online training your best option? Look for training that staff can apply to their jobs immediately that also has lasting benefits.

Talk to your staff

If you really want to know more about what’s working for your staff, talk to them directly. Have your staff give feedback anonymously if they’d prefer. But keep in mind that the need for anonymity may be a sign your staff don’t feel comfortable speaking out.

Ask your staff how satisfied they are with their workplace. Are they happy with the remuneration and benefits they receive? Find out what they like about work and the career opportunities you offer. What about your company culture – does it inspire and motivate them to do their best?

If you survey staff yearly, you’ll be in a much better position to improve your approach to attracting and retaining top talent.