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Recruiting and Retaining Top-Notch Accountants

The greatest asset of any business is its people. Few places is this more true than in the field of accounting.

Top-notch professionals help clients avoid costly financial mistakes, generate greater revenue, and draft and implement policies that maximize productivity. That’s why it is critical for accounting firms to not only recruit the most highly skilled professionals, but to retain them as well. A qualified accounting staff is a wealth of knowledge and resources for its clients.

The market has recently changed from an employer’s market to an employee’s market. Part of this is a booming economy. Nearly everyone who wants a job has several offers.

Sadly, another factor is that enrollment in college and post-graduate accounting programs has dipped, according to industry studies. So, there are fewer accountants out there to choose from. Accounting firms must aggressively compete to recruit , and keep , the top people in the field.

Following are tried and true methods of developing an accounting staff that will meet and exceed the needs of a firm’s client:

– Offer staff a complete benefits package, including medical, dental, life insurance. In our firm’s nearly 40 years, many colleagues have told us they cannot afford to provide the same benefits as larger firms.

The fact is that high staff turnover is one of the greatest cash drains a company experiences. Training costs and salary are all lost on employees who do not stay with a firm. Further, they take important knowledge about your business, in many cases, to your competitors. The truth is that a firm cannot afford not to provide an attractive benefits package.

– Create Challenging

Work Environment

– Grow the firm’s client base so staff can develop and sharpen their skills.

Accountants who are unchallenged by their work typically leave a firm.

Ask staff regularly about the projects they are working on. The way they talk about their work will allow you to gauge their interest level in their work load. Be proactive.

– Allow accountants to specialize in an area. If an accountant establishes a niche market and becomes an expert in that field, he or she is able to offer a deeper level of knowledge and experience to clients. Fostering an environment where several accountants can gain expertise in an area, and share knowledge with each other, builds camaraderie, prestige and loyalty to the firm.

– Network with others in the field.

Staying active in professional organizations and alumni clubs is one of the best ways to stay abreast of news among industry leaders.

An excellent accountant may not be a good fit for one firm, but would be a tremendous asset for another. Be sure to let peers know about qualified people the firm interviews, but cannot hire. They will return the favor in kind.

– Remain Flexible

With Staff Issues

– Remember that employees are whole people, not just worker bees. Employ as much flexibility as you are able when staff members face family challenges or personal issues. If a new mother wants to bring her baby to the office for the first three months, if at all possible, let her. Establish some basic ground rules so the work flow of the entire staff is not disrupted and tell her the firm is willing to give the new arrangement a try. Morale and loyalty will increase dramatically.

– Hire more Latinos and other minorities. Creating an ethnically diverse workplace is not just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing. If a firm wants a broad client base, it must have a staff that reflects the cultural richness of the region.

Bob Dole’s 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission found that when companies set and met their own diversity goals, they enjoyed two-and-a-half times greater market share than otherwise comparable companies. Why? A diverse staff is able to communicate a corporate message to a wide audience.

The competitive market for qualified accounting staff allows firms to examine and fine tune our recruitment and retention programs. It gives us the opportunity to grow in this area, which ultimately leads to a higher level of service we can offer our clients.

Saiz, CPA, is a partner of Calderon, Jaham & Osborn Certified Public Accounting and Consultants in San Diego.

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