Now more than ever, amid baby boomer retirements, it’s important for Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firms to get serious about staying competitive in the recruiting process. As part of a generally slow-to-change industry, CPA firms need to find new and creative ways to bring on and retain young talent. Since millennials are the largest generation in the Canadian workforce, if CPA firms want to attract top members from this talent pool, old ways of recruiting should likely change.
A Potential Problem CPA Firms Face
One potential problem that Canadian CPA firms may face in the near future is the risk of not having enough top-tier talent to keep businesses running in the long term. While middle management of those firms may take the lead and run the businesses as more senior CPA partners retire, the entry-level positions will likely need to be filled by generation Xers and millennials. And while these generations are flexible when it comes to employment, they are tech savvy, highly educated, and expect employment benefits that generations of the past did not consider. The solution to this problem is to approach recruiting in a new way and offer new benefits to younger incoming employees.
Begin Offering In-House Training and Continued Education
CPA firms may want to start focusing on the overall potential that candidates have instead of their past work experience. In-house training programs are a great way to get employees up to speed on the functions of the job in a relatively quick way. What may take an employee years to learn at another firm can be done in months if a proper training program is put into place. It may not be the best decision to write someone off just because they don’t have a certain number of years experience under their belt. Also, since CPA firms are ideally run by CPAs, part of a recruitment package can be to give candidates all the support they need to study for and complete the CPA designation. Many candidates beginning their accounting career dream of earning the CPA, and offering your firm’s support could make a huge difference in candidates’ decisions of where to work. Combined, the support for the CPA designation and a focused in-house training program can easily make a great potential candidate a great employee. The costs involved with both of these items will surely pay off in the long-run.
Focus on Technologically Savvy Recruits
Accountants are known for being slow adopters. But in this day and age, the rate of technological adoption may mean the difference between a firm’s long-term survival and demise. Technologies such as cloud services, public and private blockchains, and artificial intelligence (AI) are likely to become ubiquitous in the next decade. The capabilities these technologies offer are like none the accounting industry has seen before. The entire process of filing taxes may someday be eliminated because of what’s possible with blockchain. The auditing process is evolving because of AI, and the idea of a real-time continuous audit is made possible by AI and blockchain. And cloud services and analytics completely revolutionize the efficiency of employees. It may be a wise bet to focus on recruiting candidates who understand this technology, and giving them whatever they request (within reason). Firms that avoid this current technological revolution won’t be as competitive as those that embrace it, and may even go out of business. Focusing on a candidate’s years of work experience may be a red herring because new young talent’s key value may be technological expertise, not years in the workforce.
Promote Flexible Work Schedules and Work Locations
Younger candidates just entering the workforce may be looking for greater flexibility in their employment. To a certain degree, autonomy may be important to them, even at the cost of higher salary. Bright talent prefers to control the work situation as much as possible. As an interesting recruiting tool, your firm can offer flexibility in the actual work schedule of employees. Perhaps a certain number of hours is required, such as 40 or 50 hours per week. By allowing employees to put in the time whenever they want, you may attract better talent. Your firm can likely attract talented recruits by offering the ability to work from home on a certain number of days per week, or even every day. In this day and age, with cloud connections, your firm may want to stay competitive and ask if a rigid daily schedule at the office truly matters. Many technologies exist to track employee time, ensure information security, and allow access to important data regardless of where the employee is physically located.
Accommodate Female Employees’ Needs
Another way to remain competitive in the recruiting process is to accommodate the needs of female employees. Specifically, offering favorable terms for maternity leave is a fantastic way to give your firm an edge in attracting smart young talent. It may be the case that a female employee puts off starting a family because of terrible employment terms for new mothers. Alleviate this by going above and beyond what’s standard in the industry. Plus, with some of the technologies mentioned above, if a new mother has to work from home for a period of time, it should not cause any disruption at the firm.
Overall, CPA firms need to be cognizant that the majority of their senior talent will be retiring in the near future. To attract younger talent to operate the firm years from now, new ways of recruiting must be tried. With the largest segment of the workforce being millennials, the old ways of recruiting and retaining talent likely aren’t going to work any longer.