How to Master the Art of Accounting Firm Recruitment and Retention

Recruiting qualified candidates for your team—and keeping them there—can be the key to a firm's success.

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Are you an accounting firm owner dealing with a high employee turnover rate? Does it feel impossible to find qualified talent? You’re not alone.

According to an AICPA survey of more than 700 firms, finding qualified staff ranks among the top 4 concerns for firms of all sizes (apart from sole practitioners).

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the status quo. With a little strategy and effort, you can find talented team members and keep them around for the long haul.

In this article, you’ll learn hiring tips and strategies to assist you in retaining top accounting talent, so you can create a highly effective and successful team.

Table of contents iconTable of Contents

    Establish a Competitive Compensation Package

    Top candidates in the accounting profession know their worth, and if you’re not willing to pay for their expertise, you’ll find it hard to fill your vacancies and keep the people you hire.

    Paying at or above the standard market rates shows potential candidates that you value their skills and experience and understand the demands of their job. If you’re unsure what a competitive salary is for the position, take a look at resources like the Robert Half Salary Guide, Randstad USA’s Finance & Accounting Salary Guide, and

    Beyond base salary and wages, look at bonuses and other incentives, in addition to perks and fringe benefits that can attract accounting candidates, such as:

    • Health, dental, and vision insurance
    • Retirement plan matching contributions
    • Parental leave
    • Profit sharing
    • Paid time off
    • Flexible hours or work-from-anywhere options
    • Tuition assistance
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    Start an Employee Referral Program

    Posting job vacancies on LinkedIn and other job boards casts a wide net and can result in an influx of unqualified candidates. Paying for recruiting can be effective but expensive.

    An employee referral program can be a cost-effective way to find the perfect candidate. Referrals from other employees often come with a higher degree of trust and are more likely to result in a successful hire.

    According to research cited in the Harvard Business Review, referred candidates are typically higher quality than general applicants and are more likely to accept an offer, stay at the job longer, and perform better.

    The key to a successful employee referral program is to keep it simple. If the process involves too many hurdles for the employee to jump through, they simply won’t participate.

    The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends the following:

    1. Develop a standard form that the employee making the referral can submit. Include fields for the employee’s name, candidate’s name, and job opening in question.
    2. Offer a small token for anyone who submits good leads and a larger reward for workers who refer qualified candidates who become successful new hires. This can be a monetary bonus, extra time off with pay, eligibility to win a prize, etc.
    3. Stagger monetary rewards, if you offer them, to provide half up front and half once the new hire has hit a milestone, such as their 90-day mark in the role.
    4. Keep communication open with employees about the status of their referrals.

    Invest in Employee Onboarding

    Recruiting candidates is only half the battle. Once you identify the right person for the job, you must convince them to stay, starting with onboarding.

    An employee onboarding program helps new hires quickly become acquainted with their roles, responsibilities, and work environment. It fosters confidence and sets the tone for their experience with your company from day one.

    Your onboarding process should cover:

    • Pre-hire paperwork
    • Preparing the employee’s workstation
    • Meeting with supervisors
    • Getting them set up with technology
    • Explaining the benefits package
    • Welcoming them to the team
    • Giving them a tour of the workplace
    • Providing necessary training
    • Introducing company culture
    • Daily expectations and goals for the first month or quarter
    • Regular check-ins for questions and feedback

    Provide a Positive Work Environment

    A pleasant, inclusive, and supportive work environment is essential to recruiting and retaining talent in your company. Employees who feel valued are more likely to stay with a company and be productive. And a positive workplace culture boosts morale and contributes to overall job satisfaction.

    To foster this environment, develop an open-door policy where team members can easily discuss their concerns and feedback without fear of retribution. Regular team-building activities such as lunches or after-work gatherings can help foster stronger relationships among team members and build trust.

    Routinely recognizing your team’s hard work and accomplishments is another great tip to help people feel valued and appreciated. Whether providing a project-based bonus, offering free meals or movie tickets as an incentive for going above and beyond, or simply thanking them for their hard work, reward systems like this can help make your team more motivated and satisfied in their jobs.

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    Leverage Technology to Help Employees Work Smarter, Not Harder

    Many employers think of technology and talent as two separate business areas, but your technology strategy is integral to your talent strategy.

    Highly skilled accountants want a better quality of life and meaningful work. Investing in your technology and processes can deliver both by helping reduce tedious tasks and streamline workflows, freeing up more time for your team to spend on higher-value work.

    When evaluating technology for your firm, prioritize those that:

    • Are cloud-based and allow people to work from anywhere
    • Can automate manual processes and streamline the user experience
    • Solve for inefficiencies in your workflows

    This will make your team’s job easier and more enjoyable, increasing productivity and lowering turnover.

    Support Ongoing Professional Development

    According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers.

    Professional development leads to higher employee retention, so invest in helping your people gain new knowledge and skills. Ways to do this include:

    • Offer microlearning opportunities, such as access to courses on LinkedIn Learning or another platform
    • Create a mentorship program
    • Hold regular on-site training and bring in experts to present on different topics
    • Provide a professional development budget to give people the ability to attend conferences or earn professional certifications
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    Stay in Touch With Former Employees

    Often, people leave a company not because they dislike their coworkers or the work required but because outdated technology and processes make it difficult to achieve work-life balance and reach their career goals.

    These former team members aren’t a lost cause. Staying in touch with them is a great way to build and maintain relationships and potentially re-recruit them in the future.

    Once you’ve implemented the changes outlined above, reconnect with lost talent and let them know about the changes you’re making.

    Sharing with them that you’re addressing those issues in your firm may convince them they can find the opportunity they’re seeking with you.

    Winning Top Talent Is About Caring for Others

    You don’t have to install a foosball table or nap pods in your office to find great candidates or keep them with your accounting firm. But you do need to show that you care about the people who work for you and give them the tools and resources to do their work efficiently so they can build the career and the life they desire.

    When you master that, you’ll build a reputation as a great employer and have your pick of the best talent on the market.

    Janet Berry-Johnson

    Written by Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA and Freelance Contributor

    Posted on April 4, 2023