The Talent Has Won: How Big Public Firms are Embracing Flexibility

The Talent Has Won: How Big Public Firms are Embracing Flexibility

We have a saying about the recruitment issues facing public accounting, and while I’m certain we didn’t come up with it, we’re stealing it anyway: The race for talent is over. And the talent won.

If you expect to hire, and more importantly keep high performers, you should know by now the talent has won. This means that firms must adapt or die when it comes to changing culture to meet the expectations of talent.

I know, I know. They ought to play by the same rules that got you here. Well, what got you here won’t get you there. And hiring the best means playing by their rules, whether you like it or not. This is not a joke--if the talent senses that you are playing by old school rules from decades past, they will run into the arms of more progressive firms (or industry employers) who do what it takes to attract high performers. Take a look at what firms at the top of the food chain are doing:

  • Standing desks, meditation rooms and flexible hours at Dixon Hughes Goodman
  • Jeans any day of the week with Baker Tilly’s  “Dress for Your Day” pilot program
  • Crowe Horwath has also eased up on its office dress code and even rolled out the “Where to Work” program, allowing staff to work “wherever it’s convenient and they are most productive”

An October 2015 Accountingfly survey of 163 students and young CPAs asked, “What is the most important factor in selecting your next public accounting employer?”

Work Life Balance was the overwhelming top choice at 59%, reflecting the bias talent has about public accounting firms and its stance on flexibility in the workplace.

Mission/Vision/and Culture came in second with 31%. Talent is shouting from their cubes that they want to work at firms that invest in culture and establish a compelling vision. How do you build culture? See this webinar about how Gusto, a silicon valley payroll startup, built it’s culture. Their story will inspire you.

Compensation rounded out third with 9%. Compensation is a given. You’re still going to have to pay top dollar for lateral hires like seniors and managers, but it’s not the most important factor.

When your firm invests in these initiatives, make sure candidates passing by your website see pictures, read stories or watch videos that highlight the benefits you offer. The investment in improving your workplace, along with the investment in marketing to show why your firm is a great place to work, will pay off in higher quality candidates.

What is your firm doing about flexibility and making its workplace a better environment? Drop me an email -- we’d love to hear your stories.

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