As we celebrate World Accounting Day, the spotlight is firmly on the accounting industry. Amid the rapidly evolving business landscape, attracting and retaining the right talent is of paramount importance.
In a post-pandemic world, employees are now seeking authenticity from the firms that they work for as opposed to focusing solely on financial benefits. In a study conducted by WTW in late 2022, they identified that over a third of Irish companies were expecting problems when it comes to attracting talent and over half were expecting difficulties retaining current employees.
Never has it been more crucial for businesses to stand out from the competition beyond financial incentives in order to become employers of choice. In 2022, the Irish government included Accountants, Auditors, and Tax professionals on the critical skills shortage list which highlights the pressure the industry is under when it comes to sourcing talent within the sector. But what steps can firms take to overcome this challenge? Strategically focused messaging and communications that put employee engagement first create more empowering work environments. The key word here is strategic. So what are the steps that must be taken for firms to recruit, retain and engage their staff?
Establish your Employer Value Proposition (EVP)
In today’s competitive employment market, employees are now seeking more than just the bare minimum or standard rate of employment.
A people-centred approach that addresses a range of pain points and keeps your team connected with your overall business goals is essential. In other words, you need to establish your Employer Value Proposition (EVP), a clearly defined statement of the rewards and benefits that employees receive in return for their performance and productivity at work.
Deshpande (2019) defines EVP as the “give and the get” between a company and its workforce, spanning from the business’s mission statement, purpose and values to its job opportunities, culture, and people.
By understanding what your employees value and want, you can begin building a foundation for your EVP which, once communicated effectively, will result in improved engagement, performance and ultimately improved staff retention and attraction.
Approach your EVP with an employee engagement strategy in mind. Instead of focusing on the objective of employee happiness, create an EVP that targets engagement and productivity. Ask yourself “What will encourage your employees to improve their performance?”. Consider things like extended annual leave, health insurance, career progression opportunities, well-being, and sustainability initiatives.
Clear messaging matters!
We know that effective internal communications can lead to an increase in employee engagement, retention and ultimately productivity. Engaged employees are 59% less likely to seek out a new job. The key word here is effective communication. So how do you know if what you are saying is getting through to your colleagues? Find out more here.
Once you have established your EVP, and its link to your purpose and values, it is important that you communicate it with your employees.
The first step for all communication is to create the key messages that are going to resonate with both your internal and external stakeholders.
According to Forbes: “It’s time to get your employer brand out there through your current employees and by using tools like social media, media relations and performance marketing”. Authentic experiences resonate with people – by enhancing your humanity as an organisation, you can strengthen the relationship your company has with both current and future employees. Your people leaders play a critical role in disseminating these messages. They can bring your messages to life through meaningful communication and storytelling. Employees and future recruits need to see this authentic leadership in action.
Clear messaging will reflect your organisation’s established values and commitment to progress by highlighting the practical actions put in place. The integrity of your brand, employee trust and engagement are all strengthened by consistent and aligned messages across internal and external communications. Re-examine the way your firm creates and shares this messaging internally to make sure that nothing is overlooked. To encourage greater collaboration and knowledge exchange among employees, think about adopting new structures.
Once you have established your key messages, backed up by programmes and initiatives to support your values, this will help to differentiate you as an employer of choice, building your reputation around what matters to employees and potential new recruits.
Invest in your people
Not recognising employees’ individual input and successes or failing to address genuine concerns or queries from your team can have detrimental effects on employee trust, engagement and retention. By caring and investing in your employees you will promote loyalty. Integrating professional development programs into your internal communication strategy is essential when helping your employees to understand the opportunities available to them, helping them become more engaged, and subsequently staying with your company longer. A study from SurveyMonkey found that 63% of those who were “always” or “usually” recognised said that they are “very unlikely” to job hunt in the next 3–6 months.
Another study from Blessing White found that a third of employees become disengaged when employers ask for feedback but do nothing about it. If you are asking employees for feedback, make sure that you show that you are acknowledging and addressing it. If issues arise, use employee input to find a solution.
Align your leadership
Making your firm an employer of choice will be attributed to the way in which you communicate. When it comes to current employees and those that are onboarding within your firm internal communications channels should be a trusted source of the truth and provide clear, timely guidance on what external developments mean for your company.
For internal communications to be truly effective, leadership needs to understand the importance of it. A study conducted by Gallup found that only 13% of employees strongly agree that their leaders are effectively communicating within their organisation. Critically reviewing the type of content that you are sharing with your employees is essential. How is the content you are creating and posting being received? Understanding if video generates more engagement than written copy, if posting in the morning is more successful than afternoon – these are valuable insights that should inform your content planning, going forward.
By allocating the necessary resources and becoming role models themselves for the wider organisation, communicating strategically becomes the norm and there are exceptional benefits for the whole organisation. One of the best investments your firm will ever make is to evaluate and improve your communications strategy to ensure that your firm attracts, recruits and retains the right employees as the competition increases.
For further information on internal communications services, please see The Internal Wire.
Read Ciara’s original article in the CPA Ireland | June Issue 2023: https://digital.cpaireland.ie/issue/june-2023/communications-steps-accounting-firms-can-take-to-recruit-retain-and-engage-their-staff/