How to Hire and Retain Great CPA Firm Employees

Many CPA firms find it difficult to hire quality staff

Do you desire to hire and retain great CPA firm employees? Today we’ll discuss how you can do just that.

Last month I visited two small CPA firms, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina. Both firms are located in remote areas, so it’s difficult to attract solid talent. Also, firm fees are lower and–as a result–wages are less. Consequently, these firms are not able to provide compensation comparable to Atlanta or Charlotte.

Nevertheless, I found that both firms have great people. So, how did they do it?

Hire and Retain Great CPA Firm Employees

Mine Locally

First, they are mining the gold locally. What do I mean? Well, they are constantly looking in their own neck of the woods for talent. Is there a local college student majoring in accounting. They are inquiring. Has a new CPA moved into the community? They are putting out feelers. If there is a possible match, they are digging for it.

Give Them What They Want

Second (and I think this is key), they are giving new-hires what they want. No, they are not offering Atlanta or Charlotte wages. They can’t. But they are offering other things. Like what?

Well, first of all, flexible hours. If a young female accountant has children at home and desires to spend time with them, then these CPA firms are crafting work schedules that allow Mom to be with her children but still work. For many people–especially Millennials–being able to put family first is everything. Give them what they want. This is good for the employee and the firm. Why? Happy staff members make for productive and loyal employees.

Employment should always be win-win. Too many CPA firms think only about what is good for them, and not their employees. But this is a mistake–is it not? There are two parties. The firm and the employee. Both need to be happy.

Ask yourself, “Is the firm better off with an excellent employee for twenty hours a week or a bad one for forty?” You know the answer.

And while we are talking about giving them what they want, let’s discuss remote work.

Working From Home

Many smaller CPA firms require their employees to come to the office, but what if a potential new-hire lives two hours away? Both of the companies mentioned above allow employees to work from home. While this arrangement has its challenges, consider the option anyway. Ask yourself: “Are you better off with a great remote worker or no worker at all?” I know, getting the technology working can be challenging. But look at what you gain. A competent employee that is not available in your locale.

You may be wondering, “Charles, do you do this?” Yes. My administrative assistant lives in Colorado (I’m in Georgia), and one of my associates works in South Carolina. May I say, “They are awesome!” I don’t know what I’d do without them. Resolving technology and training issues requires effort. But I’m telling you, my employees’ distance has almost no downsides (other than I’d like to see them sometimes).

These two employees have remote access to our paperless files (we use Caseware). And Basecamp (project management software) enables us to stay on the same page. Additionally, we use Zoom for conferencing purposes. So, I can share my computer screen and talk with them about anything. It’s almost better than being in the same room.

One other ingredient to hiring and retaining wonderful employees is having a positive work environment.

All in the Family

One thing I noticed in the two CPA firms is a sense of family. You could tell everyone enjoyed being there. 

If you want your employees to feel like family, treat them that way. Say thank you — a lot. Give unexpected gifts. Celebrate achievements. Have a Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner together. Go to an Atlanta Braves game (and do the tomahawk chop). Give them a day off for their child’s sporting event. Culture matters.

And this may sound silly but love matters. (Yes, I used the L word–going out on a limb.) We might be accountants but we are still humans, people that desire approval and genuine concern.

Great or Mediocre Employees — It’s Your Choice

If you’ve had no success in attracting talent to your small- to medium-sized CPA firm, think about the above. Too many firms can’t hire quality personnel because they refuse to change their hiring practices or work environments. But we live in a different world today. Millenials don’t think like the Baby Boomers. So maybe the Boomers need to think like Millenials. Then those great employees might magically appear on your doorsteps.

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