In just under two years’ time, the global pandemic has touched every aspect of business life and working environments. Intermittent outbreaks and lockdowns are forcing companies to innovate alternatives to the typical “commute to the 9-5 office” routine, making it difficult to require employees to physically come into the office to work after over a year of working fully remote. Additionally, offices could face further delays and setbacks for reopening, so continuing to have an effective remote/telework setup is crucial.
Remote work is the new status quo, but it allows for job opportunities no longer limited to any one geographical location. It is becoming increasingly rare that people are tied to a specific location for a job. As a result, people are rethinking their life choices: where and how they spend their time, what they value on a seismic scale, and how they want to work. This massive event is what is being referred to as “The Great Resignation.”
With a rapidly changing labor market, it’s important to understand why people are resigning from their jobs, where they are going, what they are or are no longer willing to sacrifice for a job, and how you can make your firm highly appealing to top talent.
Improve Your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
Several conditions and factors gave rise to this tectonic shift in the labor market. The pandemic has people making more “heart and value” centered decisions about where and how they invest their time and energy. Firms that have a greater purpose beyond profitability, such as commitment to a social, economic, environmental, or otherwise noble mission or cause, are attracting top talent.
Workers spend the majority of their waking lives at work. Organizations who are attracting top talent have the following characteristics: allowing people to bring more of themselves to work; creating a positive culture imbued with a sense of belonging; offering a flexible work model; creating tracks for growth for their employees; and having a mission beyond profit.
In an effort to alleviate burnout, firms are offering large salary raises, stay-bonuses, promotions, and other perks. While this may work for now, it likely isn’t a sustainable, long-term solution for most small- to mid-sized firms. Conduct a salary study and make market adjustments so you can offer the highest possible salary to your top talent. For smaller to mid-sized firms, it may be difficult or even impossible to offer salary raises to your entire team, especially all at once. Salary, while important, is not the sole factor in determining job satisfaction, fulfillment, or employee retention. Taking a holistic approach is the most effective way to attract and retain top talent, such as: unlimited paid time off, health insurance, work flexibility (location and hours), wellness programs, and incentive-based referrals for new hires.
When evolving your firm into a business with a purpose beyond profit, it will be absolutely necessary to revisit your current branding because it stems from your core values. First, you have to determine what your firm’s core values are with some brainstorming sessions. Developing and upholding your firm’s core values is essential to your business as everything you do — from communication to collaboration, team culture and retention, sales and profitability — comes from and returns to your core values. Core values form the foundation of why you do what you do, who you are here to serve, and what your grander mission is.
Second, your branding must reflect your newly solidified core values. Your branding must offer an integrated and connected experience that is felt and upheld by your leadership down to your employees and through to your current and prospective clients. From 2022 onward, the success of your firm rides on the integrated experience of your brand, which is built upon your core values. Think of your branding as a way to communicate your firm’s personality, who you are, who you serve, what you do, and why.
Opportunity Lives in Times of Chaos
In order to stay competitive and profitable, firms are investing more time and money in recruitment, training, and growth opportunities to meet the demands of the ever-changing labor market. It is the development and implementation of systems — hiring, training, leadership, work culture, benefits, pay, and growth tracks — in addition to establishing your firm’s core values and upgrading your branding that will help give your firm an edge.
With many firms struggling to hire and retain top talent, while trying to fulfill client obligations, comes an opportunity to filter the clients you work with so that you create capacity to only serve your ideal client avatar. Culling clients also improves morale among your limited staff.
Here’s a recap of strategies you can implement in your firm to stay competitive:
- Invest in establishing or updating your firm’s core values, along with updates to branding to ensure a consistent experience of alignment among executives, employees, and clients.
- Create a holistic and systematic approach for employee retention, recruitment, referral incentives, overall work culture, competitive benefits and flexibility.
- Develop or update hiring and training processes.
- Hire high-level managers and executives to establish, maintain, and oversee a positive work culture, invest in individuals, and create opportunities for them to grow.
- Innovate new positions to help the team lean into a new business model and organizational chart restructuring.
- Review clientele and consider client culling to improve the work environment. Reformulate what constitutes your ideal client by raising your minimum standard and client acceptance criteria. Culling your clients creates capacity for higher-value clients, i.e., your ideal client avatar, to bring about more fulfillment to you and your team while boosting morale.
- Implement creative hiring and retention strategies, such as fractional, offshore, and temporary hires. There are no borders for hiring top talent. Find talent outside of your normal geographic borders and typical industry finds.
Christopher Stark is President & CEO of Cetrom, a cloud hosting provider for CPA firms that has have implemented many of the strategies mentioned in this article, that he says has contributed to the company’s success as a leading cloud solutions provider for firms of all sizes and overlapping industries. Cetrom’s cloud enables the flexible schedule and telework-from-anywhere model, with added security needed to do so securely.