Why Employer Branding is Important for Accountantsby
Does your firm have a good reputation amongst current and potential employees? Marketing guru Lee Frederiksen offers tips on how to maintain your employer brand so you can attract and retain top talent.
Virtually every business professional knows the importance of branding for building business image and value, but did you know there are TWO kinds of branding? While you may be familiar with a company’s firm brand, every organization also has an employer brand as well, and it’s important to know the difference.
A firm brand is the client-facing image of your accounting firm that evolves over time from a combination of your firm’s reputation and visibility in the marketplace. It is the impression your firm creates in the minds of both potential clients and referral sources that helps them form an opinion of your practice and the services you provide. It provides context – positive or negative – to help them position your firm in the competitive field.
The other equally important brand is the one seen by potential talent. Accounting practices that can attract and retain the right talent have a major strategic advantage. And that’s where your employer brand comes in.
What is Employer Branding?
In the simplest terms, it’s your reputation as a place to work. It can include general impressions, such as “Acme Accounting is a great place to work” as well as specific attributes; for example, “it’s a demanding, high-pressure work environment,” or “they have the market’s most generous benefits package.”
Just as a firm brand can have different levels of visibility within different potential client segments and industries, an employer brand can have different levels of visibility within different groups of potential employees and referral sources. For example, if your firm specializes in regulatory compliance issues, you may not be well known in business schools that produce a lot of estate planning accounting professionals. And it’s for reasons like this that it’s important to have an employer branding strategy in place that enables your firm to focus on appropriate candidates and how and where they’re found.
A recent survey conducted by the Hinge Institute revealed that 41 percent of professional services companies have formal employer branding initiatives – and that number is even higher in the subgroup of large firms. Ninety-four percent of all firms surveyed stated they plan to maintain or increase their investment in employer branding activities because of the many benefits it provides, including:
More Effective Recruiting: It’s no surprise that a positive employer brand is a vital recruitment tool. A strong brand should increase both the quality and quantity of applicants, creating a larger pool of more qualified applicants.
Improved Talent Retention: Retaining highly-qualified employees is an ongoing challenge for accounting firms. And while offering more money is a time-honored strategy for luring away top professionals, it’s not always about the money. A strong employer brand can be a powerful incentive to stay with a firm -- there is even research that suggests many employees value a great workplace and a prestigious, highly-regarded brand over higher pay.
Insight into Company Culture: One of the most important things a candidate considers is company culture. It reveals what kind of behavior is valued, how management interacts with employees and employees with clients. In accounting, where so many professionals operate autonomously, firm culture can be a significant asset or a crippling liability, so it’s crucial that you develop and maintain a positive employer brand.
Improved Financial Performance: A positive employer brand can benefit your firm financially, from reducing the cost of attracting and retaining top talent to improved sales and revenue growth that result from fielding a highly talented and competitive team.
So if your firm has not already implemented a formal employer branding strategy, now’s the time to get started. Here are some top tips for developing an effective program:
- Make sure it aligns and supports your overall business strategy
- Make it transparent and highly visible to your team so they’re all working to help create and nurture the positive image you desire
- It must align with how you treat your clients – prospects will immediately see if what you say is not what you actually do
- Build your brand on reality – just because you say something does not make it true
- Monitor and optimize performance to produce optimal results
An employer brand launch is a firm-wide effort that involves recruiting, human resources, marketing, and senior management. Remember, an effective employer brand must reflect your real firm, not a contrived fantasy. Living the brand is an all day, everyday effort. But done right, a strong, positive employer brand is a critical catalyst for overall firm success and growth.
Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to...