Optimize Your Employer Brand to Attract Top Talentby
As the culture of work shifts due to the pandemic, many firms are considering new ways to attract and retain top accounting talent. According to Lee Frederiksen of Hinge Marketing, one of the best stategies is developing a robust employer brand to build your accounting firm's reputation and encourage employees to join and stay with your firm for a long time.
It's being called the "Great Resignation." In 2020, the pandemic brought into clear focus what today’s workers value: work-life balance, working remotely and a shared cultural fit. Not all employers recognized this swing—but they are feeling the effects of it.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, four million Americans quit their jobs in July—leaving a record-breaking 10.9 million open positions. Accounting firms are especially at risk during this time. A growing shortage of accountants has been brewing for more than a decade, as many baby boomers reach retirement age and fewer young people are interested in becoming CPAs. What’s more, mid-career employees between the ages of 30 and 45—those with the skills many CPA firms rely on—make up a majority of recent resignations.
Amid all the bad news, the good news is that accounting firms can counter these obstacles to recruiting top talent, and it starts with your employer brand.
What is an Employer Brand?
Your employer brand is your reputation and visibility among potential employees, recruiters and job boards. This is different from your firm brand, which is your reputation and visibility among potential clients and referral sources.
Today, employer branding is very much on the minds of corporate executives. A recent study by Hinge Research Institute found that 41 percent of companies have formal employer branding initiatives, and 94 percent of professional services firms plan to maintain or increase their investment in employer branding.
Designing an Effective Employer Brand
Your employer brand strategy should outline how you want your firm to be viewed in a competitive talent marketplace. First, take note of what your brand currently communicates about your firm. Examine the careers section of your website. Monitor company profiles on LinkedIn and Glassdoor—what are potential employees saying about your firm? What information is shared with candidates who search for open positions?
This is a critical first step in designing your strategy. Here are four additional items to consider as you develop your plan:
Your employer brand must support your overall business strategy. Does your firm acquire talent at the lowest possible cost? Or do you require talent of the highest caliber? Clearly, these two scenarios demand different employer branding strategies. Be sure your plan advances your firm’s particular business model for long-term success.
Research your prospects. Research is the best way to identify messages that will resonate with your target audience. Most firms target three primary audiences in their recruiting strategy: potential recruits, recent hires and talent referral sources. To motivate each group, you will need to create content that speaks to their unique perspectives.
Set your firm apart from top competitors. Differentiators set your firm apart in a competitive talent marketplace. To be effective, the characteristics you highlight must be accurate, provable and relevant to your target audiences. This information is critical as you craft your positioning and value statements for potential employees.
Your brand must be authentic and consistent with how you treat your clients. An employer brand can be somewhat aspirational, but it should also be honest and in sync with your overall firm brand. As you set your content calendar, be sure to hone your messaging and highlight your differentiators to speak directly to your target audiences. Each piece of new content — whether it is for your website, blogs or social media — should advance your firm's overall story.
Promoting Your Employer Brand
You’ve conducted your research, articulated your company culture and secured buy-in from management. Now, how do you turn strategy into results?
First, your website is the single most important tool for making your brand visible. It communicates both your firm’s brand and your employer brand. Dedicate a section of your website to career opportunities. Recruiters and potential employees will most likely visit this section first, though they will also scour the rest of the site.
Today, prospective employees expect companies to articulate their commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, corporate responsibility and community involvement. Brands that are not transparent may raise concerns among candidates about whether they will fit within the organization, and those with options will look elsewhere for a position.
Be sure to promote on your site your employees’ contributions. Share webinars or articles your directors and teams have prepared for industry publications. This content positions your firm as a thought leader in the industry, while also giving candidates an inside look at how your firm celebrates success at all levels. It illustrates the impact they can make at your firm.
Don’t Forget Social Media
Optimize your employer brand with social media. When building social media campaigns, pay close attention to your target audiences and what platforms they use. LinkedIn has become the top resource for job seekers of all ages. There, prospective employees search for open positions and research potential employers and colleagues. Create regular, engaging content that brings your company culture to life so that candidates will follow you.
Don’t forget to look beyond LinkedIn. Creative organizations recognize that TikTok is popular among young employees. Consider whether you could create content for TikTok that is authentic to your firm’s brand and culture. If your firm is conservative, however, TikTok might not be the best channel for you.
Mid-career employees also use Twitter and Facebook to research potential employers. Make sure your firm’s messaging and content on these channels is optimized to leverage the strengths of each platform. Use SEO to monitor content engagement and refine your strategy as necessary.
Across all platforms, be sure to include pictures of your team that illustrate its diversity and high energy. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.
The Benefits of a Robust Employer Brand
Your top competitors are only too happy to hire your best employees. While a desire to make more money is a factor in the Great Resignation, it’s not the only one. Employees want to feel good about where they work, and a strong employer brand can be an incentive to join and stay with your firm over time.
A strong employer brand is like a roadmap. It shows candidates (and clients) where your firm finds itself today. And it lays out your firm’s future—a future that should speak directly to the heart of prospective employees and clients.
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...