How to Evolve Your Practice to Attract Next-Generation Talent

May 12th 2016
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Imagine you have a group of students scheduled to tour your office and participate in an upcoming information session. Seems simple, right?

You’ve done these sort of mentoring sessions before and have your talking points down cold. You’ll tell them how you first got involved in the industry, career lessons learned along the way, and why you like working at your firm.

Now consider that this group of soon-to-be accountants and CPAs is also visiting several of your competitors as part of their Career Day tour. Suddenly not so simple. You all offer the same benefits, compensation is competitive, and opportunity is largely equal.

So, what really makes you stand out from the crowd when looking to attract next-generation talent? I have been doing a great deal of research in this area over the past year and the answers may surprise you.

Think Like a Startup

I have found that millennials value flexibility the most. Similar to the way a startup operates, they want to work on their own terms, which means the typical 9-to-5 desk job won’t appeal to them. Rather, they want the freedom to work remotely and on a schedule that is built around their lifestyle.

While this might seem odd for more seasoned accountants, allowing for this type of flexibility is a must if you want to secure next-generation talent. Baby steps in making this transition include leveraging video technology, whether it be Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom Video Conferencing, which provides the freedom to work remotely but still fosters team collaboration. You can also solicit feedback from staff regarding their work-from-home desires and build a corresponding policy.

Firms further along in their next-generation transition might consider whether they even need a work-from-home policy, or if everyone can work remotely anytime and at any title level. In many cases, some firms have even decided that a brick-and-mortar office isn’t necessary, instead of relying solely on video communication technology and workflow/CRM software to track client deadlines. This won’t be a viable option for every practice, but it does demonstrate the wide range of options available to firms looking to recruit next-generation talent.

Streamline the Workflow

As firms offer more flexible work options, it becomes increasingly important to make sure project management solutions are in place to avoid any leakage. Without the right resources, dispersed firms run the risk of not providing employees – both existing and next-generation talent – the tools they need to deliver against client and firm expectations.

Start by evaluating how you are receiving information from the client. Many clients, for example, still come to their accountant with a box of receipts or provide information in piecemeal. Eliminate this type of inefficiency by employing technology that streamlines the data-collection process.

Take mobile, for example. If clients can snap a picture of a business expense – perhaps a receipt from a business dinner – and automatically share it with their accountant in real time, this makes everyone’s life easier. Accountants can get an instant notification, clients don’t have to worry about it in the long-run, and it’s all stored and sorted within the cloud accounting platform that can be accessed at any time.

Having the ability to provide employees with this real-time client access gives them the single-most valuable tool they need for managing clients and delivering success.

A second solution is to utilize enterprise messaging services, like Slack and Yammer. These services let you create channels based on projects, subjects, or teams where you can hold conversations, make announcements, and share files.

Regardless of what, if any, services you use, having a centralized hub for employees to communicate amongst teams and clients is critical for client progress and communications recordkeeping, and, ultimately, long-term success.

Focus on Outcomes, Not Processes

Millennials respond to deliverables and not to billable-hour requirements. In order to shift to such a value-based pricing system that will attract next-generation talent, firms must create efficient internal workflow systems between clients and staff.

In order to create efficiency, you must eliminate business redundancies. Root out repetitive processes by conducting an audit of your firm’s various business operations. As mentioned above, consider how client information is collected.

What roles and responsibilities among team members are overlapping? How does the staff interact? These inefficiencies create waste that draw away from available time to spend on billable work and are hard to recover in a client engagement.

Once these gaps and areas for improvement are identified, you can begin developing technology solutions and complete the shift to value-based pricing.

Empowering the Next Generation

Embarking on this practice evolution is about more than just recruiting millennials; it’s about sustaining and growing your business for the future. It gives the next generation the tools they need to continue innovating, growing, and enjoying what they do.

By providing access to technology that fosters remote hangouts, streamlined client interaction, and team communication, as well as shifts the emphasis toward outcomes rather than inputs, accountants are empowering the next generation to put their best foot forward, all while growing their own practice. This is a win-win situation for everyone.

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By arod_a13x
Jun 10th 2016 14:15 EDT

I'm an Accounting Student and I myself am a Millennial. I'm interested in this kind of work. I like to be in control of my time and life, there for I'm looking in the direction of starting my own practice. I started doing research on cloud accounting and I read one of your articles on how to start a cloud business. I also did research on the different software available for cloud accounting, like XERO, which has lots of good reviews. I taking your advice on getting a mentor and currently looking for one in my hometown. Is there any training courses available for this software? Are they free or is there a cost? Please let me know? And Thank You for the article, it was very helpful!!!!

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