Originally published in Entrepreneur Magazine

The term “war for talent” has been thrown around for decades to underscore the challenges of retaining and attracting talented individuals in a dwindling pool of recruits, but an often overlooked concept among most businesses is that there is not a shortage of skills, but that businesses don’t recognize where to look when hiring.

In order for businesses to stand out from their competitors, they will need to adjust their culture and approach to finding that talent and retaining it. It’s time for companies to look at the structure of their jobs that potentially excludes talent by not accommodating all the demands on their schedules, like kids or untenable commutes, or excludes an older generation. It’s time for companies to become introspective and understand if key elements, such as lack of diversity, flexibility and accommodation are excluded from their culture and brand promise.

As technology continues to transform the industry, flexible approaches that include non-traditional talent, remote workers and innovative work schedules are becoming mainstream to ensure growth and keep up with client demands.

Diversity attracts talent and clients

Fostering a culture that embraces a diversity of thought and diversity of workstyles is a powerful way to attract great employees. According to research from Glassdoor, 67 percent of job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor for them when considering companies and job offers.

Clients are demanding more advisory services and out-of-box thinking from their teams, and it makes sense that they would want advisors with more diverse backgrounds and skills.

McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, conducted research that included 180 companies in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. They found out that companies with more diverse leadership were also top financial performers. Recruiting people with varied skills creates a culture that will continue to attract the best and brightest.

Understanding the needs of today’s workforce

Defining a culture that works in a technology-driven workplace is an important step and helps a firm better understand the needs of the current talent pool. The old “50 hours a week in the office” paradigm does not appeal to many millennials or centennials.

A firm needs focus on defining a culture that appeals to today’s talent and meets their needs. Flexible work schedules can be attractive to many, and that flexibility is now a reality with technology. Leadership should take the time to really determine how important it is that workers come into the office. Making that decision can directly impact the culture and help attract the right people that fit a firm’s needs.

A new look at traditional recruiting and hiring methods

Campus recruiting is still a great tool for accounting firms to find talent, but they should recognize that students have different needs than in previous generations. A recent survey by Deloitte showed millennials care more about diversity and flexibility than salary when it comes to staying at companies, and this trend is not changing with the next generation.

Additionally, the process now starts earlier in a student’s career, and a firm’s success is more dependent on culture and fit. No one wants to get two or three years into a career and find they have made the wrong choice. Accounting firms have an opportunity to brand their culture and use it as a marketing tool to get talented students. Showcasing a commitment to flexibility and diversity are just some of the ways to get ahead of the competition.

Looking at non-traditional talent pools

Tapping into workers who have spent time out of the workforce can also be productive. The Mom Project helps highly skilled and experienced women obtain flexibility so they can take care of their family and still meet their career goals.

Along these lines are also strategies to tap into the talents of older generations or retired people who might not want to commit to a full-time job and are looking for some balance. A 2017 report from the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging shows that 85 percent of baby boomers are continuing to work into their 70s and even 80s. These individuals are highly skilled resources that can be leveraged for a company’s growth.

Another way to attract talent is to change the mindset from focusing on the hours that need to be billed for a job to having a more project-based approach. Recruiting people to do a project is very different from asking them to commit to 50 hours a week. For example, firms can look for candidates willing to work an alternative schedule on a project.

Key takeaways for success

Every organization has to change the way they are looking for talent, allowing talent to work and the tools they are giving them to work with. The smartest and best people out there are now controlling their own destiny. Some tips for success include:

  1. To appeal to workers who want flexibility, companies should be very intentional about defining and communicating their culture.
  2. Companies need a 100-percent commitment to creating a consistent digital work environment so a person working in Dallas can have the same experience as someone in Los Angeles.
  3. It is important to manage internal expectations around supervising remote workers. People who still work in the office will need new processes and new guidelines.
  4. It is important to pause and reflect at points along the flexibility path to consider whether workflow, training, culture, expectations of clients or expectations of other team members are aligned.
  5. Culture is a sales job. When workers compare the information they saw about a firm’s culture on the internet or on Glassdoor, they need to see a firm is making a brand promise they live up to.
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Tom Barry

Tom Barry, CPA, believes in building a successful life one day at a time. He does that by leveraging technology to create a flexible schedule that allows him to be a father and husband in addition to fully committing to his career at GHJ, where he has worked since 1997. Tom’s role as GHJ’s Managing…Learn More