The concept of a value proposition made up of your accounting services, staff efforts and desired client outcomes is something you are probably most familiar with when thinking about clients. Increasingly though, modern accounting firms are looking at their employee value proposition (EVP) to help them attract and retain staff. Alisdair Barr from Grad Mentor explores how your firm can develop an EVP of your own.
Your EVP encompasses the offerings and benefits provided by your firm to attract and retain employees. The idea of providing a value proposition for employees is not something many accounting firms may have thought about. But with increasing marketing competition and high costs of recruitment, an EVP can help you define your brand (your reason for being), differentiate you from your competitors, and in the long-term, save you money from better managing human resources and employee benefit programs. The primary goals of an EVP are to attract and retain great staff.
Grad Mentor recently undertook a major study to explore what employers and graduates wanted from each other within professional services settings. We found seven key relationship drivers between employers and their employees that when considered, create the perfect marriage between the business and staff member. These factors can be used to create your EVP.
You might expect that employers cared most about time sheets and employees cared most about money. While those factors were present, the modern relationship between the firms and their staff is much more dynamic.
Success Driver - Areas to consider
Alignment of values
Attention to detail
Flexibility in work style
Transport and travel considerations
Education and time off
Knowing the bigger picture
Contributing to the business
Our opinion counts
Us versus them—open door policy
Active in the profession
Regular performance and feedback
Formal and informal feedback
Role of the supervisor/mentor/boss—feedback
Personal career planning
Mapping out a future
Ongoing professional development
Complexity of role
Industry and business exposure and events
It is important to note that both employers and employees need to be aware of the success drivers when it comes time to talking about your EVP. That way, each party can have an authentic conversation about what is important.
It is also important to recognize that each of these factors are imperative if long-term employee relationships are your goal. You might be able to get away with only doing some of it for some of the time, but over time, all the factors are required to be considered within your EVP to get the maximum benefit. For example, a lack of personal career planning is an inherent weakness within many accounting firms. This weakness undoubtedly leads to many graduates leaving for competitors once they have gone as far as they think they can within your firm.
Having a purpose within your EVP is increasingly important too. Younger recruits, in particular, want to know that they are a part of an accounting practice that gives back to the community, cares about the environment, or offers them the ability to participate in something charitable. Engaged millennials are interested in making a difference in their world, not just doing a job. This also affects the alignment of values between your practice and these employees.
Here are six ideas to help you make an EVP a reality within your accounting firm.
1. Engage senior management and find an executive or partner to sponsor the initiative. Ensure that you take the time to understand the strategic outcomes they need from human resources so employees can understand what the business values are and what success looks like.
2. As the old adage goes, you have got to name it to claim it, and without documentation, it is unlikely to be believed or implemented. It is also important to note that once the EVP is documented, not all employee benefits or offerings will be applicable to every member of your staff. The EVP needs to be wide enough to cater for everyone and at different career lifecycle stages.
3. To be successful, all managers and staff need to meet to talk about the EVP. This should start at the time of the first interview. An interviewer that can talk about the accounting firm’s EVP is likely to be more engaging than one who doesn’t have an EVP to talk about. It shows that your firm understands the importance of human resources and is willing to spend time and energy on securing and retaining great talent.
4. For existing employees, the creation and implementation of an EVP should be something done in consultation with your staff, not just your senior management. Just like creating a value proposition for customers, there is no point in creating an employee value proposition that your people do not want to be a part of. Engage marketing or a research provider to help you discover what is important and design an authentic EVP with the help of your staff. Once created, integrate your EVP into the ‘way we do things around here’. An EVP to be successful needs to be lived. It’s not meant to be another HR Policy that collects dust on a shelf.
5. Existing employees and managers should be encouraged to review the EVP as part of your ongoing review process. It is not a one-off conversation, but a conversation over the lifecycle of the employer-employee relationship. This will enable the EVP to be used to maximum effect.
6. Like all things, business and staff relationships and needs change, so be prepared to review and adjust your EVP as a part of your ongoing business strategy. The needs of employees and employers today are different to what they were just a decade ago. With the only constant being change, it is a certainty that your EVP will need to change in the future too.
It is important for both parties to recognize that to be successful, everyone needs to benefit. The best relationships are those that enable mutually beneficial outcomes to be achieved for both parties.
When used correctly, your EVP can provide a framework to help your accounting firm achieve that.
This article was written by Alisdair Barr, Founder of Grad Mentor. Everyday, Grad Mentor speaks to smart, ambitious and outgoing students about starting their professional career in accountancy, financial planning or information technology. They provide a highly qualified conduit between graduates and the industry, by identifying top performers and introducing them to workplaces. The process allows each client to work with their chosen graduate prior to offering them full-time employment.