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Firm Management

It’s Time to Rethink Current Practices for CPA Firm Talent Management

The tips outlined in this article can help you modernize your talent management strategies so that your CPA firm can stand out as an employer of choice and become more strategic and proactive with its hiring and staffing practices.

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Here’s some news from the labor market that’s both good and bad for CPA firm leaders and other employers of accounting and finance talent. A Robert Half survey found that only 27% of workers in the profession are planning to look for a new job in the next six months. In a similar survey our company conducted in mid-2023, that figure was significantly higher — 41%.

The upside for CPA firms is that retaining talent should be a little easier, at least for the near term. The downside? With fewer professionals actively on the job hunt, hiring is likely to become that much harder. Most accounting and finance managers (87%) are already facing challenges finding skilled professionals for hire, according to Robert Half’s latest Demand for Skilled Talent report.

These findings help to underscore why it’s important for CPA firms to start their evolution toward a holistic approach to talent management that will enable them to recruit, develop and retain in-demand professionals more effectively. As I explained in a previous post, moving away from traditional (i.e., reactive) hiring practices is a critical step toward positioning your firm for future success.

How do you start this journey? Addressing the following four questions is a solid starting point. They require you to “look in the mirror” and evaluate your current strategies for attracting top talent.

1. What are you doing now to elevate and differentiate your employer brand?

If you were an in-demand accounting professional, would you want to join your CPA firm? It’s easy for you to say “yes” because you’re already on the inside, and you know what makes your business a great place to work. But what if you were on the outside, looking in?

Think about your website, for example. What would a potential employee find there beyond all the basic information they might expect? Do you also feature:

  • Details about your firm’s history, company culture, and mission and values?
  • Links to news and resources that help highlight your firm’s expertise and accomplishments?
  • Team bios and photos, which help to show the human side of your firm?
  • Career opportunities available at your firm? (More on this later.)

And what about your social media presence? How are you using sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram to promote your business, engage with clients and the community, and attract potential hires? Social media is an ideal forum for sharing news about your firm, your team’s thought leadership, and images and video that offer insight into what it’s like to work at your CPA firm.

If you’re not doing these things well, or at all, you’re missing a prime opportunity to showcase why people would want to be part of your organization.

2. Does your firm offer jobs, or careers?

When you advertise an available position at your CPA firm, how do you describe the opportunity? Are you using the listing to emphasize why a talented professional would want to join your firm, or are you just jumping straight into the requirements for the role?

Most leading employers today make the point to create job ads that focus on the candidate first. Often, they address potential applicants as “you,” and seek to engage them by sharing details about benefits and perks, the corporate culture, the company’s values, and more.

These descriptions also typically provide a snapshot view of what the person would do in the role, using dynamic verbs to create a sense of energy (e.g., collaborate, coordinate, analyze). The most effective descriptions also highlight professional development and learning opportunities for employees to help candidates see joining the firm as a career-building or growth opportunity versus just “finding a job.”

3. Are you hitting the right notes in your pitches to potential hires?

As noted earlier, a Robert Half survey found that fewer finance and accounting professionals are inclined to look for a new job in the first half of 2024. But what about workers who would consider making a move if the right opportunity came along? What might they be looking for?

Robert Half’s research sheds some light here. We learned from our broader survey of U.S. workers across several professions that these factors would motivate non-job seekers to come off the sidelines:

  • A higher salary (55%)
  • Better benefits and perks (36%)
  • A job with more remote flexibility than their current company offers (32%)

So, as you seek to elevate your firm’s profile and create job descriptions that can help potential hires visualize being part of your team, be sure to communicate that you offer competitive compensation, benefits and perks. (Consulting resources like Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide can help confirm that you are in line with market trends.)

As for remote flexibility, don’t dismiss its importance. Fifty-one percent of the accounting and finance professionals who told Robert Half they don’t plan to look for a new job anytime soon said that they are staying put because their current position offers a level of flexibility they don’t want to lose.

If you aren’t offering flexible work arrangements, and promoting them, you could be missing the mark with a significant percentage of potential applicants for your available jobs — especially those from Generation Z. You could possibly risk losing your current team members, too.

4. What are you doing to maintain a pipeline of talent?

Taking a more holistic approach to talent management includes becoming more adept at anticipating your firm’s hiring needs so you can avoid being reactive — and potentially making poor hiring decisions while under pressure. Many top companies go to great lengths to maintain a robust pipeline of talent so that they always have options when they need to staff a role. For example, they:

  • Grow talent from within through various strategies like upskilling and succession planning
  • Seek out high-potential talent at colleges and universities and offer them internships and other work opportunities that can position them for full-time jobs at the firm once they graduate
  • Engage contract professionals to meet short-term needs for specialized skills, or to help keep important work moving forward as the business searches for permanent hires
  • Forge relationships with reputable recruiters who can help the business develop and deploy different talent solutions to meet changing demands

The tips outlined in this article can help you modernize your talent management strategies so that your CPA firm can stand out as an employer of choice and become more strategic and proactive with its hiring and staffing practices. Next time, we’ll take a closer look at how embracing flexible work and nontraditional staffing models can help your firm increase its competitive edge in a tight labor market.


Steve Saah is the executive director of the finance and accounting permanent placement practice at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized financial talent solutions service. The company has more than 300 locations worldwide. He is responsible for leading U.S. operations, based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. He was named executive director in 2017, previously serving as director of permanent placement services.

Saah has been with the company since 1998, where he started as a recruiting manager, following a career as an internal auditor and assistant controller. He is a noted expert, author and presenter on career, management and hiring trends, particularly those affecting the accounting and finance fields. Saah earned a finance degree from Virginia Tech.