Retaining and attracting qualified staff is becoming an increasing issue as organisations go back to ‘business as usual’ and moving job roles is less of a risk for employees As a result, the UK is facing its highest number of job vacancies since records began. Strategies to improve retention rates of high-potential team members once they qualify, and to increase success in attracting experienced hires, are therefore more important than ever.
This article shares highlights from the session where guest speakers, listed below, joined Gareth John to discuss the approaches that employers can use to keep staff engaged and loyal when they qualify. As well as how to be as appealing to experienced candidates in the marketplace looking for their next role.
Speakers and panelists
Awarding Body Representatives:
- Andrew Williamson, Director of Marketing and Brand Strategy at AAT
- Fiona Hodgkin, Head of Client Relationships at ICAEW
- Clive Webb, Senior Insights Manager at ACCA
- David Culley, Director at Pure Resourcing Solutions
- C-J Green, Co-founder and Executive Director of BraveGoose
- Katherine Wiid, Recruitment Retention Coach at Recrion
- Frances Hall, Director at Corbar Consulting
Post-Qualification Education Experts:
- Crystal Haygreen, Director of Post-Qualification Education at First Intuition
- Chris Argent, Founder of GenerationCFO
- Alex Bond Burnett, Founder and Lead Executive Performance Coach at Speaking Ambition
You can watch the recording of the forum by clicking the button below.
At the beginning of the session, attendees were asked to complete a poll answering ‘Where are your main staffing issues?. 67% of attendees are finding ‘attracting newly qualified/ experienced staff’ their main staffing issue. 38% are struggling with ‘retaining newly qualified/ experienced staff’. Whilst 32% are having problems attracting new experienced managers.
It is clear from these results that attracting and retaining qualified/ experienced staff is where the problem lies for many employers.
Advice from the Awarding Bodies
There is no one factor that impacts staff retention and attraction. It is a combination of many factors, namely:
- Feeling happy in a job
- Feeling respected, appreciated, and heard
- Alignment with the business’ ethos, culture, and goals
- Feeling like you fit in with the team
- Being challenged and developed
- Having room to grow and advance
Employers can help enforce the points above by:
- Making employees current roles something they are passionate about
- Communicating with employees when they are doing well or should expect a promotion
- Conducting research on employees to find out their wants and needs
- Avoiding a policy that is standardised for everyone
- Celebrating successes and failures in a safe space
- Acting upon missions and values
- Demonstrating that professional and skill development can add value to a role
The pandemic has accelerated a shift in what people want and expect from their workplace. Motivational points for different workers are changing and as a result, employers need to start appealing to employees’ personal needs. Consequently, more personalised strategies for recruitment and retention are needed, and unique pathways should be developed and encouraged for different members of staff.
Gareth says “I was really struck by how consistent the points raised by Fiona, Andrew and Clive were, particularly around the need to allow each employee in a business to guide their own individual pathway. The idea of ‘flexible, flexible working’ seems obvious now I have heard it and another ‘light bulb moment’ for me was the need to not just have meaningful organisational mission and values, but to connect each individual’s personal contribution to it.”
Advice from a Recruitment Consultant
There is a correlation between the strategies applied to retaining staff and attracting them. Attracting is making a promise and retaining is keeping to it. Below is advice from a recruitment consultant on what companies can be doing to retain and attract staff:
- Security over pay is still a main factor in deciding whether someone stays in or chooses a new role
- Make employees route of progression and future at the company clear to them
- Rewrite business plans and turn hierarchical structures on their head
- Help employees accelerate quickly where possible, particularly after two years of stagnation
- Listen to staff’s wants and needs before forming policies, no policies should be permanent
- Job security is important, ensure people feel as though they are looked after. Employers who have looked after their staff through the pandemic are seeing a greater sense of loyalty now
- Businesses are brands as well, the more people who get to know you, the more likely you are to have people coming to you for jobs
- Sell the company, not the job. Young people are particularly interested in the brand and what they stand for rather than the actual job
- Hiring should be an easy process with regular touchpoints. Keep in touch with a new employee during their notice period and invite them to things with their new team
- Job interviews should no longer be like an assessment and instead should be discussions to get a feel of whether the candidate will fit in at the company
Gareth adds “David gave a clear overview of why individuals leave organisations and what they can do to prevent this happening. He nicely separated the twin challenges of ‘attraction’ and ‘retention’ and highlighted the role of successfully scaling culture in achieving both. I loved his idea of a ‘flipped pyramid’ where senior staff are there to support their more junior colleagues rather than to control them. His example of a job advert for an accountant that looked more like a Rock Star illustrated how important it is for organisations to stand out from the crowd in a competitive job market.”
Advice from HR Consultants
- Listen to survey results amongst staff and make sure you go back to staff and say you listened
- Use hidden influencers in organisations to motivate and level up culture. These are the people who have a big presence and are the ones others go to for advice
- Create paths for employees growth so they can visualise their future at the company
- Embrace creating a new form of best practice
- Give employees the opportunity to stretch themselves by learning something new
- Provide situations where employees can make memories together, the people you work with is a big factor when deciding whether to leave
- Let people use their superpowers. Everyone has things they are great at and that should be encouraged and harnessed
- Encourage employees to have a side hustle. The skills gained in a side hustle can help organisations and be an attractive attribute to a company
Businesses need to reinvent the future of the workplace and reframe the employee experience as a journey. Employees have a greater need to know what they are working towards and employers need to know what is important to them in their work. Employers should be creating personalised journeys, encouraging passions, and helping people grow, they cand do this by:
- Communicating what they have planned for employees and how they can grow
- Understanding opportunities available in the organisation, people might want to work in another department in the same business
- Make employees feel included and know how they fit into the organisation
- Share an organisations’ goals and employees’ involvement in meeting these
- Encourage and support staff in generating and developing as many skills as possible, not just technical skills
- Have a plan for your staff, know your best talent and put in processes to help understand staff’s different qualities
Gareth says “As usual C-J went down brilliantly with our audience and shared with us another of her highly practical top ten tips. For me, a couple of really interesting points were to identify internal influencers whose powers you can leverage, and to encourage staff to have a ‘side hustle’ outside work. I also loved Katherine’s MAP mnemonic which gave some really powerful questions to use when talking to colleagues about their ambitions and aspirations. Frances gave some incredibly topical points on the importance of early career conversations and clear progression plans for both technical and non-technical skills development.”
Advice from Post-Qualification Education Experts
It’s clear that the days when retaining and attracting talent was simply a matter of increasing the basic salary offered are well and truly over. Far more sophisticated, and personally tailored, approaches are now required. A theme that cropped up a number of times throughout this session was the importance of giving qualified staff similar clear and robust progression and development plans to those that they tend to have in the early years of their careers as they train and pursue qualifications. At First Intuition we are seeing our clients working harder to improve the consistency of this journey from new starter all the way to management and senior leadership positions.
The next steps up after qualifying as an accountant are often assumed to be outside of the organisation. We need to show accountants that being qualified is not the end of their learning, development, or opportunities within the organisation they are already with. Developing additional skills in fields such as digital technologies, data analytics, and leadership and management are important departments for post-qualification training to help people continue to develop and level up.
Digital technology can improve what accountants are doing on a day-to-day basis. Making job roles more efficient through digital technology can improve jobs, give diversification in a role, and make a learning opportunity. Employers need to construct a learning path that inspires people to improve their jobs as they go.
Leadership and management
Key leadership and management skills that need ongoing training and development include:
- Leading remote teams
- Emotional intelligence
- How to influence
- Driving innovation
These skills are important for how we perform and interact with each other, communicate information, influence stakeholders, understand different dynamics, build relationships, understand the needs of employees, make decisions, and recognise individuals’ strengths.