Marketing and Human Resources Collaboration for Recruiting, Retention
Competition for talent was fierce among accounting and advisory firms even before the phenomenon known as the Great Resignation, with college accounting school graduates choosing careers in other industries and young accountants leaving public firms in search of better work/life balance. While accounting and advisory firms have accelerated their adoption of flexible work arrangements such as work-from-home and hybrid schedules, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, competition for talent remains tight for firms of all sizes.
Many are tackling recruiting and retention challenges through a new team effort, moving beyond departmental silos and applying proven marketing strategies to traditional talent acquisition and management. Marketing and human resources are collaborating more than ever for successful recruiting and retention efforts.
“At BPM, HR and marketing have always been partners,” said Jessica Hekmatjah, chief marketing officer at BPM in San Francisco. “For example, we are launching a new brand and we’ve made a point to have HR involved in this process every step of the way, including building out a talent brand.”
The talent brand is messaging that speaks to the types of candidates a firm wants to attract. The value of having marketing and HR in collaboration for successful recruiting and retention is borne out by the mar-com strength and messaging about firm values marketers bring to the table.
“People want to work for a firm that reflects their values,” said Jennifer Wilson, partner and co-founder of ConvergenceCoaching LLC. “Next Gen talent wants to work for progressive, difference-making firms that embrace change and new business models. Marketers can help their firm attract talent with the right brand identity and messaging.”
Messaging to prospective hires and potential clients has some overlap, said Korby Boswell, senior marketing and growth specialist at Adams Brown in Great Bend, Kansas.
“When you showcase firm culture on social media, it communicates to prospective employees about who you are and what it’s like to work here,” Boswell said. “That same post may be interpreted by a prospective client as positive, too, but for a different reason. It humanizes your team.”
Marketing and Human Resources Consistent Collaboration
Hekmatjah said the working relationship between marketing and human resources at BPM continually grows, strengthened by regular meetings, specific plans and coordinated calendars. The teams look at their collaboration as permanent, rather than temporary or ad hoc, and the departments don’t operate in silos. Perhaps most important is what marketing brings to the table — user experience and an understanding of audience targeting.
“While we support HR with communications and collateral, our team also offers different channels and platforms to attract recruits, such as social media, videos and interactive content,” Hekmatjah said.
Marketers also apply strategies to qualify prospects, Wilson said, developing the firm’s “why work for us” story for various candidate segments such as on-campus recruits, experienced hires, fractional employees and operational staff.
As firms reach out beyond traditional boundaries for recruits, Wilson said, it requires a targeted messaging strategy to connect with and help transition new staff into the firm.
“If an HR strategy to expand capacity includes using outsourcers, offshorers or remote working, marketing can help position these new staffing strategies internally and with clients who could potentially have objections,” she said.
Marketing’s strength in audience targeting brings more effective messaging to efforts to recruit different types of professionals.
For example, college recruits typically care about a firm’s flexible culture and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, among other values-based considerations, Hekmatjah said. They also care about gaining the right kind of experience to kick off their careers, and they appreciate hearing how other graduates of their colleges have done at a particular firm. More experienced professionals look at how a firm is doing with digital transformation and innovative strategies for serving clients.
“They often want a change from what they’ve experienced in the past,” she said. “Many mid-career hires are seeking more flexibility, a firm with more resources, better automation, clearer pathways to promotion and improved compensation.”
As with many other industries, flexible work arrangements are a factor for recruiting at all experience levels in the accounting profession. Boswell said communicating that effectively is a key part of Adams Brown’s recruiting marketing strategy. The firm has profiles of several non-traditional employees on its website.
“We have a cross country coach and a professional soccer player who are full-time teammates, as well as several professionals who take time off seasonally to help with the harvest on their families’ farms,” Boswell said. “We’re willing to work with people and we have a lot of people who don’t work traditional 8-to-5 hours given what they have to do in their personal lives.”
Marketing and Human Resources Changing Practices
Marketing and human resources collaboration is not limited to recruiting. The two need to work effectively on retention, as well. To stem turnover, HR leaders are conducting “stay interviews” and compensation studies, as well as employee engagement surveys to identify strategies for change.
“Last year we launched a Virtual Region to offer more flexibility to our colleagues as we expand our reach to recruit the most qualified candidates,” Hekmatjah said.
BPM is also adding resources to its marketing and human resources teams to build out a listening/engagement strategy to foster retention.
Nonetheless, while marketing and HR collaboration is common among progressive firms, Wilson said it is not the norm industry-wide.
“I’m not sure if marketing is stretched too thin or HR hasn’t recognized the business development aspects of recruiting,” Wilson said, “but the time has come for firms to leverage their marketing talent to assist with their most strategic priority: engaging existing talent and expanding capacity through recruiting.”
Access the full Spring 2022 issue of Growth Strategies which focuses on talent and technologies here: https://accountingmarketing.org/publications/growth-strategies-archive
About Heather Kunz
Heather Kunz is manager of marketing & business development, WBL CPAs + Advisors.
About Dana Bottorff
Dana Bottorff is a Principal at Anadon Marketing/Communications. She helps CPA firms and professional services companies create a distinctive voice in the marketplace with marketing messaging that conveys a unique brand.
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