I wrote an article comparing accounting firm management to wine making and finished by saying:

Your team and your clients are like the grapes in wine making. You source the best quality you can and then cultivate them and care for them. The result is season after season of great output and joy.

As a follow on from that here are five tips for attracting and retaining the best people. Although I’m writing this in respect of accounting firm management, the principles can be applied across all businesses. I could write books on this or run detailed workshops so I’m sharing just some highlights to prompt some action for you.

  1. Be clear on what role you are hiring

It is important that the next role you hire is actually the right next hire for your business. I see accounting firms hire and then realise later that it was a different role they really should have filled first.

Some organisations apply the concept of workforce planning to map out ahead of time how the organisation will evolve and what roles will be added when.  Regardless of the size of your business I strongly recommend you do this too. For accounting firms this is about drawing your organisation chart over time and looking at how it evolves. Do you have the right number of accountants at the right level? Do you see gaps appearing? What can you do now to address that? You should know exactly the role that is your next hire, and the one after that and the one after that.

The other element of getting clear on who you are hiring is to document a position description. There is nothing like having to document this to provide clarity on what you are seeking. It also ensures that any candidates have that clarity and there is no expectation gap.

  1. Be attractive to great people

There are several elements to this but the most important is to have a great story

  • Have a story that captures both the hearts and minds of people and consistently tell it everywhere
  • Have a great online presence, especially your website
  • Have a presence where your ideal team members hangout (physically and online)
  • Have a great business – a profitable vibrant business just oozes success and attracts people
  • Have team members as advocates – they know more great people!
  • Have great relationships with recruiters (if relevant)
  • Have confidence!
  • Remember that marketing is to attract team members as well as clients
  1. Have a thorough process to recruit and induct
  • Transparency for candidates on what the process is
  • Always have two people in interviews
  • Plan interview questions and don’t be afraid to dig or probe
  • You will often react to someone differently a second time – do a second interview
  • Involve your team – let them lead the office tour and spend time with candidates
  • Sell your story – get the candidate excited about your business
  • References do matter but only when you get to speak with the referee (don’t rely on written references)
  • Induction starts with the offer letter
  • An induction system to wow each new starter in his/her first week/month
  • Use an induction checklist
  • Have some positive surprises
  • Business leaders must be involved
  1. Be engaging
  • Don’t be a grump, get angry, be negative, bully people or be a d**khead
  • Provide clear guidance on what is expected
  • Give regular, timely informal and formal feedback on performance
  • Make sure authority matches responsibility
  • Give each person some control over what he/she does
  • Don’t micro manage
  • Accept mistakes as learning and development opportunities
  • Have a plan to develop each person (see next section)
  • Model the behaviour you want and call people on bad behaviour
  • Show you care and are interested – know stuff about them
  • Play to strengths
  • Understand (ask) why people leave and stay
  • Pay a market salary and don’t be stingy!
  • Do some fun stuff
  1. Provide great learning and development support
  • Tailor a development plan for each team member
  • Schedule activity
  • A mix of technical and non-technical, including “how we do things around here” training
  • On the job training, mentoring and shadowing
  • Use an external coach or mentor with your rising stars and emerging leaders
  • Share articles, blogs, posts and books of interest
  • Have an environment that values learning and development

As I said at the start these are just some tips to take on board.  To get started, pick one or two to implement in your firm today.