KRC Learnings: Staffing for a Modern Firm

March 17, 2021

Over the past year, the partners at Klein, Rowe, & Co (KRC) have been working hard to improve firm operations in several areas including: technology stack, marketing and business development, pricing model, and remote work policies and structure. While a good amount of progress has been made both Martha and Martin agree that there is still work to do in the area of staffing.

Staffing has been a long-time pain point within the accounting profession. The pool of qualified professionals hasn’t expanded much over the years—while at the same time employees are demanding a new way of working. Today, individuals desire flex schedules and the option to work from home. They expect to be equipped with the most advanced cloud technologies and perform their duties within well-defined, standardized workflows.

Since the firm’s launch, the partners have yet to put ample thought into developing staffing procedures. While they started KRC by hiring virtual staff (a good first move for setting up a virtual work culture), when the clients began flooding in, they reverted to a “just throw someone at the work” method. With no hiring strategy in place, this proved to be both expensive and unsuccessful as some employees were not qualified to perform the assigned work and hiring seasoned professionals was costly.

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Join Klein, Rowe & Co, our fictional case study firm, as they learn from our Automating Success webinar series.  In each webinar, our thought leaders will share their expertise on how this firm might address those challenges.  In each KRC follow-up, we'll share with you what our fictional firm has learned and the next steps they might take to reimagine their firm.   Please note: our case study and follow-up articles are fictional and intended for entertainment and educational purposes only.   

After attending this week’s Automating Success webinar, "Staffing for a modern firm,” KRC partners went in with two key objectives: 1) learn how to find, attract and land the right talent and 2) understand candidate preferences and how to stand out in a crowded candidate market.

What KRC learned…

First and foremost, the remote work era is here to stay and modern firms understand this.
Firm leaders must embrace the hallmarks of the new normal and the operational changes that support it—including remote/at-home work options, flexible work schedules, and best-of-breed technologies that connect people and automate tasks. Additionally, modern firms have eliminated manual data entry, offer real-time and proactive advisory services, have progressive company cultures, and offer better value and margins.

Attracting and retaining top talent requires a strategy—as does ensuring you are properly staffed throughout the year. The following tips provided Martha and Martin with a solid foundation to start planning:

  • Offer flexible time schedules and locations—With the majority of the labor force made up of Millennials, it’s imperative that firms are set up for a remote workforce. In fact, by offering the benefit of working remotely, you are better positioned to attract the best players for every position. The “modern firm” brand is progressive, which automatically sets you apart from the competition.
     
  • Adopt a remote mindset—Firm owners have long held tight to the mindset that “if I can’t see my staff, they’re not working.” This is simply not true. If the pandemic taught the profession anything, it’s that a remote culture works well. The fact is it’s all about the people you hire. If you have the right people in place, you can trust them to get the job done no matter where they set up shop. Current statistics show that firms generally get eight times more applicants when they post remote positions.
  • Implement a 1099 strategy—Gig workers represent a large pool of highly qualified talent that are often used to fill seasonal gaps. If you are not tapping into the 1099 market, you are missing out. Today, about 25-30% of the labor force identifies as freelance/contract. That represents a large base of talent that can supplement your staff when needed without having to commit to hiring full time.
     
  • Enhance your technology stack—Advanced cloud-based technologies have been around for a long time. If you’ve yet to do so, the time is now to refine your technology ecosystem to support remote workers. The apps you choose will tie team members together and allow them to seamlessly collaborate to get work done.
     
  • Create a recruitment strategy—This starts by adopting the perspective that you have a great product (i.e., your firm): a healthy culture, interesting work, remote capabilities and powered by a cloud-based technology ecosystem. Make sure that these key value points are visible and clear on your website to attract the right people. Part of your strategy should also be to identify alternative recruitment channels such as professional job boards, referral sources and building your own internal talent cloud (a database of past employees, partners and candidates that you can reach back out to at any given time).
     
  • Create a hiring/selection strategy—This includes building a standardized process for vetting applicants. Build an internal system to house candidate data, create a scorecard for applicant-to-applicant comparisons, be prepared to ask information-provoking questions and get input on candidates from multiple people within the firm (those that understand your culture the best).

KRC action items…

With so many other improvements implemented over the past year, the partners are now dedicated to getting staffing right. The lessons learned in this session enabled them to pull together a list of action items required to build an A-list team.

  • Partners to conduct another thorough analysis of the firm’s technology stack to ensure that it is capable of supporting a virtual workforce. Fill holes with best-of-breed apps to prepare for hiring top-notch remote staff. Ensure that technology includes internal apps that make peer-to-peer communications easy (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom).
  • Ensure the firm’s website messaging is on point to attract progressive, qualified staff. Work with the entire team to compile a list of value propositions to “sell” the firm.
  • Review the firm’s current employee onboarding process to ensure it’s streamlined and standardized across all positions. Update the process as needed.
  • Create a communications plan that will guide employees (whether working onsite or remotely) on the criteria for responses. The plan should provide employees with guidance all the way down to expected response times for IM messages, texts, emails, phone calls and other.
  • Take an inventory of existing office equipment and make a list of new items required to enhance virtual workspaces. For example: laptop risers, which elevate an employee’s computer so the camera is at eye level for video conference calls.

Check back regularly to learn how KRC is progressing. In the meantime, feel free to use any of the ideas listed above to help improve your staffing efforts to attract and retain top talent.

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