Recruiting and Retention Strategies

The low-cost secret to keeping top talent revealed.

February 14, 2011
by Women's Initiatives Executive Committee

One question all employers have asked themselves is, “How do we keep top performers?” This is especially crucial right now, with the desire for good talent at an all-time high and fierce competition for that limited talent pool. Therefore, employers need to develop strategies for recruiting the right people — and retaining their current high performers.

When studying employers of choice, there are certain employment practices they have in common:

  • Giving employees the responsibility and authority to get things done
  • Treating employees with respect and trust
  • Providing feedback on performance and recognizing achievement
  • Dedicating thought and resources to promoting high morale
  • Hiring the right people

Six Professional Motivators

Essentially, each individual is motivated by the same six professional motivators; however, team members will rank them differently. To motivate your team members, find out how each of them ranks the six motivators and then develop individual, organizational and team programs based on the results.

The six professional motivators are:

  • Acknowledgement and respect
  • Camaraderie and fun
  • Compensation
  • Flexibility and time off
  • Increased responsibility and challenge
  • Personal development

Low Cost

Often, the least expensive, easiest programs are the most motivating and meaningful to employees. Have your supervisors personalize “thank you” notes as a way of showing appreciation and recognition for a job well done. Other appreciation and recognition tips include personalizing voicemails/messages from management team congratulating spouses/families; periodic day(s) off to recognize good performance; providing spot rewards (e.g., gift certificates for completion of large projects); and recognizing professional milestones by celebrating a promotion or years of service. Some CPA firms also choose to appreciate their employees by having birthday celebrations, sending wedding or baby gifts and get-well cards or flowers to sick employees.

CPA firms can also show employee appreciation by providing voluntary benefits. Such programs can be set up with a payroll deduction and usually no cost is incurred by the employer other than administering the program. Examples of such programs include:

  • Auto and home insurance plans
  • Legal insurance
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Pet insurance
  • Travel insurance
  • Discount vision plans
  • Disability programs
  • Section 529 (college savings plans):
    • Providing perks like discounts through clients or local merchants

  • Discounts for museums/local attractions
  • Retail store discounts
  • Computer purchase discounts

Retention Through Compensation

It’s impossible to consider your organization’s retention strategies without also looking at your compensation package. Every compensation plan should be constructed to help the firm achieve its strategic goals and to attract, reward and retain the right people. If the plan does not accomplish these two objectives, it should be restructured. Keep in mind the following when implementing a pay-for-performance system that you:

  1. Establish fundamentals, like who will administer the plan, eligibility requirements, tracking results, etc.
  2. Ensure the plan is win-win-win for each of the three critical stakeholders: clients, employees and suppliers.
  3. Use satisfiers (which attract and retain) and motivators (which drive people to improve performance).
  4. Get owners, employees, or both, involved in the design.
  5. Balance rewards for results and effort.
  6. Identify measures, define targets and track performance.
  7. Create high trust between owners and employees. Low trust can kill a compensation plan.
  8. Avoid side or one-off agreements to prevent different classes of citizens in your firm.
  9. Recommit and re-engage everyone in the first year. If there are problems with the initial design, explore them and make the necessary modifications.
  10. Budget for bonuses. A modest budget for bonuses is advisable. If all owners and staff in a firm achieve their goals, the financial results should be there to support more significant bonuses.
  11. Communicate. Be sure to allocate sufficient time to explain the program, answer questions and allow individuals to see the differences between the current and past plans.

This article has been excerpted from Employee Retention Guide (PDF).

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Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee is committed to the attraction and retention of women into the CPA profession through the advancement and visibility of women leaders and the successful integration of personal and professional lives.