Is your firm struggling to attract and retain young professionals? Natalie Donovan, a skilled human resources manager at a Top 60 public accounting firm, and I recently discussed this dilemma that haunts many shops in the profession. Overseeing human resources operations in the Columbus, Ohio office of Schneider Downs, a Pittsburgh-based firm with 330 people, Donovan is on the front lines of the accounting talent ebb and flow.
Are you realizing that young professionals in your market want more options than, say, five years ago? If so, you’re not alone. “They’re not afraid to ask; expectations are pretty high. One thing that young professionals feel strongly about is their desire for more convenience and having as much as possible be online.”
With firms finding that young professionals voice their opinions more than similarly aged workers of previous generations, it also presents opportunities for firms. Those firms that get it right seem to flourish with being able to attract, grow and retain the sharp talent that’s out there. “One of the keys,” said Donovan, “is finding the right mix of clients and the right mix of travel for people. It’s critical to create the right blend for individuals, otherwise, in this marketplace, they’ll leave for an opportunity somewhere else.”
Another area where Donovan and the Schneider Downs team have been successful is drawing former-Big Four accountants in to the firm. “Professionals coming from Big Four find our firm to be a more intimate place to work, not as dog-eat-dog.” Many other non-Big Four firms continue to be successful in tapping into Big Four free agency, but they’ve been particularly good at it in both the Columbus and Pittsburgh offices of Schneider Downs.
The firm has experienced considerable growth in the last decade and shares the optimistic feelings of the profession that 2012 is going to be better than last year. One reason they feel this way, though, might be the sugar high that they’re all experiencing. I jest, of course, but I feel it’s worth mentioning that in addition to typical employee perks such as gym memberships, employee referral bonus programs and other fun initiatives that round out life at Schneider Downs, they also do some messing around with pancakes. All good firms have their lighter moments, but this one throws pancakes onto plates, then they have a staff pancake-eating contest to help support Operation Feed and United Way. How’s that for team bonding?!? Mrs. Butterworth would be proud.
Donovan uses social media channels to assist in the recruiting efforts and help “put a face on the firm.” Regularly recruiting at The Ohio State University and also Ohio University, the importance of a solid social media presence plays an even larger role for the firm. “Some of what has also helped me with recruiting accountants and working with CPAs and other professionals, regardless of their age, is that I now know enough about what CPAs do…which helps communication and understanding,” said Donovan. “When I was a business student in college, I didn’t necessarily know enough about public accounting to really grasp it all as a university student. Now, these perspectives really give me an edge in relating to college students, putting myself in their shoes. The same goes for our experienced hires.”
Would you or someone at your firm like to have a conversation for a little write-up like this? If so, e-mail me at rob.nance@ishade. We might even talk about pancakes, you just never know.