in Times of Scarce Human Resources
OCTOBER 2006 - Every
business has cycles. One month it may be not enough staff
to handle the workload, and the next month it will be something
else. Should a company market based on current staffing needs,
or on future staffing needs? Either way, over time the cycles
will reverse and the issues will change. The problem—or
opportunity—is how to create balance between production
(getting work done) and sales (bringing in new work).
companies grow the most in a bad economy because they seize
the moment. Other companies cut back on costs, reduce their
marketing, and generally downsize until the economy picks
up. Some companies, however, look for acquisitions, increase
marketing, and grow during these difficult times. More opportunities
exist in turbulent times. The challenge is how to balance
growth opportunities with resources.
and Action Plans
take advantage of when others are cutting back on marketing
and when the market is expanding, one must settle on a few,
targeted strategies and related action plans. These strategies
and plans must start at the top and be managed on a regular
basis. To be successful, leadership at all levels, from
managing partners to department heads, will be required.
If the commitment is not there, plans will fail.
are suggested strategies and action plans.
room for new clients. The first step is to
purge an existing client base of substandard clients. Put
a strong partner in charge of this program. Set a goal to
eliminate a certain percentage of clients. One will find
that fees will increase because clients are willing to pay
more, and margins will increase when substandard clients
are replaced with better, more-profitable ones. In the process,
the staff will respect the firm more. The problem with implementing
this strategy is that weaker partners may protect those
clients. Make it mandatory that each partner justify keeping
clients. This program will be difficult, but it can pay
aggressive on recruiting. Typically, recruiting
is handled by the human resources function or someone in
the technical area of a practice. This process will generally
fail when there is a shortage of staff in the marketplace.
marketing department or the most creative, aggressive, sales-oriented
partner or manager should be in charge of recruiting. Recruiting
is a marketing effort, and it should be dealt with on that
specific goals. Set goals on recruiting, and
report on the results. Remember, if an organization wants
to change behaviors, it must start by measuring the activities
that influence those behaviors.
plan. Create a bonus plan for accomplishing
recruiting goals. If the goal is to hold a certain number
of qualified interviews, base the bonus on that metric.
Keep the bonus short-range (e.g., quarterly) to better motivate
the staff responsible. Publish the goals and actual results
for all partners, and make them part of the firm culture.
recruiting newsletter. An e-mail recruiting
newsletter can be used for campus recruiting as well as
other staffing efforts.
following ideas can help build the newsletter:
Create goals for the number of e-mail addresses added
to the newsletter distribution list each month.
Involve every staff person in the program.
Add ex-employees to the distribution list.
Review all prior resumes submitted and applicants interviewed,
and add appropriate applicants to the list.
all controllers of existing clients to the list.
all existing staff and their spouses.
all professors from colleges where recruiting is done.
Add as many college students as possible.
Add other firms’ staff members who are met through
professional associations or events.
a sign-up form for the recruiting newsletter to the firm’s
Offer special incentives to new hires. Find out what motivates
them, and offer it.
pictures and biographies of staff in the newsletter.
Create articles of interest on new hires. Show the human-interest
side of the firm; focus on staff, clients, and what makes
the firm different.
the Workforce Mix
a company’s workforce mix involves a critical analysis
of the requirements of the work and determining whether
any of the below might be effective.
employees. Many jobs can be done completely
at home, especially tax returns and engagements that do
not require client visits. Staff is easier to find if they
can work at home.
Much work can be outsourced to third-party
service providers. A great deal of management is required
and the process is not easy, but the benefits, in terms
of the money saved and the equivalent of new staff found,
can be significant.
workers. The more flexible a firm is in terms
of working hours, the greater the opportunity to hire staff.
If a company meets the needs of new hires, it will get them.
individuals. The older population is growing
significantly, and many of these individuals can still produce
and contribute. Consider the “forced retirements”
of partners at large CPA firms and the displacement of controllers
and CFOs in corporate America. This has created a talent
pool with the necessary core skills so that a firm with
the resources available might want to develop a “retread
Many women left accounting firms because they
could not make partner, or because their firms could not
accommodate a family/work-life balance. These women represent
a great potential resource pool. Creativity will be required
to recruit them, but the payoff could be significant.
Power of the Internet
Internet is the great equalizer between small and large
firms. The following ideas can help one use the Internet
Create regional or national advertisements in Google,
Yahoo, and MSN. Do some research and use the right keywords.
special webpages just for recruiting. Make them robust,
and profile the firm in unique ways. These landing pages
then become the links for the firm’s e-newsletter
and the search-engine advertisements.
Advertise on websites that accounting professionals visit.
with online resources, such as Monster.com. Sign up for
special programs that can create a more effective profile
and provide access to résumé databases.
Friedman, CPA, is the CEO of BizActions, LLC (www.bizactions.com),
an online business development and marketing firm.