Whether public practice or industry, many businesses are being negatively impacted by the skills shortage in accountancy candidates. As employers struggle to recruit accounts and finance roles, they are finding it increasingly difficult to meet deadlines and client expectations. This often affects staff morale as unfilled vacancies heap pressure on existing staff. In extreme circumstances things are made worse as existing staff find the situation untenable and leave.
Waiting for the one
Understandably, clients then come to us with a requirement for somebody who can ‘hit the ground running’ to avoid adding more pressure to an already strained team. However, unless you have an extremely attractive proposition and industry-smashing salary on offer, it is unlikely you will fill the role with your perfect match.
I’m sure you can see the beginning of a vicious circle here! So, what is the answer?
Well the truth of the matter isn’t that there is an acute candidate shortage. Rather more that there is a lack of people with the right level of skills, experience or qualifications to serve your business. Some of this is the result of several years of under-investment in training and entry level recruitment as businesses found it easier to utilise experienced hires. Some businesses are trying to play catch up and some are simply holding out for the elusive ‘one’ to be found.
Grow your own talent
While not an ideal situation, one way to start to remedy the problem is by taking steps to grow your own talent. It is counter-intuitive but, by taking on somebody who is not as skilled or experienced as you would like, you can start working towards alleviating pressure on the team, while developing someone who will eventually fulfil the roles and tasks you ultimately require. This may put additional strain on your current resources temporarily. However, teams (and individuals) can tolerate quite a lot if they recognise a resolution at the end. It is more tenable than enduring extra pressure with no apparent end in sight.
It is good practice, and more effective, to include your team in the process. Gather your team and acknowledge the extra work and strain they have shouldered. Explain that, while you appreciate the addition of an experienced hire will help, that it has just not been possible to source such a person and that things cannot go on as they are. Illustrate how a less experienced hire may be able to undertake some tasks and relieve a little pressure immediately… but that they will require time and attention to bring them up to speed over some months. Then follow these steps:
– Get everybody to identify low-skill tasks that take up some of their time that could be delegated to a more junior level (this might be basic administration, chasing people for missing information, pulling off and printing reports etc.)
– Then identify tasks that could be handed over after some basic training.
– Continue until you have a list of everything that is required of the fully functioning role in ascending order of complexity / level of experience / level of qualification required.
– Draw a line at a third of the requirement, half, and three-quarters.
– Draft an interim job description / person specification, that could undertake those ‘partial’ roles (salary will reduce to reflect this).
– Decide who would be best to train, coach and mentor on all, or parts, of the role.
If you hire somebody who can undertake the partial role, and displays the attitude and aptitude to be able to develop over time, you will soon start to alleviate some of the pressure on your team. Soon they will have developed into what you wanted in the first place. Deadlines become easier to meet and client expectations can be met.
There are other advantages to this approach:
– Team spirit is strengthened and people pull together for a common goal.
– Your people feel valued and that you are not ignoring their pain.
– New team member can overcome self-doubt more quickly.
– New team member can upskill more quickly – given time and focussed attention of a more experienced member.
– Retention improves – a number of studies have shown that training and development, along with feeling valued, impacts retention more than salary and monetary reward.
AND POSSIBLY MOST IMPORTANTLY –
“When one teaches, two learn” – Robert A. Heinlein
You will find that the staff who get involved in training and mentoring newbies will often develop better communication skills and a deeper understanding, and better working knowledge, of your business and their role. This, in turn, helps to develop the future managers of your business and makes succession planning easier when somebody, inevitably, leaves or retires. It also often shows returns in improved productivity and profitability.
In short, before you decide that you haven’t got time to take on somebody who needs additional training, you might want to consider whether you have time not to.
If you have any questions on how to go about this please call Sarah on 01902 717581.
If you haven’t the time and resource to look after the recruitment process, then let us take the burden from you. Just call 01902 717581, or email your vacancy to firstname.lastname@example.org. One of the team will be happy to help you.