Firms don’t enter the talent marketplace with an intention to sell something they can’t deliver. Nevertheless, the way recruiters describe working at a firm and the reality of actually doing so can be two different things, leading disillusioned hires to leave for another employer that perhaps better lives up to its self-professed billing.

It’s the kind of mismatch that happens far too often, but it’s a fixable problem that starts with a firmwide understanding of the strategic plan, collaboration between human resources and marketing, and at least a basic knowledge by recruiters of what firm professionals really do all day.

Aligning Talent and Corporate Brands Key to Recruitment and Retention Success at LBMC

Through a tight working relationship between marketing and HR, Brentwood, Tenn.-based LBMC (FY23 net revenue of $192.7 million), an IPA 100 firm, has taken a concerted approach to ensuring a lineup of the “talent brand,” or what staff say it’s like to work there (the firm’s reputation among employees), and the “corporate brand,” or what the firm promises to recruits and staff (the firm’s reputation in the marketplace).

Chief marketing officer Suzanne Reed and Michelle Endres, the firm’s chief people officer, shared their insights on the four-year-long project to understand how employees view the firm, how it fits with the mission of the organization and how that alignment can culminate in recruitment and retention success at a time of acute staffing shortage. Recruits, who can be selective, are keen to learn what makes a firm stand out. “If you’re going to say something you need to back it up with action,” Reed says.

Describe How Staff Move the Strategic Plan Forward

Think of the process like an audit, Reed advises. It’s a form of checks and balances and a smart business move.

Job No. 1 is to survey employees on how they feel about the firm, analyze the data and follow up. The board of directors also reviews data on competitors to learn more about their differentiators. Another early move is to explain how staff are personifying the culture, defined by the staff themselves, while working as a team to achieve firm goals.

“You’ve got to paint the picture,” Reed says, noting that the firm educates staff on the strategic plan by dividing goals into five pillars and describing how firm services contribute to achieving each one. “Then you’ve got to repeat it over and over and over again.”

CEO Jim Meade says, “Young professionals today want to feel like they not only belong, but that they are key to the success of the organization. They want relationships with decision-makers and to have big-picture insights as to how they fit in the enterprise.”

At the same time, Endres says firm recruiters must not only understand the vision, mission and values, as reflected in the strategic plan, but also the basics about what firm professionals are doing on a day-to-day basis, such as the types of tax work the firm offers or the components of the advisory practice. “Can they do a tax return, or be that strategic adviser? No, but they can pass the first sniff test.”

Marketing and HR at LBMC weren’t always so closely aligned. A more hand-in-hand working arrangement started in earnest when Endres joined the firm about four years ago. Discussions around business challenges brought up a solution to attack those challenges: collaboration to define the talent brand and showcase firm culture, values, work environment, growth opportunities and employee experiences. “I think we were a little ahead of many firms in doing it,” Reed says.

Results in Recruitment and Retention

One result of promoting the true values and culture of the organization is firm growth, such as LBMC’s recent acquisition of Louisville, Ky.-based Strothman & Co. About 60% of the firm practice is dedicated to advisory service, and LBMC is “aggressively opportunistic” about adding talent and skills and creating a deeper bench of in-demand advisory experts. Growth not only allows LBMC to solidify its corporate brand, but to expand the talent recruiting pool as well.

Additionally, the talent brand/corporate brand alignment shows up in an 85% retention rate and the addition of 188 team members last year (on the heels of 180 the year before), says Endres. Investments in professional development and giving back to the community resonate with employees and recruits. A recent survey also shows 93% of employees say LBMC is a great place to work, compared to 57% of employees at a typical U.S.-based company, according to Great Place to Work, which rates company culture.

“We are very proud of the investment that we continue to place in the professional and personal growth of our LBMC people,” Meade says. “They are the cornerstone of our business and the foundation of exceptional client experience.”

Content provided by Chris Camara. Originally printed Nov. 2023 by Inside Public Accounting (Volume 37, Issue 11)

Retention Strategies That Help Attract and Retain Key Employees

Finding and hiring new employees to fill open positions continues to pose challenges for business leaders in 2024. Larger companies (those with 100 or more employees) have had an easier time finding and hiring talent, although they still face some obstacles in this endeavor.

Securing new talent goes beyond recruitment; companies must prioritize effective onboarding, especially in a remote work landscape. A strong onboarding process ensures a smoother transition, fostering long-term success and satisfaction. Simultaneously, leaders attuned to organizational culture enhance retention of top performers, a critical aspect often overshadowed by the constant pursuit of new talent.

While there are many factors that play into hiring and keeping your key employees, below are some of the top reasons team members seek out and stay with an employer.

  1. Flexible Work Environment and Work-Life Balance. Remote work is now standard, reflecting the workforce’s desire for autonomy. Companies should implement efficient processes and flexible work policies to attract and retain top talent.
  2. Competitive Pay and Health Care Package. A comprehensive compensation and benefits package is crucial for competitiveness. Assess the full value of the offer to retain valuable employees and stay attractive to recruits.
  3. Mentorship and Feedback. Prioritize mentorship and real-time feedback to contribute to long-term employee success. Establishing mentoring programs and feedback tools enhances talent attraction and retention.
  4. Professional Development and Career Pathing. Offer continuous learning opportunities and clear career paths. Employee training provides chances for advancement, exciting projects, and a supportive management team.
  5. Networking Opportunities and Business Resource Groups. Support employee connections through networking groups, fostering meaningful relationships. Create clubs or groups aligned with team members’ interests.
  6. Employee Surveys. Conduct regular surveys by a third party to gauge satisfaction and address key concerns. Act on survey results to enhance retention and show responsiveness to employee feedback.
  7. Wellness Programs. Prioritize physical and mental wellness with gym memberships, rewards for healthy habits, and mental health support. Demonstrate care for employees’ well-being.
  8. Company Culture. Foster a positive work environment aligned with the company’s mission. Provide job security, stability, and ensure employees feel valued for their contributions.

Employee retention is a key business goal, and it’s critical to an employer’s success. By focusing on retention, companies will likely experience increased productivity and ensure consistency in their business.

Do you have an onboarding process in place for new hires?

A robust onboarding process is crucial for new employees to successfully adjust and start their new position. It establishes the stage for a positive start and effectively manages everyone’s expectations. Consider these best practices to enhance new employee onboarding.

  1. Effective Onboarding Process. The plan should be easily accessible from the start. There should be regular check-ins every 30/60/90 days. Mentors should be available to assist individuals with any challenges they may face.
  2. Offer a “Wow-Factor” Welcome. Make the process of welcoming new employees memorable, from the first contact to the instructions for their first day. Create a fun welcome package or have a welcome lunch with the team on the first day.
  3. Structure the Schedule. To help new employees, it’s good to have a structured schedule for their orientation. It helps them adjust to the new environment, processes, and procedures. Additionally, it allows them to have some free time during the day.
  4. Operate with an Open Door. Maintain an open-door policy for new hires during their initial days to encourage questions and facilitate quick learning. While providing resources like handbooks and manuals is essential, relational learning through direct interaction accelerates on-the-job training. Additionally, welcome feedback from new employees on their training experience, offering valuable insights for continuous improvement in the onboarding process.
  5. Creating a positive work environment. Enjoying a new workplace and “fitting in” can be critical to a new hire. A buddy system can help introduce them to people and invite them to join a group for lunch or a social event.
  6. Gather the Whole Gang. During the new team member’s first week, schedule a time for the entire team to meet. This meeting will allow everyone to get to know each other’s roles. Team-building or meetings help new employees have a good start and improve their first experience at work.

The challenges for recruitment and retention is at an all-time high. We expect companies to continue needing talent for in-office, hybrid, or remote working teams in the future. Companies and job seekers are partnering with firms like ours to gain an edge in the tough talent competition.