All is Fair in Love and Talent War!
CPA firms compete in two markets: the client market and the talent market. I’ve had several conversations recently with firms that are turning down work due to talent constraints, stating that they cannot find people. You don’t have to look too deep in Accounting Today or the Journal of Accountancy to see numerous articles on the topic of talent shortage or great resignation. It seems safe to say that competing in the talent market is currently the more arduous battle.
And yet I continue to see ads and posts from firms that read (somewhat exaggerated for effect, but not much), “We’re hiring! For key responsibilities and qualifications, visit XYZ.com. Submit your application to join our outstanding team.” The visuals are as bland as the message.
Really? That’s it?
Unless you have a waiting list of candidates breaking down your door, that can’t be it. Unless you’ve figured out something that no other firm has, you don’t have a waiting list.
We wouldn’t take such a lackluster approach to business development. We need to put as much effort into our talent development strategy as our business development strategy. That entails the identification of equalizers and differentiators and the promotion of the latter.
Equalizers are the things that put us on a level playing field with competitors. If you look at a viable competitor, the one that you love to take market share or talent from, how are you the same? You may maintain offices in the same building or utilize the same technology. As good as these equalizers are, we will experience increased competition, downward pressure on fees, and upward pressure on compensation if we allow an apples-to-apples comparison and a perceived substitute.
Differentiators are the things that set you apart in a positive way and elevate your offering over your competitors. Some examples seen lately in the talent arena are flexibility, remote work, unlimited PTO, etc. Culture and philosophy or principles related to employee engagement and development are others. Differentiators allow an apples-to-oranges comparison and help de-commoditize.
Having a truly differentiated offering is critical to establishing and maintaining a competitive edge.
This can be slippery. A study conducted by Bain determined that 80% of companies felt they had a truly differentiated offering, while only 8% of their customers felt the same. Over 60% of employees said they have no idea of the company’s strategy or its principles. That’s a big disconnect!
What are your firms’ positive employment differentiators? If you’re not sure, ask your employees. How can you showcase them in your talent market outreach? If you’re coming up short…
If you’d like to discuss how this applies to your firm, schedule a call with me.
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