The link between employee satisfaction and great client service is easily overlooked, but accounting firms know that happy employees lead to happy clients. While your firm can differentiate itself by specializing in a niche market, you still need great people to send to those clients in order to remain successful.

The connection between employee satisfaction and differentiation was the topic of discussion in Accounting Today’s November 19, 2015, web seminar “Becoming the best: Making your firm stand out.” Sponsored by ADP, moderator Daniel Hood, Editor-in-Chief of Accounting Today, and presenters Charles Postal, CPA, Debbie Sessions, CPA, and Aldor Delp, Division Vice President and General Manager for APD’s Resource and HR Solutions group offer insights into how to differentiate your firm through increased employee satisfaction, fit, and retention.


Differentiation Through Employee Satisfaction

While each of your employees will have unique needs, there are some industry-wide best practices you can implement at your firm to increase job satisfaction and employee fulfillment.


Increase employees’ sense of ownership of and pride in the organization.

Invite employee input in firm operations by including staff in business decisions, client meetings, networking events, business meetings, and community events. Use surveys and polls to find out how employees are feeling about your firm, how they feel about their job, and to gather ideas to optimize firm operations.


Make employees feel like they are an important part of the team.

Recognize employee achievements to showcase each employee’s crucial role in the firm’s operations. Examples of employee recognition include employee of the month, a note from a supervisor or head of company, pay raises, bonuses, or special privileges such as lunch with the CEO. Rewards don’t always have to be monetary to matter to your employees.


Offer flexibility and promote work-life balance.

The good news is that offering flexibility actually reduces the number of unscheduled absences, which is great for you. As a firm, you may want to offer your employees the opportunity to work remotely, select alternative start and stop times, compressed workweeks, or summer Fridays.


Foster a sense of staff cohesion.

Regular social events, like holiday parties, company events, and lunch-hour outings, can create a sense of belonging and camaraderie among staff.


Create pathways for employee advancement.

Employees want to grow. Providing training and development for your staff is something you should always be doing, because employees want to develop their skills and knowledge to help them with their career. You may want to offer internal and external training opportunities, mentoring, job shadowing, and more.


Differentiation Through Hiring, Employee Fit, and Recruitment


Emphasizing your company culture is another crucial way to differentiate your firm, and a company’s culture is in many ways defined by its staff. While you have to hire for the right skill set, you should pay attention to cultural fit. It’s a good idea to interview new candidates and ensure that the company culture works for the individual and that the individual is on board with the company culture. You can do this by hiring carefully, offering internships to allow supervisors and new employees to evaluate fit, and making the right resources, environment, and technologies available so employees can do their best.

Because hiring the right employees is key to your firm’s success, identifying effective recruiting tactics is crucial. Follow some of the most common tactics used by successful accounting firms.


Recruit at college campuses.

Identify which schools’ graduates fit your company’s cultures and needs, and make connections with alumni organizations and advancement offices at each. Also be sure to involve young staff in the recruiting process to attract college graduates.


Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth.

Recruit through neighbors, friends, and family members and at networking and community events. The power of word-of-mouth advertising can’t be underestimated.


Offer flexibility in job descriptions.

Don’t force new recruits to make the difficult choice between accounting, tax, and auditing. This can push new employees into roles they later become dissatisfied with, or it can deter applicants from applying in the first place.