As the economy has continued to grow, more businesses have felt confident about taking on new talent and expanding their workforce. In fact, research suggests that earlier this year the UK experienced the largest quarterly growth in jobs since records began. While this is certainly positive news, it does create a number of challenges for accountancy firms and in-house finance departments which must find ways to attract professionals in a time when their priorities have shifted. So with this in mind, how can organisations make themselves stand out from the crowd by being a ‘good’ employer?

Generation Y or ‘the millennials’ are motivated by drastically different factors than their predecessors were.  Perhaps a decade ago, firms would have been able to entice talent by offering an attractive salary, a technical study package and not a lot else. However, times have changed and modern professionals now look for alternative benefits such as the chance to work internationally or having access to new technology. The vast majority also want the chance to work flexibly. Indeed, this was so highly sought after that the Government extended these rights to the entire workforce earlier this year. Organisations should recognise that this demand came about for a reason – because professionals sometimes want to work on a flexible basis – and should act accordingly. Currently, employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements but firms don’t have to offer these rights to the entire workforce. However, if your organisation wants to be seen as a ‘good’ employer, it should recognise the growing tide and provide these opportunities to staff.

The very best firms and companies are those that support their employees through development opportunities and any professional with aspirations of climbing the career ladder is going to look to identify this in a potential employer. Almost all will support their student accountants through their technical qualifications be they from the ACCA, ICAEW, CIMA or CIPFA, but other additional development programmes should also be considered.  These can take the form of providing management training or offering shadowing opportunities that can benefit professionals in the long run. These types of factors play a huge part in an individual’s ability to progress in their career and should be offered if your organisation truly wants to be considered as a ‘good’ employer.

It’s also vital to effectively manage company culture. While this may seem like an obvious point to make to an HR professional, it’s really the factor that will make or break an individual’s enjoyment of their job. Consequently, it should be considered as a crucial aspect in developing an attractive employer brand. Approaches vary significantly from firm to firm and there’s no one correct tactic. It is, however, important to try to develop an open and innovative environment, where professionals feel comfortable asking their colleagues for advice and support if needed. And perhaps the best window that a potential candidate will have to view the company culture is the recruitment process. HR teams should ensure they're being as open and honest with applicants as possible and should offer feedback whenever they can in order to keep their potential future employees as engaged and satisfied as possible.

Finally, HR teams should also ensure that they provide flexible benefits plans that can be tailored to their employees’ personal preferences. By offering a standard ‘one-size-fits-all’ programme, organisations are giving off the message that their workforce is basically identical and has no individuality. Instead, look to offer a ‘menu’ of flexible benefits that can benefit the professional as a person. The best chance organisations have of attracting and retaining the best talent is by treating them as individuals and by recognising that everyone requires different perks in their employee contract, firms can go a long way to achieving this goal.

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