Podcast: The why of it all: A conversation on recruitment and retention

Pretty much every survey under the sun identifies recruitment and retention as one of the top five issues facing accounting and finance organizations today. Everyone is struggling with this and nobody seems to know how to solve it.

There are a lot of suggestions being put forward throughout the profession — communicate, be a role model, make your expectations clear, offer a safe working environment, provide a clear career path, build leaders — and that’s all great advice. But no matter how many times we hear this, talent continues to be one of our most pressing problems.

So what’s the real issue here? Why can’t we hire the people we want? And why can we keep the people we have?

Our guest this week, Alan Jagonlinzer, has some ideas. Alan is a professor of financial accounting, the head of the Accounting Faculty Subject Group, and the director of the Centre for Financial Reporting and Accountability at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge, where he has helped develop leadership, innovation, and change-management degree programs for accountants.

You may not want to hear everything Alan says about what’s causing our recruitment and retention woes — but they’re things you have to hear.

In this conversation, we cover:

  • How the current system is hurting young professionals and new accountants.
  • Why we shouldn’t be targeting 18-year-olds.
  • What needs to change at a university level.
  • What the leaders of our profession can start doing today.
  • The future of the accounting and finance profession.

Listen to our conversation here:

Inconvenient truths
When it comes to hiring and retention, this is the most inconvenient truth of all: You might be part of the reason why you can’t find and keep great talent. In fact, you might be killing them.

OK, that might be a little harsh, but here’s Alan Jagolinzer’s point — and he should know because he has worked closely with these young professionals and knows exactly what they’re going through:

The often unforgiving and unrelenting expectations of life in a public accounting firm are taking a huge physical and mental toll on young professionals. We’re talking about things like depression, anxiety, substance abuse — Alan has seen it all, and it’s driving these talented young professionals away from our profession, creating a talent crisis of sorts in the process.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we can connect these young professionals with work that’s meaningful to them, that serves a purpose greater than making money, that truly makes a difference, they’ll stay. It’s the old, cliched, Simon Sinek mantra: People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. That goes for your employees, too.

So ask yourself, leaders: Why do you do what you do? It’s often not an easy question to answer, but it’s crucial.

It’s like that movie “LA Confidential” — remember the scene in which Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey talk about the reasons why they became police officers?

You don’t want to be Kevin Spacey here. You don’t want to forget why you became a CPA in the first place. You want to reconnect with that why so that you can connect your new hires to that why as well.

And Alan Jagonlinzer has some great suggestions for how we can do that. If we can reconnect our young professionals to their passions and to our why, we have a really good chance of catching them and keeping them!



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