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Social mobility needed to combat skills shortage

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 24 Feb 2023

As a firm with several locations across the UK, Menzies is acutely aware of the increasing challenges of attracting talent in a competitive market.

Attracting and retaining talent continues to be a major area of focus for accounting and audit firm Menzies. However, as with many other firms, finding skilled people is proving to be a challenge, with employers battling over the same talent pool after many experienced workers left the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We’re always on the lookout for ways to improve our employee value proposition and make sure we’re offering candidates the best possible opportunities that reflect what they want from their careers,” says Simon Massey FCA, Menzies Managing Partner. “This has also changed in recent years, with hybrid working, a strong sense of corporate responsibility and attractive perks meaning employers must remain competitive if they are to attract and win top talent.”

One of the firm’s major focuses in becoming more attractive to new talent involves corporate social responsibility (CSR) and regular employee engagement. It’s important that the firm understands what’s important to current and potential employees. The firm also undertakes benchmarking activities against its peers to make sure it is on track with industry standards, and looks at other industries to see how they are thinking about and overcoming the skills shortage.

“Increasing social mobility is a key focus if we are to combat the shortage of skilled workers,” says Massey. “As a sector, we need to do better at promoting the industry as an attainable, attractive career route to those who may not have previously considered it.”

Menzies is involved with ICAEW’s Access Accountancy programme (it has a place on the Progression working group) and is planning to send volunteers into schools through the RISE initiative. It’s a way of spreading the firm’s name and values while also helping young people to be more employable, providing work experience and guiding younger students to think differently about their career. Outlining the diverse nature of a role in accounting and reaching young audiences is a key part of Menzies’ strategy for recruiting and retaining talent, says Massey.

“We believe that creating a culture with a strong work-life balance is crucial to making sure our teams remain engaged, dedicated, and passionate about what they do,” he says. “Our evolving Better Place to Work programme, now in its fourth year, is a key facet of this. The Better Place team is doing some really positive work, with a focus on bringing talent from all backgrounds into our workplace.” 

From a management perspective, Menzies puts a lot of time into diversity training, making sure that as a workplace it is attractive to everyone, Massey explains. It’s important that employees can be themselves while operating in a high-level environment, he says.

“Accountancy, no matter the speciality, is an industry full of bright, hardworking individuals,” says Massey. “From an industry perspective, there is always more that can be done to attract and, crucially, retain talent.” 

Ensuring that your firm’s culture and environment is inclusive and fulfilling for all should not be overlooked, he says. It should form part of a firm’s attraction and retention strategy, along with a competitive salary, comprehensive on-the-job training sessions, strong career progression, and creating a sense of pride and fulfilment in employees.

“The role of apprenticeships is equally critical to our success – nothing compares to training young people on the job and providing them with access to the guidance and support of experienced professionals. We have always taken on trainees as part of our recruitment model, but the structure of the apprenticeship programme has enhanced this approach further.” 

With plenty of options out there for school leavers and graduates, firms must strive to be as attractive as possible. It’s important to make sure the firm is providing apprentices with an enriching approach to learning in the role. There is more to it than just covering the cost of all professional examinations, says Massey. It’s important to provide apprentices with the opportunity to take further studies. 

“A career in accountancy can be rewarding. While it can be challenging, if you’re a hardworking, tenacious person, there are so many opportunities for progression that are waiting to be taken advantage of. As an employer that champions diversity, equity and inclusion, we’re proud to be leading the way towards a brighter future for the profession.”

Attracting talent to accountancy

Is the profession representing the value and benefits that it offers in the best way? Perception, purpose, diversity and development all matter in bringing the best people to accountancy.

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