Marketing And HR Collaboration Can Boost Recruitment, Retention

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The human resources and marketing functions in CPA firms share similarities but traditionally operate separately.

Now that hiring up-and-comers and keeping employees happy is more challenging than ever, a tight partnership can pay off big. Recruiting, onboarding and retention all improve, sometimes dramatically. “Successful companies we’ve seen really thrive when they’re collaborating,” says Jeaneen Andrews-Feldman of the two disciplines. Andrews-Feldman was chief marketing and experience officer at the 350,000-member Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) at the time of this interview in 2021.

Stephanie Gandsey, then-marketing director at Naperville, Ill.-based DHJJ, strikes a similar chord. She believes the HR and marketing functions can work together more productively if they consider themselves a team of “organizational developers,” not separate entities.

The overlap between the two departments is significant, as each addresses a different audience in pursuit of a similar goal. Both sides rely on a strong brand for success – to recruit new employees (HR) and gain new clients (marketing). Both seek the best possible onboarding process – to welcome new employees (HR) and introduce new clients to the firm (marketing). Both strive for positive interactions with the firm – to retain employees (HR) and to keep clients satisfied with services (marketing).

MPs may consider bringing the two departments together in one room (or one Zoom room) to find common ground, learn how they can help each other and brainstorm ideas. Simple moves like this can eliminate competitiveness and lead to an understanding that working together makes their jobs easier, not more difficult.

Here are some collaboration ideas offered by SHRM, in an interview with IPA, and Gandsey, who spoke at recent webinar for the Association for Accounting Marketing, in 2021.

Recruitment: Consistent messaging about the firm’s brand sounds like a given, but it’s not guaranteed. HR may talk about the firm slightly differently than how it is presented on the website and social media. In these cases, recruits can be confused about what a firm is really like, Andrews-Feldman says. Lack of consistency also hurts trust, the bedrock of the profession’s sterling reputation. (Accountants rank No. 6 on the latest Gallup poll of most trusted professionals.) HR knows the types of professionals the firm needs; marketing knows how to find them. Marketing can write job postings that differentiate the firm and describe the feeling of working there; HR can sell recruits using a unified message.

Gandsey suggests some questions for HR and marketing to ask each other: Why would someone choose our firm over another? How would you describe the ‘ideal’ client or employee we’re looking for? Where have we found people in the past and where haven’t we tried?

Onboarding and Recruitment: Consistency plays an important role in welcoming new employees to the organization as well. This is another area where HR and marketing can work together. At SHRM, capturing a new member and keeping them through annual renewals is not much different than retaining an employee, Andrews-Feldman says. SHRM gets a feel for new members’ interests, connects them with their peers and highlights the resources available to them, then works to feed their interests, recognize their accomplishments and encourage them to renew. “There’s intelligence that we have, from a customer standpoint, that can be leveraged easily for employees in much the same way,” she says. HR, in turn, uses a similar process with new employees, so that they feel part of the greater whole and eventually become ambassadors of the SHRM brand. Their enthusiasm can attract new members and prospective employees.

The same is true at CPA firms. If you’re an HR professional handling employee onboarding and engagement, your marketing counterpart can help with social media content and other messages.

Gandsey’s suggestions for questions to ask each other: What is the first conversation the firm has with employees? New clients? How do new employees feel recognized? How are clients made to feel they are valued by the firm?

Some advice from Gandsey on continued collaboration:

  • For firmwide projects and initiatives, include members from both teams for planning and implementation.
  • Set recurring conversations between each group, perhaps quarterly, to review initiatives.
  • Develop a strategic plan that identifies projects with natural crossovers and revisit the plan in quarterly meetings.
  • Identify avenues of communication to ensure groups are informed of new content and projects that might benefit each other.
  • Educate each other on needs and cross-train for efficiency.

Aligning the firm’s mission and values to the recruitment, onboarding and retention processes works much better if the HR and marketing departments work closely together. After all, a great client experience starts with a great employee experience. 

This article originally appeared in the November 2021 edition of INSIDE Public Accounting. To subscribe to INSIDE Public Accounting Monthly click here.


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