December is planning season in accounting and consulting firms, a time when we look ahead to “what’s next” in the new year. As you envision the future, we expect that the talent needs of your business will rank high on your priority list.  Specifically, be sure to identify and communicate the top three things you’d like to forward or progress related to talent in 2020. Our practices run on talent - we sell their knowledge and expertise – and attracting and retaining talent is key to our success.

In almost every firm we serve, HR is under pressure and under-resourced. 

As you’re planning your talent programs for 2020, consider these ten HR “functional areas” or areas of focus. Each of these areas of Human Resources needs an owner – and one person’s name can’t be in all the boxes because it’s WAY too much for one person to plan for and manage. The owner becomes a “champion” for his or her area, watching relevant trends and recommending innovation or changes.

Here are the ten functional areas of your firm’s human resources function:

  1. Talent management – motivating and engaging employees, developing and maintaining competency models, retention, conducting stay interviews and exit interviews, succession planning
  2. Strategic compensation and benefits – conducting an annual market analysis, compensation tied to goals and measures
  3. Culture – defining and maintaining the firm’s culture, identifying unique attributes for use in screening and performance management, planning and ensuring “institutional” fun
  4. Learning and development – designing firm learning tracks or channels with business owners including technical and soft-skills CPE and individual learning tracks, continuing/improving internal and external leadership and soft-skills training programs
  5. Recruitment and staffing – staffing needs assessment and capacity planning with business owners, on-campus recruiting of interns and first-year hires, experienced hire recruiting programs, managing outside recruiters, non-traditional talent programs, outsourcing, offshoring, screening and onboarding
  6. Performance management – establishing the firm’s goal setting framework and progress checks, performance appraisals, coaching, mentorship, ongoing feedback and performance mitigation, promotions
  7. Organizational development – high-level roles and responsibilities, organizational chart, role descriptions, reporting structures for the firm’s divisions and departments
  8. HR strategy and management – studying HR trends, developing an annual HR plan, budgeting for HR resources, organizational development to build out HR.
  9. Employee relations – managing any emerging team conflicts, supporting others in better managing conflicts
  10. HR compliance – benefits administration, employee-related risk management, payroll, reporting, state and federal reporting, HR statistics.

As you review the ten areas, it should serve as a wake-up call that there are this many elements that make up the Human Resource function. To prioritize, HR leaders can assess each of the areas and assign them a status value:

  • Needs improvement areas require your focus over the next year to take advantage of a big opportunity, or because of improvement required. Start by assembling an analysis team to conduct an honest SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on each of your “hot spot” focal areas. Once complete, develop a simple competitive analysis to understand what your talent competitors are doing in the identified area. The team should review the Weaknesses and Opportunities data and outline three high-level strategies to take on in the year ahead.
  • Meets expectation areas are currently successful. Assemble a small committee to work with. From there, consider how you will maintain momentum over the next year.
  • Exceptional/On-track areas are running well or simply aren’t that strategic to your planning at this time and they may need minimal maintenance and energy over the next year. The owner of the area should keep a finger on the pulse of the situation internally, and the trends in this area, but with no immediate action initiated here.

Human Resources leaders can review and input to the analysis of the area owners (and may be in some cases the owners of certain areas) and use what is learned to develop the firm’s top three talent strategies for 2020.  Please resist the temptation to take on more than three priority areas, otherwise you will be spread a mile wide and an inch deep.

As a part of your annual planning process, consider whether it’s time for your firm to add headcount in Human Resources. The Society for Human Resources (SHRM) published a report in 2015 stating that for every 100 employees, an organization should have an average of 2.5 Human Resources FTE to support them. Smaller organizations (1-250 FTE) tend to need more resources (average 3.4 FTE/100 FTE), and as an organization grows (251-1,000 FTE), SHRM reports the ratio declining (1.2 FTE/100 FTE)). Larger organizations tend to employ Human Resources personnel with more experience and specialization, which contributes to their ability to manage the work more efficiently. The SHRM report relates to the general economy and all businesses, and we would argue that your ratios may be lower because of the critical role talent plays in professional services and the shortage of accounting and consulting specialists. This next year, you may need to add headcount in Human Resources so that you can more strategically manage your precious people.

In future posts, we’ll continue to explore the ten areas, offering strategies and approaches to go deeper in each. In the meantime, use the categories to analyze where your talent investment “hotspots” are and invest the HR resources needed to elevate your firm’s game in those areas in the next year.