Bonadio Group finds ways to attract more people to accounting firms

The Bonadio Group, a Top 50 Firm based in Pittsford, New York, is improving its compensation and benefits to bring in more experienced professionals and young recruits as the accounting profession tries to battle the perception of declining employment numbers.

“Our turnover has been about 12%,” said CEO Bruce Zicari. “That’s very, very good. Many of our competitors are experiencing 15% to 20%-plus turnover. This last year, we’ve seen some great success and some very low turnover rates, so we’re starting to see very tangible results.”

The firm does compensation studies to make sure it’s paying a competitive salary, especially in the high-cost New York market.

The Bonadio Group’s office building in Buffalo, New York

“We want to make sure that we’re staying extremely competitive and above market in the industry,” said Zicari. “We did probably three separate compensation and survey studies in the industry last year, and we repeated those studies this year. In the last 20 months, we’ve increased on average our compensation by 30%, and we feel very good that we’re very competitive, and above market in the public accounting industry and in our various markets that we have offices in.”

The Bonadio Group also tries to offer career opportunities to employees to keep them engaged in the firm so they will want to stay there. “We’re all about growth, which provides opportunity to our people, which also allows us to give back to our communities that we live and work in,” said Zicari. “That’s a big part of why we’ve been able to retain people and why they’ve been able to have a rewarding experience at the Bonadio Group.”

The firm is putting together a new strategic plan after recently completing its last five-year strategic plan, which was built around redefining a career experience. It’s working with the American Institute of CPAs and other Top 100 firms to redefine what it means to have a career in public accounting, and what makes a rewarding experience at a firm. 

Bruce Zicari

Matt D’Angelo

“We’re trying to create a much better work-life integration,” said Zicari. “Some of that’s about working less hours, but not all of it. We want to give our people professional discretion to work differently and work remotely, more on their terms. We want to give our people the ability to work on good, interesting clients and do interesting work.”

At the same time, Bonadio’s employees are able to take many of the routine administrative tasks associated with conducting an audit or preparing a tax return and farm those out to units known as “efficiency centers.”

The firm has also been increasing its health and wellness benefits for employees. 

“We’ve done some good and creative things around that,” said Zicari. “Finally, as we determine how we redefine their career experience, we’ve done a lot of listening to them through insight groups. We meet with them in small groups. We ask them what’s important to them. We don’t try to suppose or know what is on their minds and what’s best for them. Some great things have come out of those insight groups that have allowed us to redefine the people experience here.”

Employees have also been working in small groups known as “promise teams” with partners at the firm.

“We’ve kind of restructured our firm during this whole process,” said Zicari. “We’ve developed these promise teams, where every partner has six to eight people on their promise team, so every person in the firm has a direct connection and works with a partner on a daily basis to mentor and to give them performance coaching along the way. And it really helped them navigate through their careers. I think that’s going to be a big differentiator for us. But, at the end of the day, I think our low turnover rate has been a good indication of the fact that these things are working. We certainly aren’t stopping here. We have a long way to go.”

He believes the accounting profession itself needs to change to retain and recruit new talent. “If we want to attract people to the profession and keep people engaged in a long-term career in accounting, we have to change their experience,” said Zicari. “We have to change the way they work. We have to change the clients they work on. We have to give them flexibility. We have to provide them with the best training and development from a technical standpoint and a leadership standpoint.”

The Bonadio Group has also been making efforts to improve diversity to attract a more varied workforce to the firm.

“We have worked very hard at diversity, equity and inclusion over the last several years, and it was part of our strategic plan,” said Zicari. “We believe it’s the right thing to do. We have hired a diversity, equity and inclusion manager that leads the charge, and I think we’ve made great strides in educating our people as it relates to that. We started recruiting in different colleges, and we’re starting to make a meaningful impact in terms of bringing people in from different backgrounds. When you talk about establishing a good culture, and you talk about a purpose-driven organization, you can’t talk about those two things without being a diverse and inclusive company. We’re making incremental changes each and every year. We know we have a long way to go, but we’re dedicated to continuing that incremental progress and improvement every year.”