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How Accounting Firms Can Increase Employee Retention

How Accounting Firms Can Increase Employee Retention
Ryan McInnis
accountant employee retention

In the wake of COVID and the Great Resignation, employee retention has become an even bigger issue than usual for many firms. Although there isn’t yet a lot of data about how specific fields and business sectors have been impacted, it does seem that white-collar workers are more likely to leave their current job. In a recent survey, 41% of respondents admitted they plan to leave their current job or look for a new one during the second half of 2022. This means now is the time to take a look at your firm and make sure your employee retention practices are up to snuff in the current market.

Why are Workers Leaving?

Although not the main driving factor in the public accounting sector, salary concerns are always a possible reason for workers to leave, as are less than stellar benefits packages. At a CPA firm, however, the need for a better work-life balance is a more common concern, especially during and immediately after a particularly intense tax season.

Smaller firms may see employees leave when they feel there is no room for advancement or when there is concern about the financial future or stability of the company. Employees who feel unappreciated, unrecognized, or unsupported are likely to leave, as are those who are dissatisfied with the company culture. Boredom can also be an issue.

Employee Retention Strategies to Implement

Competitive Salaries

If you want to attract and keep top talent, you need to figure out what a competitive salary really means in your area. A competitive salary in Kansas may be laughable in New Jersey, so pay attention to both the accounting industry and your location. If you want to stay competitive, make sure your employees’ wages rise as inflation does. Money alone isn’t enough to motivate most people, but a lack of it will remove motivation in a hurry.

It’s also important to share the wealth. If the firm is doing exceptionally well, the employees should benefit along with the business owners. Handing out nonstop raises is clearly not feasible, but consider giving out bonuses or making a nice deposit into your employees’ 401K accounts when things go well.

Invest in Well-Being and Employee Perks

When giving everyone a raise is cost prohibitive, you can also decrease employee turnover by investing in perks instead. Discounted gym memberships, help with child care, and access to mental health and wellness services can go a long way towards keeping employees happy and engaged. Offering help with education costs and programs can also increase employee engagement and lets people know you value them enough to invest in them and their future.

Company retreats and dinners can also be great perks but use them wisely. A spa day or a deep sea fishing expedition can be a lot of fun, but don’t try and disguise team-building exercises or seminars as employee perks. The same goes for appreciation dinners. A meal at a nice restaurant or a catered picnic at a baseball game will likely be well received. Pizza parties and dress-down days, however, will only get you so far.

Flexibility in Remote Work

For better or worse, COVID has changed the way we work. After proving that they can do their jobs from home and do them well during the pandemic, many employees are loathe to return to the office. You need to honestly assess whether you truly need your employees in the office 40 hours a week or whether you just prefer to have them there.

Some people like the camaraderie of working in an office and seeing their coworkers every day, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Others detest the commute, the interruptions inherent in shared workspaces, and the potential to interact with people who come to work sick. If someone wants to work remotely and they can do so, try and work out an acceptable remote schedule with them, requiring them to come into the office only as much as necessary. Otherwise you might lose them to someone who is willing to accept remote work.

Use Automation to Create More Purposeful Work

Accounting firms and other businesses can help keep employees by making sure they don’t get bored. Although they’re admittedly not exciting, sometimes menial tasks need to get done. If you can automate them, however, you can make sure they’re done while freeing up your staff to do more meaningful work.

Invoicing, collection efforts, and basic bookkeeping tasks can all be automated with the right software. So can super simple tasks like addressing envelopes using a font that makes them look handwritten. a personal touch is sometimes best, but don’t make a habit of leaving ambitious and motivated staff members feeling bored and uninterested in their duties.

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance has become a buzzword that businesses often like to talk about, but very few actually do well. Don’t make this mistake. It is a bit cliche, but your staff really does work to live — none of them live to work. This truth doesn’t change during your busy tax season or when you’re short-staffed.

A great way to help your employees maintain a better work-life balance is outsourcing. Tax time is crazy at a busy CPA firm, so manage the chaos by managing the workload. Hire an outside firm to handle simple tasks like scheduling tax appointments or directing customer emails and questions to the appropriate place for faster answers. You can even take on a few freelance CPAs or use a service like Picnic Tax to get qualified helping hands to help you handle the increased workload.

Even if you need them only temporarily, a few extra employees or outsourced tasks can really help take the load off of your existing staff. It only takes one busy tax season to make some employees feel like they’re living at work and need a change. You can promote work-life balance by getting help so employees see that you really do care and are giving this important necessity more than just lip service.

Other Strategies

Other employee retention strategies include cultivating a positive company culture, offering mentorship programs, and offering employees opportunities for advancement. Promote from within whenever possible and celebrate milestones with employees. Employment anniversaries, impressive achievements, and extra effort should all be acknowledged and celebrated.

Equally important is creating open-door policies where employees can discuss concerns, suggestions, and ideas in a safe and respectful environment. Make sure you communicate with employees and remember to include those who work remotely in the conversation. Be honest about achievements as well as issues the company is facing. Employees know when something isn’t quite right and become resentful when they feel like they’re being kept in the dark.

Ongoing feedback about employee performance is another engagement tool. If something is going right, praise it. If it’s not, address it. Employees who think they’re doing well can come away from an annual review feeling discouraged or angry upon learning their work isn’t perceived the way they thought it was. Avoid surprises by touching base more frequently. If an employee wants to know how they can improve or advance within the company, you can promote engagement by helping them lay out a realistic plan for doing so.

Sometimes, employees simply need a change, and that’s okay. You won’t be able to keep every employee you want to, and that’s just a reality of doing business. But there are things you can do to make your firm an attractive place to work and try and keep employee engagement and retention as high as possible. When doing so means getting some help so your staff doesn’t have to sacrifice their work-life balance, you can trust the professionals at Picnic Tax to put you in touch with qualified CPAs who can help reduce the workload. As always, we’re here when you need us and you can reach out at any time.

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