Staffing problems are not unique to accounting firms. However, small to midsize firms tend to struggle with employee retention more than the average industry. The CPA Journal reports that the turnover rate for local accounting firms is over 25 percent – two and a half times more than the turnover rate for the average American business.
It’s pretty rare to find accounting professionals who are enthusiastic about their professions, according to Bob Lewis of AccountingToday. He argues that the typical accounting professional is disengaged and fails to see a brighter future by sticking with one firm.
“The normal employee puts in minimal effort and leaves for the next pay increase. Evidence of this is the high industry turnover rate and the staffing shortage,” he explains. “Young professionals are leaving public accounting to go into private industry.”
As a result, accounting firms all over the country are struggling to maintain dedicated, compliant professionals who are in it for the long haul. How do you overcome this hurdle in your accounting firm and develop a staffing protocol that works?
This may require a period of trial and error, but with practice, note-taking, and an understanding of the typical accounting employee, you can learn how to staff your firm appropriately. Use these seven tips to get started.
1. Allow for Flexibility
Your accounting staff may be working overtime during the first quarter of the year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t allow any personal days or sick leave. Your employees don’t get to choose when there’s a death in the family, birth of a child, or even a long-awaited family reunion. Sickness—both mental and physical—may arise at any time as well.
It’s important to set boundaries and policies to keep your accounting staff on the same page, but there’s plenty of room for flexibility if your employees get the work done. If necessary, you can always take advantage of tax preparation outsourcing to keep up.
Plus, during the rest of the year, the workload will be far less demanding, so you can always offer extra days off or other incentives to help members of your firm balance their work and home life.
2. Provide Opportunities for Advancement
Many accounting firms struggle to retain employees simply because there’s no room for growth. Without the ability to move up, employees move on to a better, higher-paying job with opportunities for advancement.
You might offer a regular pay raise based on performance or shorten the path to partnership, making it easier for truly dedicated employees to achieve their ultimate career goals without seeking another firm.
If your firm is small with little room for advancement, consider offering an option of franchising the firm. Allow them to take your name, and the reputation that goes with it, to open a new practice in a non-competing area.
Franchising your business gives eager entrepreneurial accountants the advancement they crave while allowing you to maintain control. You can keep efficiencies in place and maintain a strong reputation through policies and processes, collecting some of the profits while your new partner shoulders most of the new work.
3. Attract with Benefits Packages
Given the cutthroat nature of the accounting industry, your firm should offer benefits that set you apart from your staffing competitors. According to the Harvard Business Review, benefits packages are a key component for most employees when it comes to deciding whether to stay with their current job.
You might offer more attractive insurance premiums, retirement packages, bonuses, free tax preparation for their families, 401(k) match, career development opportunities, paid sick leave, or even tuition reimbursement.
Most importantly, make sure the salary package is comparable to your biggest competitors. If you can, offer a slightly higher amount to sweeten the deal.
4. Nurture and Engage
Across the entire American workforce, more than half of employees report feeling unengaged and under appreciated at work. They have little emotional connection to their jobs and the people they work with, and they don’t think about work once they leave for the day.
Employees like a challenge to a certain extent. They don’t want to perform the same tasks repetitively—this will quickly lead to burnout.
“Ambitious employees will want to remain innovative and grow their skill set,” writes Peter Kokkinos in an Inside HR article. “If they can develop new skills at your company, an offer to work elsewhere will be less appealing.”
You can also help your employees avoid burnout with encouragement and inspiration. When you’re worried about your employees falling into a rut, do something about it. Throw a party with families invited, pay for a company retreat, offer professional development courses, and strive to make each day different.
5. Respect and Reward
Giving credit where it’s due helps individuals feel valued and increases their loyalty to a company. As you respect them for their work, they’re more likely to respond in kind.
Provide rewards for jobs well done. Bonuses and other financial incentives are nice, but they aren’t the only rewards that motivate your employees. It could be something as simple as a handwritten thank you card or public recognition at a company meeting. As we’ve established thus far, firm employees like to have their value recognized in a positive light.
6. Offer Mentoring
Many accounting professionals are seeking more than just a great salary, appealing benefits, and recognition—they also want to further develop their talents and skills.
You can make your workplace infinitely more attractive, simply by offering mentoring to those who wish to excel.
Offering coaching and mentoring services is mutually beneficial. If you’re looking to keep employees for the long haul, they may end up as a partner one day. Your efforts in training high-potential staff members could pay off in many ways in the future.
7. Improve Your Environment
Is your accounting firm a place that people actually want to work? A boring, lackluster environment can contribute to burnout, driving your staff members away. Try to keep things interesting by producing new challenges, providing treats, and encouraging employee interactions.
Cultivating a strong employee culture is about more than hiring the right personalities, putting a foosball table in the break room, and having bagel Fridays. It’s about giving employees a reason to come to work every day for the fulfillment of a career they enjoy.
“More and more often, people are wanting to work for something with a bit of meaning,” Angela Cameron of Consult Recruitment told InTheBlack.
“They want to be value aligned. They want to know that if they come to work and they work hard, that they’re going to be working with people they like. They’re going to be working for an organization they’re going to be proud of.”
Cameron argues that if you create a company that focuses on contributing to the individual, to your clients, and even to your community, you’ll have an easier time collecting and retaining top talent.
“They want to add value, and they want to be part of something,” she says. “I think it’s all about people wanting to feel they matter somewhere.”
Provide that for your accounting staff, and you’re more likely to reduce turnover and have long-lasting employees.
Choose Tax Preparation Outsourcing from Taxfyle
As you work on making your accounting firm a great place to work, reducing burnout, and attracting top talent, tax preparation outsourcing can be a useful tool.
Taxfyle is a powerful platform that acts as an extension of your business. It can help you pick up the slack during your busy season, helping you make deadlines and keeping employees engaged. To learn more about tax preparation outsourcing from Taxfyle, request a free demo today!