Why employees are quitting your accounting firm (and how to stop them)

The Great Resignation tidal wave continues to surge, breaking records world-wide.

By the end of July 2021, 4 million Americans quit their jobs with an unprecedented 10.9 million roles open. 73% of US employers are having difficulty attracting staff and 70% expect this difficulty to continue into the future.

More than ever, it’s important that you retain your top talent. And understanding the key factors leading to accounting staff churn will better-position you to hold onto your high-quality employees and recruit strong candidates.

So, here are 7 reasons why accounting professionals churn.

1. Incorrect expectations set during the hiring process

When you hire, you likely explain your vision for your firm to candidates—your long-term plans and ambitions. As important as this is, it’s equally as important to be realistic about what stage of the vision your firm is currently in. Otherwise, you might overpromise and underdeliver.

For example: Let’s say your long-term vision for the future is a 100% remote accounting firm. You firmly believe in being tech-led and enabling your team to work from anywhere, while not restricting your recruitment strategy to physical location. 

But there is a certain transition process you need to conduct that may include finalizing your office lease and/ or a digital transformation that will actually enable 100% long-term remote work.

If, during the interview process, you set expectations that a new hire will be working 100% remotely within one month of being onboarded, but three months in, they’re still required in the office most days of the week— you’ve set yourself up to lose trust.

You need to paint a realistic and clear picture for your new hires. Be honest about what they can expect within the first one, three, five, etc. months of working at your firm. 

If you’re not honest about your vision and plans (short and long term), and consistently set incorrect expectations, your employees will inevitably search for an employer that values transparency and clarity.

2. Lack of career development

Just like you have a vision for your accounting firm, each of your employees has their own personal career vision. If these visions don’t intersect and grow together, chances are that your employees will search for an employer that aligns the company’s vision with employee development.

According to the Institute of Managers and Leaders (IML) Research Product Manager, Charles Go, it’s important to dedicate training and budget to develop your staff, and formalize development plans that demonstrate employees’ paths for growth at your firm.

“Having a supportive learning and development culture in the workplace can provide staff with the challenges and development they need without looking at competitor organizations,” explains Charles.

IML ANZ Chief Executive, David Pich, suggests employees aren’t with organizations for perks like free lunches. Instead, they’re interested in opportunities for personal and career growth:

“Staff stay when their organizations show they value them by investing in their professional development and providing a clear path for career progression.”

The best way for organizations to retain their talent is to make a role more meaningful by adding value to their employees.
David Pich, Institute of Managers and Leaders (IML)

3. Staff members don’t have the tools and support they need to perform their job well

It’s simple: if your employees don’t have access to the systems, tools, and support they need to perform their job well, they will do one of two things:

  • They will not achieve their OKRs/ KPIs, or

  • They will achieve their ORKs/ KPIs at the expense of their mental wellbeing and work life balance

Both of these situations are preventable by working with your employees to understand how their day-to-day can be improved by providing them with what they need to get the job done. 

These might be:

It’s important to consult with your team during this process. Consider creating a survey to better-understand how you can provide the things they need.

4. They’re dissatisfied with their income

While pay isn’t everything, gratitude and the right tools don’t pay rent, mortgages or school fees.

If your team’s income negatively impacts their personal stability, that will be reflected in their productivity and focus. As a result, their salary is linked to your accounting firm’s success and growth.

It’s in everyone’s best interests that your employees receive a competitive salary.

On top of that, providing satisfying salaries helps retain your talent—it’s one less thing they want to give up when considering churning.

5. Poor management

As the saying goes: ‘People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers’. There are conflicting opinions and studies on the validity of this statement. Some call it a myth, while others report strong links between how company leaders make their employees feel and talent retention.

Either way, if people aren’t supported or trusted by their management, the chances of their engagement and workplace happiness will decrease. And for some, that will lead to churn.

Creating an autonomous work environment is a great way to empower your employees to take ownership of their work, leading to happier team members, and increased job satisfaction, engagement and retention.

The role that management has in this is simple: treat your employees like adults, provide them with the tools they need to perform their jobs well, set clear expectations, expect the best out of them, and wait for them to prove you wrong.

6. Unbalanced workloads

There’s no doubt that accounting can be one of the most stressful industries to work in, no matter the specialization. You might say that stress comes with the job. But stress shouldn’t be the job.

With 98 in 100 accountants feeling stressed every single day at work, plotting an exit strategy out of the situation is to be expected—whether that’s out of their current employment or the industry altogether.

As your firm’s leader, using practice management tools like Karbon will provide you with the visibility you need to better-understand and manage your team’s capacity, helping to identify and mitigate bottlenecks and create a more flexible and cross-functional team.

As a result, you can help transform your employees’ work life balance and boost their mental health. And if that leads to you retaining top talent, then it’s a win-win.

7. Poor workplace culture

Your firm’s culture is a reflection of who you are as a business, what you believe in and why you exist. It’s an embodiment of a collection of people, all striving for the same goals, guided by the same values and beliefs.

With 73% of people having left a job due to poor cultural fit, if you haven’t already seriously considered defining your accounting firm’s culture, the time is now.

The sum of all parts

There is no silver bullet to retaining top talent. It’s a combination of:

  • Setting clear expectations

  • Treating employees like adults

  • Creating a culture you believe in

  • Paying suitably

  • Ensuring your tech stack is serving your team well

  • Investing in the development of your team members

The best way to achieve this is by taking a step back and asking yourself some potentially difficult questions about your hiring and employee management values and processes.

And the sooner you do that, the sooner you’ll be prepared to ride out the Great Resignation tidal wave.

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