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Retain Your Firm’s Accounting Superstars This Christmas


Trent McLaren says the best way to understand how to retain your staff or keep them engaged is to understand the reasons why employees leave.

It’s unrealistic to expect someone to stay with the same job for the rest of their life.  I'm sure you can look back on your own career moves yourself. 

Employees come and go and that’s to be expected in the accounting world. But finding top talent is difficult these days, so it’s extremely important that when you do find these accounting superstars you retain them.

To understand how you can keep your employees engaged and part of your team, let’s review the top five reasons why employees quit their jobs in the first place.

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1.  Relationship with boss

Employees don’t need to be friends with their boss but they do need to have a relationship. The boss is too integral to employees’ daily working lives for an uncomfortable relationship.

A bad boss is also the number one reason why employees quit their job. Now if you’re the boss, this could be the wake-up call you need. If your top employees keep leaving then you could be part of the problem.

How to retain this employee: Review how you come across to your team. I’d recommend a 360 degree feedback form, where you’re encouraging feedback and improvements from all of your peers – good and bad - in a variety of departments.

2.  Bored and unchallenged by the work itself

No one wants to be bored or unchallenged at work. If your employee acts dejected, you should help reignite their passion.

Employees want to enjoy their job. After all, they spend more than a third of their working days getting ready and transporting themselves to work.

How to retain this employee: In the accounting industry, this should be an easy fix. Accounting is changing faster and faster every day. With more change occurring in the tools and systems we’re using, this is a perfect opportunity to give your team some research projects.

Ask your team to research the accounting sector’s top three proposal solutions or ask them what the best automation apps are for small business owners. Once they’ve carried out the research, ensure they present their findings to the rest of the group and make a plan to implement or roll out some of these client solutions.


3.  Relationship with co-workers

Every departing email sent to the whole company always includes a comment about how much they will miss their passionate co-workers. But omitted from these emails are the co-workers who the employee will not miss – the co-workers who pushed the leaving employee into find new pastures in the first place.

Second to managers, the relationship an employee has with their co-workers is a critical component of a happy and healthy work environment.

How to retain this employee: Notice and intervene if problems exist. Be mindful of the next person who you hire. Try to understand if they will fit into the mix and culture of your existing team.

4.  Opportunities to use skills and abilities

When employees use their significant skills and abilities on the job, they feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, and self-confidence.

They are participating in activities they are good at and that stretch their skills and abilities. Employees want to develop and grow their skills. If they’re not able to do this in your job, they’ll find one where they can.

How to retain this employee: The beauty of this for the modern accounting firm is that there are many desirable skills that can be utilised that currently aren’t. It could be skills in marketing, digital, web design or even public speaking. Look for ways to leverage your team’s skills to better improve your firm’s brand.

5.  Autonomy and independence

While organisations talk about empowerment, autonomy, and independence, these traits and characteristics are not something that you can do to people or give them. It is something the employee needs to pursue and embrace.

However, you are responsible for the work environment that enables them to do this. And they are responsible for doing it.

Covid has made us all deal with our work from home policy! If you’re running on cloud accounting ledgers and reporting suites, there’s no real reason even in normal times for your staff to be in the office every day of the week. Unless to satisfy your ability to see them at work, working.

How to retain this employee: Change the dynamic. When 'normal life ' returns list the days that they definitely need to be at work. Say, Mondays and Fridays, plus any days when they’re meeting clients at the office.

Some will take it up; others will not - so what. The point is you’re offering freedom and flexibility so your staff can make the decision. If the team's performance drops, then assess that with each team member. Work with them to ensure this stays a positive thing for your office.

Above all else

Essentially, nothing beats clear, concise communication on a regular basis. Asking your team what they need or want will keep them satisfied in their work and role.

Employment is an agreement between yourself and your employee. Everyone goes through waves of being motivated and unmotivated. It’s your job to surf the wave with your team and ensure they enjoy the ride throughout their time with you.

You’re not going to keep everyone happy, and some people will go to other jobs. But if you address the needs of your team and create an engaging work environment you’ll likely attract more of the top talent you’re after.

Source:  Mclaren, T.  (28 July 2017). "Retain Your Firm's Accounting Superstars" [Blog Post] Retrieved from:

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An easy reference document covering the whole process from scoping the Job Description for upcoming vacancies, right through to making better job offers than your competitors and sealing the deal, and every step in between.  Written by Accounting firm Partners, HR/People Management professionals within the accounting and bookkeeping sector and drawing on established and emerging best practice in selection techniques in Australasia, the UK and US, you can have access to a wealth of practical recruitment and selection knowledge and links to external expertise and reusable templates whenever you need it.

About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers.

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