Staff turnover, it could be your fault
"I invest a lot of time training them in the systems we use, I provide great practical experience for their career, yet they leave?"
Have you ever heard the above quote from a colleague or have you ever said the above yourself? if you have, you're not alone.
Recently I attended a few accounting software conferences in the U.K and U.S and was surprised by the number of accountants who told me that they had suffered a degree of staff turnover within the last 12 months from their younger new hires.
A common reason given by these new hires was 'career progression'. I found this interesting as in the accounting industry (within firms), there is a strong correlation between experience (which is reflected in the number of years you have been working within a firm or a particular role) and the ability to progress up the ranks. If an employee leaves your firm within the first 12-18 months to join another firm, where experience will still be required to move up the ranks for future promotions, it can still take a considerable amount of time to 'progress' to the next stage within the new firm. Surely then 'career progression' may not be the actual reason, unless 'Career progression' means different things to different people. I want to try offer insights in to what small/mid size accounting firms can do to motivate, develop and retain their staff members.
First, lets see some ICAEW salary stats
These stats show some interesting findings, first of all, 'Career progression' is the number 1 reason why employees leave their current employers followed by 'Increase in salary'.
It also shows that 33% of respondents were likely to move away from their current roles, of which 20% were 'currently looking'.
Accountants between the ages of 30-45 ranked highest as the cohort most likely / looking to move followed by accountants under 30.
This is in line with my hypothesis of new hires, typically between the ages of 18-35 may have a different definition of 'career progression' vs employees who have been in a firm for a long period of time. I fundamentally believe, the feeling of not 'progressing' in your career isn't necessarily down to gaining a promotion, its largely down to self-development and what you want to learn and the feeling of joy when gaining ground against a 'goals' you have set.
So what can accounting firms do today to keep some of their new hires? below are some ideas which some successful firms in the UK deploy and what I've seen work when managing new hires who are relatively new to the accounting industry.
Regular chats with all your employees- be honest, when was the last time you had regular one to one meetings with your employees in your firm? if you're not talking to them, how can you possibly understand what they want, how they feel and build that trust which is crucial to making your employees feel like one team.
Goal setting - This is key for an employee to understand how they're progressing in their role and against where they want to be. This allows you to showcase your values by potentially supporting them with time off', funding their education or even teaching them topics on areas they need help in for their studies in order to help them reach their goals
Environment - The environment in your firm is crucial for the general happiness of each employee and the feeling of making progress against a task/project/job is also key. As a product manager, I have daily stand-ups with my teams. This consists of developers, designers, content writers and customer care leads who all give up 15mins of their mornings to listen, participate, exchange ideas and most importantly, feel a sense of achievement and progress against our common goal. I highly recommend using this practice in your firm first thing in the morning and stand around your practice mgt software or that bloody white board all accounting firms tends to have. Each employee shares what they have completed since yesterday, what they're working on and if they're experiencing any challenges and need help. This will help everyone in your firm align towards the common goals and promotes closeness within your team. Daily stand up tips
Provide development opportunities - This point is important as this is seen as an investment in your employees development whilst the ROI can be substantial for your firm. I have lost count of the happy faces I've seen of accountants holding up their software certificates and then posting this image on twitter. This sense of achievement by your employees feels that they're progressing towards their goal whilst also allowing them to become more attractive in the job market by becoming a certified QuickBooks specialist, it will be seen as an investment in their development whilst you now have an employee who can utilise software with your clients. Software certification for accountants
Its 2017, not 1817 - I'm going to be honest here, I have lost count of the number of firms I have visited where the office space, software, carpet color and the general vibe of the place feels like it belongs in the past century. I remember visiting a firm where Excel was still the primary software of choice and they still used time sheets with 15min increments to bill clients (for real). This was a firm of just 12 employees. In all of this, was a new hire who had just completed his AAT level 4 typing away on excel. He himself had an iPhone and an Apple watch (I notice these things working in product - sad I know!) but was being made to step back in time and forced to use an old windows desktop supporting windows 95 and Excel for his accounts. What do you think was going through his mind when he came in to work?, did he feel inspired to do his best work? does he genuinely feel this firm is going places? i'm not so sure. Invest in your business tools and your employees will feel like they belong to a firm which is going places and is innovative.