Retaining Accountants in the Era of High Turnover

These days, a great accountant is worth their weight in gold, especially if that accountant sticks around for more than a couple of years.

With unemployment for financial managers at just 2.6 percent for the fourth quarter of 2018, it’s not surprising that, according to Deloitte’s latest survey of CFOs, not having enough good people in tops their list of internal risks.

On the public side, accounting firms are struggling with retention, with turnover as high as 20 percent, according to the latest Inside Public Accounting annual survey. Given the proliferation of industry-specific job sites and LinkedIn, it’s easier than ever for employees to seek green pastures.

Engaged employees stay longer

Employee engagement has been a buzzword in HR circles for years. A 2012 meta-analysis by Gallup of more than a million employees found that highly-engaged organizations have a lower overall turnover rate. Additionally, companies “…scoring in the top half on employee engagement nearly double their odds of success compared with those in the bottom half…” of a series of nine performance measures, including profitability and employee retention.

So if engagement is the secret sauce to retaining talent, what’s the best way to do it?
According to Jamie Notter, author of “The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement,” we’ve been thinking about engagement incorrectly for the last 20 years. How? We’ve been confusing engagement with making employees happy. As Notter discussed in an interview, a better definition of engagement is “…a level of emotional commitment or connection that you get when you can be successful.”

“The fundamental reason that employees are disengaged is that we’re getting in the way of them being successful,” he said. While it may be well-intentioned to try to make employees happy, a foosball table won’t help them be successful in their work or in their lives. Instead, Notter suggests giving employees the tools they need to be successful. “When [employees] are in an environment where they can be deeply successful, then they are completely engaged.”

Now, what are some tools that can help accountants be deeply successful?

A clear path forward

No one likes a dead-end job. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Why Perks No Longer Cut It for Workers, makes the case that grooming employees for internal promotion makes great business sense. It also gives the company an edge in attracting the best people. Showing new hires what it takes to get to the next level demonstrates a commitment to their success. But that’s often easier said than done.

Here’s a thought: Use close management software to give everyone on your accounting team visibility into the entire financial close process. Then map out for new hires what accounts and processes they’ll need to own before they’ll be considered for a promotion.

Learning opportunities

Offering employees avenues to improve or add new skill-sets conveys a dedication to employees’ best interests. Offering continued learning initiatives in the form of access to e-learning sites or certification classes can keep employees engaged while also benefiting the organization.

For example, new skills in data analytics will be required for finance teams of the future, as discussed in a report from the CGMA and AICPA. In a survey of nearly 500 senior finance professionals at large companies across North America, 42 percent reported that the lack of this skill was an obstacle to transforming finance teams for the future. The good news is that the AICPA has created a 5-part of Data Analytics Certificate Program. Consider budgeting for your top talent to enroll in programs such as this one. Not only can your staff earn CPE, but they also learn skills that they can put to use on your team to create value for the organization.

The right tools

Using the latest software isn’t just about increasing productivity anymore — It also has a significant impact on hiring and retention. According to a 2018 study by Harvard Business Review, “Fifty-five percent of respondents said that their company’s workplace tech — the digital apps and platforms employees use to do their jobs — factor into decisions by applications to accept job offers — or not.” A further 51 percent said that “…outdated and inadequate technology impacts their ability to retain skilled workers.”

We built FloQast to help accounting teams remove bottlenecks, improve transparency, and automate the boring work so employees can spend time on more strategic initiatives. An easy-to-use dashboard improves visibility and makes collaboration a cinch. By automating the tedious manual and error-prone processes for reconciliation, we make it easier for accountants to do the important work that makes a difference for the whole company.

FloQast helped WP Engine cut their close in half.