“This article was originally featured on the CPAsNET website”
Employee retention is something every accounting firm faces, and is critical to firms that are focused on succession. While every person in a CPA firm may not be partner material, they all play a role in the firm’s long-term success. No matter what, talent retention should be top of mind for every firm.
Many partners think retention hinges on a complicated formula of activities, but the primary reason employees leave a firm is the quality of relationship with their direct supervisors. Oftentimes, the combination of experiences with partners, directors and managers is the major influence, since most firms have multiple people managing engagements with staff.
Beyond the relationships between managers and staff, understanding what keeps key players at your firm and what they want and need to grow, is going to weatherproof retention. For many employees, learning and development are key drivers for retention and engagement. For others, it’s workplace flexibility. Identifying what keeps talent at your firm and addressing their wish lists and tools for success will give you a winning formula. So, where should you start?
- Stay Conversations: Stay conversations are the pinnacle of building relationships with employees. They reinforce your relationships by forging new connections and repairing broken bonds. They also help you understand what an employee wants and needs, and what keeps them at your firm. They work because they’re focused entirely on the employee. These conversations should be happening at least once per year with each employee.
- Hindsight Conversations: Creating engagement requires awareness about an employees’ drivers of engagement. Approximately 3-4 times per year, firms should try to understand what is driving engagement for each employee through a series of simple questions. These questions might cover what was most satisfying about their work, whether or not they felt stretched, and what causes them to become disengaged.
- Feedback Conversations: All people, but especially great people, move on when their appetite for feedback is no longer being satiated. Feedback isn’t just about review points for direct work. Feedback also needs to be focused on the bigger picture. What is the employee good at doing? What strengths do they bring to the table? How are they accomplishing their goals from your perspective and others? All humans take their cues from their successes or failures. In the absence of feedback, assumptions can be made from a solitary and subjective point of view, and that can be dangerous.
While these conversations won’t guarantee an employee will stay with you forever, they will significantly increase the likelihood of retention. You’ll still lose employees to uncontrollable events, however, building meaningful relationships with employees will retain a majority of them.