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Why Your Accounting Staff Are Leaving

Posted on 24th August 2018 by Parker Bridge

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It’s no secret that some of the most successful accounting businesses invest a significant amount of time and money into attracting and hiring great people. After all, these organisations are only as good as their employees but what about afterwards?

In our experience, what sets the best accounting and finance employers above their competitors is there commitment to keeping employees engaged and happy long after they had joined them. The elation and excitement of joining your team will only last for so long, if certain aspects of your business, workplace or management style are broken, many of your greatest assets will eventually leave for greener pastures. We speak to a lot of candidates on a daily basis and we often ask why they want to leave their current employer. To help you identify whether your business has a serious retention issue, we have compiled the most common answers to give you five reasons why your accounting staff keep leaving, and what you can do about them.

Your Business Has a Poor Workplace Culture

One of the most common reasons why good candidates want to leave their current employment is because there is a significant problem with their workplace’s culture. This issue often stems from three reasons; their relationship with their colleagues, their relationship with their manager, or a combination of both.

Most accounting staff work closely with colleagues from their own team and other parts of their company such as operations, sales or procurement. To encourage a positive affiliation between these business units, you need to foster mutual respect so that a beneficial and synergistic relationship can form. Respect is at the very core of successful collaboration and without it, your company values, policies and processes can be easily undermined.

You may be familiar with the mantra “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.” Whilst we feel this phrase isn’t strictly true (there are many reasons people quit jobs) it still holds some weight. Your team’s relationship with their manager will play a critical role in how engaged they are with their role. If you’re a manager of support staff, make sure you have conversations with your team on your performance as a leader. If you use your one-on-ones with them to focus only on their performance, you can often ignore your own shortcomings and drive people away.

If you’re in a senior leadership position and have other managers report to you, remember to take the time to review their leadership as a performance metric. You should also include their team’s view on this so you can see the bigger picture. We recently wrote a piece on the various different styles of management so that whether you’re a team, department or executive-level Manager, you can ensure you have all the skills needed to be a great leader.

Your Business Doesn’t Offer Enough Room to Grow

Another common reason we see great professionals leave employers is due to a lack of professional or career development. This issue is a particular concern for smaller businesses where this lack of growth is largely down to the current model of the company rather than as an oversight. That said, larger organisations still can struggle to keep employees engaged as stringent role profiles or departmental segregation can stop people from taking on new tasks and responsibilities and learning new skills.

To begin with, smaller businesses can often provide a professional with extra responsibilities as the organisation grows and requires new skills or more resources. However, there will come a time when the business will need to divide and conquer and hire new people to handle the increase in work. When this happens, it’s important to sit down with your employee to see what they would like to do moving forward as they might see returning to their old role as a potential step back in their development.

For larger organisations, sharing responsibilities across roles or even departments isn’t an idea most can entertain. However, ensuring you’re investing in your team’s professional growth through development courses is a great way to guarantee your employees continue to grow whilst in their role. That said, you need to ensure you’re giving your existing staff ample chance to move around. Overlooking loyal employees for professionals outside of your business can quickly cause your staff to become frustrated and willing to look for opportunities elsewhere. You can counter this by ensuring you keep your employees up-to-date on openings within your organisation before you go to market. 

Your Business Lacks Purpose

There’s been a lot of conversation around how certain non-monetary benefits, such as job security or being close to home, are becoming just as important as offering a fair salary to attract great people. Another one those benefits is having a purpose in your work.

We’re seeing more candidates prioritise having a sense of purpose that connects with a bigger picture in their next role. Some people want to make a difference to their communities or society, whilst others simply want their work to matter to something bigger than themselves. Every role has the potential to provide a sense of purpose, employees just need to be made aware of the difference their work makes. As a manager, you can help your team see what impact their work has on either the communities around them or their business and its goals. By connecting your staff to a greater purpose, you can expect them to be more energised at work and truly believe what they do to be worthwhile.

Your Employees Can’t Reach a Comfortable Balance

Whilst we’re on the topic of non-monetary benefits, another highly sought after perk is flexibility. Whether it’s long commuting hours, being too far away from children or family, or a lack of time to pursue hobbies outside of the office, talented professionals are seeking to roles with higher degrees of flexibility to achieve a balance between their life and work.

Flexible working means different things to different organisations but the key here is to avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach. What might work for one employee may be unattractive to the next. Tailoring your work environment to meet an individual’s needs will greatly increase their engagement at work and can also lead to much higher productivity levels. However, you will need to avoid any unfairness. If you provide a four-day workweek to a new parent but reject another employee’s request for the same flexibility, make sure you adequately explain why and the impact accepting such as request would have on your business and team.

Your Employees Leave Due to Personal Reasons

Sometimes, people will leave and there would have been nothing you could have done to sway their decision. Perhaps your most senior Accountant wanted to leave the accounting industry altogether or your Finance Manager started their own perilous journey of starting a business. Either way, the important thing to do in this instance, ensures you properly handle an employee’s resignation to avoid any damage to your culture or reputation.

How You Can Stop Staff Leaving

Although we’ve provided some useful tips to many of the above problems that can cause employees to leave, there is one thing we haven’t discussed that can be a tremendous aid: exit interviews.

With the right approach, exit interviews could be your business’s unheralded advantage and we could dedicate a whole blog on how to get the most out of them. For now, though, check out this guide from Hppy on The Art of the Exit Interview.

Closing Thoughts

Low retention rates and employee engagement can be costly to any business regardless of their size. The key message here is to invest time and money into your retention strategy, really listen to what your staff want and act on their feedback and advice.

A great retention strategy starts with hiring the right people for your organisation, get in touch today to find out how Auckland and Wellington’s most established Accounting & Finance recruitment specialist can help you achieve exactly that.

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