Retaining Accounting Talent: How To Make Your Team Stay

November 4, 2020 Theresa Rex

If you're struggling with the all-too-common challenge of retaining accounting talent, there's at least a little reassurance in knowing you're far from the only one. The accounting field has a churn rate that's ten times the average when compared to other industries across the job market as a whole.

Why is employee turnover in accounting so high? Why is it getting harder to fill the vacancies that disengaged employees leave when they move on? And how can CFOs, controllers, and finance VPs get off the staffing escalator for good with a team that's in it for the long haul? It's easier than you think – as long as you have the right strategy.

Retaining Accounting Talent: How To Stop Changing Accountants

Finding and keeping talent consistently ranks high on any finance leader's list of priorities. Recent research from Deloitte found – yet again – that among internal concerns, sourcing and retaining skilled accountants was top-of-mind, with over half of CFOs surveyed indicating that they planned to hire more accounting professionals than they let go, with nearly 75 percent saying that they planned to focus primarily on highly skilled talent in that regard.

More: 2020 Finance & Accounting Talent Market Outlook [REPORT]

There's a reason that this topic reemerges each year. The talent required to handle high-level, strategic accounting is getting harder to find, expensive to hire and difficult to retain. Managing churn like this doesn't have to be inevitable. There are steps that leadership can take to ensure that their hard-won talent won't move on shortly after coming aboard.

It's Never Too Late To Get To Know Your Team

It's important to understand that the problem of employee turnover tends to be systemic. As with all systemic problems, remedy relies on discovery – you need to understand why your employees disengage to rectify the issue. The best way to do that?

Ask them.

There is no seminar, gimmick or magic bullet that will allow leaders to circumvent this process. Trust falls, ping-pong tables and casual Fridays can't keep your employees from leaving if they're truly dissatisfied because none of those things get to the root of the problem.

If the length of your monthly close is keeping your top talent from enjoying a fulfilling work-life balance, or your all-hands-on-deck approach to managing staff shortages prohibits role clarity, all the free snacks in the world won't get team members to stay. Don't guess what your employees want – know for sure.

By soliciting feedback without strings attached, you'll discover what your team wants and it will become clear whether or not you're already offering it. Does your team feel burned out? Underpaid? Stagnant?

More: Why We Invest So Heavily In The People We Hire – And Why You Should, Too

All of these are leading factors in whether or not an employee is engaged or not, and that makes them very important. Engaged employees are invested – they don't have one foot out the door.

Keep Everyone On The Same Page

Fostering unity within a company is never a bad idea, but when it comes to retaining accounting talent, it's vital to get everyone on the same page. Outline your goals for finance clearly, and make sure your team understands what role they have to play in those goals. Since you will have already gathered important information from your team, you'll know where your team's pain points are – something you can factor into the plan you make to curb churn – it will become much easier to solve your own.

Likely, you will have found that it's beyond time to draw a hard line between accounting and bookkeeping. The fact that salaries in the accountancy field are on the rise coupled with the need for accountants themselves to have an ever-growing skillset in data and technology, fewer finance departments are served well when these professionals are tasked with repetitive bookkeeping rework. It's a waste of money and talent.

More: The Difference Between Bookkeeping and Accounting (And Why It Matters)

Consider eliminating such drudgery from your team's workload where you can, and then gather input on where talent gaps lie – would you benefit from hiring an entry-level professional to manage lower-level procure-to-pay or record-to-report tasks in accounts receivable or payable? Would your team be more effective if they didn't have to manage payroll on top of data-based forecasting?

Perhaps your team is frustrated by an overabundance of institutional knowledge that muddies processes that would otherwise be straightforward. It's a common problem in accounting departments, and capturing it with universal, documented procedures will alleviate bottlenecks and get everyone on the same page.

Understand How Burnout Causes Turnover In Accounting

We've chosen to focus on the drudgery of highly manual tasks and the pervasive issue of institutional knowledge for a reason: both contribute directly to burnout in the accounting department. Addressing them directly will ensure that more of your accounting talent sticks around, because burnout, more than anything else, is what causes accounting talent to seek greener pastures.

More and more, employees disengage when they're subject to a bleak combination of feeling overworked and unfulfilled. It takes a lot of work to secure certification and education – when the path leading away from that work feels like a dead end, that's disappointing and frustrating. As more organizations allow employees to work virtually, there's even less reason to stay in a role that feels stagnant. Now, workers can work for an exciting startup across the country from anywhere – they'll follow the promise of roles that allow them to explore their full potential. Why stay in a position that requires extra hours of boring drudgery for little mobility if a better opportunity is just around the corner?

More: Meet Gen Z: How To Lead The Next Generation Of Workers

Of course, few leaders subject their teams to burnout out of apathy or malice. More likely, they're contending with a self-sustaining feedback loop. As accountants leave, the remaining team must pick up the slack until a replacement is found, and by the time that finally happens, the rest of the staff is at the end of their tether.

Preventing burnout is key to keeping accountants on staff but figuring out how to get – and keep – accounting talent engaged isn't always easy. So, how can leaders get to that point when they're in the middle of a churn-and-burn talent retention loop?

Motivate Your Accounting Team By Letting Them Do What They're Best At

Exiting the cycle often means calling in reinforcements. For many finance leaders, that can be achieved by forging a partnership with a reputable finance and accounting outsourcing provider. Bringing a third party with access to affordable talent that's already "on deck" and waiting to be seamlessly integrated into your in-house team allows CFOs and controllers to "short-circuit" the loop and get off the escalator for good.

With your team's input and a clear picture of talent and skills gap that have allowed for burnout to take root in your finance department, you can work with an outsourcer that has the advantage of not needing to source talent from an expensive and narrowing onshore pool. They'll be able to find the resource or resources you need and slot them into those gaps.

When you partner with a provider that can outline a provably effective knowledge transfer and onboarding phase, you'll enjoy the added benefit of institutional knowledge capture and universal documentation. This allows for a two-pronged approach to alleviating burnout on your own staff, ensuring that you retain accounting talent for longer and they can focus on doing what they do best, faster.

More: Top 79 Questions To Ask When Selecting A Potential Outsourced Accounting Provider

Personiv has been helping leaders like you get to that point for over 35 years. When it comes to finance and accounting outsourcing, we operate without expensive minimum hire requirements for our offshore teams of accounting talent. This allows you to fill skills gaps with as few as a single accounts payable specialist or payroll specialist – and scale your offshore solution up from there with a solution that works with you at a significant cost-savings.

Visit our pricing page to see the cost savings you can expect to enjoy with a team sized precisely to your needs, then get in touch with one of our outsourcing experts to start retaining your hard-won accounting talent for good.

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