Last Wednesday whilst on a group coaching call, one of my clients, Martin, asked a question about staff retention.
Just two days earlier, one of his ‘better’ team members had handed in his notice and was leaving to join another practice not too far away.
This was quite hard for Martin. After all, he’d spent lots of time, energy and money over the last 5+ years training this guy up and now he was taking all of that training and using it elsewhere.
I know from personal experience this can feel like a punch in the gut…
And it may not surprise you to know that it isn’t uncommon.
You see, implementing all of this fancy new technology to keep up with the times is great (and also really important), but if you can’t build and retain a team of A+ players to leverage this technology to benefit you and your clients – then it’s all for nothing.
In a time where top talent is in high demand, and there is a shortage of skilled, qualified staff in the accountancy industry, now more than ever we need to focus on increasing staff retention as much as possible.
Here are 9 top-tips for increasing staff retention and creating a desirable practice to work in:
1. Get them to buy into the practice vision
Establishing team buy-in is a challenge most business owners face, and one that can reap huge rewards when done correctly.
The main mistake most practice owners make is creating the vision from the top-down. When this happens, your team are trying to buy into a vision they had no input in creating.
Instead, get your team together and create your practice vision with them. You’ll find that they buy-in much more and probably have a few great ideas you would never have thought of.
2. Create a ‘desirable’ culture
Having a desirable culture will ensure that you only attract and retain the right employees.
If your team dread coming into work every day, then that’s an issue. Creating a desirable culture sustains employee enthusiasm and leads to a happier, more productive workforce.
Think carefully about the values and beliefs your practice stands for, and ensure they are communicated effectively to all your team members. When this is done correctly, you’ll have a hard job getting your team to actually leave work…
3. Hire the right people in the first place
Probably the most obvious answer, right? But it’s one that most people tend to overlook when it comes to retaining key staff members.
If you’ve had a few employees in the past who have used you as a ‘stepping stone’ for something else, then it might be worth tightening up your screening and recruitment process so that you spot these ‘job-hoppers’ early on.
It’s also worth including questions around beliefs and values to ensure they correspond with the practice culture (see above point).
4. Pay above market average
It’s not always easy to pay well when budgets are tight, but more often than not it works out better financially to give your employees a pay rise than to replace them.
Research shows that it can cost over 30% of an entry-level employee’s annual salary to replace them, so a 10-20% salary increase (which is what they’ll get when they jump ship to your competition) actually makes more sense financially.
5. Check in regularly
How often do you speak to your team about how much their enjoying their role and if there’s anything you can do to improve it? Leaving it once a year till their annual appraisal isn’t enough…
Consider creating a rhythm of meetings (weekly, monthly, quarterly) to discuss any issues + areas of development.
You might also consider software such as 15Five. This allows you to check in with your team on a weekly basis and highlights any issues as and when they crop up.
6. Give greater autonomy
In Dan Pinks ‘the surprising truth behind what motivates us’ he suggests that autonomy is one of three key drivers behind people’s motivation. What this means is that giving your employees greater control and freedom to approach their job in a way that suits them.
A few options are; letting them choose which clients/industries they would prefer to work with, or giving them some choice about the direction of a project they’re working on.
7. Don’t micromanage
Following on from giving your team greater autonomy, not micromanaging them is another way of ensuring they stay with you for longer. Although micromanaging makes you feel ‘in control’ it also suggests to your team that you don’t completely trust them, and it limits their capacity to grow.
Instead of insisting that you are cc’d on every email, try managing by exception instead by only looking at significant deviations from the plan.
8. Offer more training
“More training? But Rudi, I already spend so much training them and then they take their qualifications and leave…”.
This is true, but interestingly the more you invest in people, the greater the chance they’ll stay with you long term.
Consider investing in training that isn’t directly related to the technical work they’re doing e.g. communication training, public speaking, leadership training etc. Or even better, ask them directly what training they would like to grow and develop in their role.
9. Be more flexible
Another way to increase your staff retention is to be more flexible with them. By offering flexible working conditions, your employees are more likely to have less issues with staying in the job.
Think about things like letting them leave early to collect kids, introducing ‘flexi-time’ or allowing them to spend so many days a week working remotely from home or elsewhere.
Be one step ahead
There’s no doubting that staff retention is an issue that all businesses face, not just accountants.
However, with all of the external challenges we are now facing in terms of changes in technology, changing perceptions and increasing competition, it’s vitally important that we focus on strengthening our practices internally by building and retaining a A+ team of players.
Because without a great team behind you, you’ll always be one step behind the competition…