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9 Tips to Decrease Employee Attrition and Increase Staff Morale

9 Tips to Decrease Employee Attrition and Increase Staff Morale

Sep 23, 2020 | By Isaac O'Bannon | 0 Comments

Topics: Employee Morale, Staff Management, Featured

Accounting is a rewarding career for many, but it can also be demanding. This is especially true when you consider the constant state of change in taxes and business operations due to the ongoing pandemic. There are also the demands associated with merging business and professional lives as more staff work from home.

With recession fears, staff attrition may currently be lower than normal, but it still occurs.  Workers will always look to other firms for advancement in roles, higher compensation, or greater work flexibility. As the nation and accounting profession emerges (eventually) into a new, more-mobile business environment, more workers may continue working at home either permanently or periodically. But minimizing staff attrition will always be a focal point, particularly when it comes to retaining highly-skilled younger professionals.

9 Tips to Minimize Staff Attrition and Improve Staff Morale

Most firms have already reinvented their workflows to match the needs of the current climate, but it won’t be necessary to reinvent these traditional staff retention tips.

1. Recognize Successes

When your employees achieve a milestone, give them the praise they deserve. Whether it’s a big thing—like they pushed hard to achieve the best growth in the firm—or smaller client successes, let them know you appreciate their effort by publicly acknowledging it to the firm. (And if it was the greatest firm profit year ever, a bonus might be in order.) You should also recognize special events in the personal lives of your team members.

2. Reduce The Long Days

While accounting firm partners and senior staff may have had to suffer through long days—especially during tax season—as a part of their “induction” into the profession, there are rarely good reasons to expect long days, just for the sake of it. Allowing and encouraging employees to spend time with their families (yes, even during tax season), will help them recharge and remember what they’re working for. 

While you’re at it, reduce meeting times, too. Whether in-person or virtual, long meetings lead to yawns and staff covertly using their mobile devices or working on other monitors.  Keep meetings lively and concentrate on issues that pertain to all of the staff in the meeting. If the issue is limited in importance, then have a separate meeting with only those staff. It may also be useful to encourage those who may have tangential issues to discuss them outside of the meeting. For a quantitative approach, measure the cost of your meetings in terms of the salaries or billable client time that was used.

3. Flex Time

The pandemic may have convinced many managers that flex time really works. So even when things return to whatever the new normal is, continue to embrace flexibility where possible. While your firm’s busiest season may not be the best time for flex time, if the workflow allows it, respect staff by showing that you trust them to get their jobs done—even if they want to take a few hours off to watch their kid’s recital, enjoy a football game, or even catch the perfect waves. 

As long as your employees produce the quality and level of service for your clients that you expect, then your staff deserves flexibility. As always-on professionals, you know (and expect) them to respond to important firm issues while away from the office (on their own time), so you shouldn’t prevent them from attending to occasional personal issues when they are on firm time.

4. Encourage Physical Fitness

Studies show that staff who are healthy can be more productive, feel more energy, and have stronger immune systems. While some staff will be more inclined than others to exercise, be supportive of staff who may want to run or hit the gym during the day, as well as those who may request standing desks. 

Larger firms may offer health club memberships, have “Biggest Loser” contests, or even take part in recreational team sports. Healthier employees may be happier, but don’t allow an atmosphere that belittles those who may not be as motivated to do the next Ironman event. Here’s a suggestion: during the next busy season, provide pedometers and reward those who improve the number of steps they’ve taken each day. 

Please make these activities voluntary and keep personal information private.

5. Feed Them Well

While it may seem simple, many professionals neglect their diets during busy times, whether by missing meals or eating less healthy alternatives. Instead of ordering pizzas, try ordering healthy. Better yet, keep the staff kitchen stocked with healthy options such as quick energy boosters like yogurt, nuts, and fruits. When the time comes to celebrate, however, allow a cheat day and treat the staff to a well-deserved feast.

6. Unlimited PTO?

Unlimited paid time off is a somewhat new trend, but one that firms and companies of all sizes are trying out. Netflix, for example, says it “evaluates staff on performance, not face time,” as long as the employee has a well-established history of excellent performance and respect for the true demands of the firm. After all, high performing employees wouldn’t leave the firm in a bind by disappearing when they are needed, so allowing them to occasionally spend time on sabbatical-like endeavors is essential.

7. Give Them The Right Tools or BYOD

Having severely outdated technologies can hamper the productivity of your staff and the profitability of your firm. While you don’t need to be cutting edge, your core business programs should be usable by your new staff as well as your more seasoned employees.

When it comes to personal devices, let your workers use the ones they are most comfortable with, if possible. This will keep them more productive and less agitated by unfamiliar devices or operating systems.

8. Invest in Training and Hire Within

If you want to retain your staff, keep them valuable to your firm by giving them the knowledge and experience to move up. While it may make them more appealing to head hunters, it can also instill a greater sense of achievement and dedication to the firm. Likewise, when possible, give extra consideration to existing firm staff when filling new or vacant positions.

9. Seek Staff Opinions

While almost all accounting firm partners believe they are approachable and they welcome even constructive criticism from staff, there are times and issues that staff may not be comfortable raising directly. While the smallest firms would have difficulty with total anonymity, mid-sized and larger ones can get much better insight into their staff morale by allowing anonymous feedback.

The Author

Isaac O'Bannon

Isaac M. O’Bannon is the managing editor of CPA Practice Advisor and has been advising accounting and technology firms for 20 years.

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