How to retain your best staff even if your firm is cash strapped

Would your life as a practice owner be much easier if you could retain your best staff?

Listen into any conversation with accountancy firm owners at the moment and it will always turn to their woes in retaining their best staff. Yes, there is a huge shortage of decent accountancy talent at the moment. But, with a few tweaks to how you are working, it can be much easier to retain your best staff.

It all starts with you.

Accountants like to know that they are valued and appreciated. That’s no different to any other type of person. But the biggest factor in whether they stay in your firm is you and how they treat them. It’s slightly harsh for me to say this, but you get the staff you deserve. Treat them badly, then don’t be surprised if they up sticks and leave for a better offer somewhere else. People never leave a company, they leave a manager.

As well as treating your staff well, it’s important to regularly talk to your staff. Your staff will leave if you don’t communicate to them effectively. This could be staff leaving because they don’t know what is happening with a big change project, through to staff feeling undervalued because of a lack of management time. This communication should also be 2-way. It’s needs to find out how they are feeling, what’s going on for them in their world, as well as input from you about how the firm is doing.

It isn’t always about how much you pay your staff

Of course, it’s impossible to compete with the salaries the big boys are able to offer their staff. However, whilst salary is often a contributory factor in why people leave, it’s never normally the main reason for someone to leave. Despite what many people think, if your staff feel that they are getting a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, then their salary will never be a motivating factor for them to leave. If you are developing your staff at a pace they are comfortable with, providing them with a nice work environment and treating them well, you will be less vulnerable to staff leaving.

Invest in the latest technology

These days technology is enabling us to do tasks in minutes or hours that used to take days. We are not just talking about using Xero here. But what add-one can your firm invest in to make your staff life’s easy? For example Fluidly, Spotlight Reporting for Futrli to

Release the pressure on your staff

We are all human and there is only so much stress we can take at work. Whether this is because there is too much workload for the team to complete. Or the workload is the type of ticking, bashing, cross-checking that we didn’t sign up to do for ever more. At some point your staff may decide to quit because they didn’t sign up for the constant level of stress or the continual grind of compliance work. Outsourcing is a great way of relieving the pressure on your staff, but also freeing them up to do the work they enjoy, such as talking with clients.

Commit to a strategy for your firm

Like most people your staff don’t have a crystal ball. They want to know what the future looks like at your firm, and then how their career will fit in with that. If you don’t have this transparency about your firm’s future strategy, then it will lead to your best people leaving for other firms where they can see how their career will develop. If you are finding that you just don’t seem to have time to get around to setting a strategy for your firm, is it time to consider what you can delegate to free up your time? If your staff are maxed out too, how about considering outsourcing your year end accounts or bookkeeping to give everyone that bit of breathing space?

Look at ways of developing your staff on the job

When we think about developing our staff, we often firstly consider sending them on a workshop or training course. When you are cash-strapped, this can be a prohibitively expensive option. The good news is the most cost effective way of developing someone is with on-the-job learning. In fact, sending them onto a workshop or training course is often a very inefficient way of developing a staff member. Of course, if you are going to heavily focus your staff development onto on-the-job learning, you need to make sure your staff know that their development is coming from on-the-job learning. As well as signposting that you are doing it, allow adequate time for staff to review what they are learning.

In conclusion

Retaining your staff all starts with you. Treat them well, pay them a fair day’s pay, communicate regularly, develop them to their pace, and show them how they fit into your firm’s future plans, and you will easily retain your best members of staff.

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