How to retain your best staff on a shoestring budget

Every conversation I have with an owner of an accountancy firm always comes around to their current headache of attracting AND keeping good staff. It’s still a war for talent. However, most firms don’t have large budgets put aside for retaining their best people, i.e. avoiding the need to recruit them in the first place! Therefore, how do you invest in your people and their career on a shoestring budget?

1. Commit to a strategy for your firm
Like most people, your staff doesn’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.

A strategy for a firm is the place to start when you are considering what talent you need to hold on to, and what skills are needed within the firm for the short, medium and long-term. Only then can you prioritise the various training needs across the firm.

2. Identify your top talent
If your people budget is tiny, then it needs to be spent on your top performers, or what will make the biggest difference. Therefore, do you know who your top performers in your firm are? Who would you struggle to operate without? Who are the likely candidates to get to partnership in your firm? These are the people who you need to prioritise their development.

3. It’s not about he or she who shouts loudest
Very often it is the people who shout loudest who get developed in a firm. Therefore, avoid this scenario happening by planning how you will spend your small training and development budget on in advance.

4. Get your staff into roles that will play to their strengths
When a person is in a role that plays to their strengths their productivity will soar. Unfortunately in business we often do the exact opposite. We try and fit a person into a role, often regardless of their particular strengths. After all, we tell ourselves that they can always ‘develop’ into the role. When development budgets are tight, the aim is to fit square pegs into square holes and round pegs into round holes. The more the ‘fit’ is forced, the more likelihood that there will be a need to spend more training on getting staff members up to competence.

5. Look at ways of developing your staff on the job
The most cost effective way of developing someone is with on-the-job learning. Not sending them onto a workshop or training course. Of course, if you are going to heavily focus your staff development onto on-the-job learning, you need to make sure your staff knows 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.

6. Regularly talk to your staff
In the last few months I have seen a few firms lose good people because they hadn’t been communicating to them effectively. This was everything from staff leaving because they didn’t know what was happening with the big change project, through to staff feeling undervalued because of a lack of management time. If you want to retain your best staff, they need a regular dialogue with their line manager. In this dialogue, you want to be finding out:
• How are they?
• How they are performing against objectives?
• How their development plan is going?

7. Make sure all your staff have a personalised development plan
Most of us are developing on the job every day. However, very often we don’t realise this, as we don’t take the time to reflect and extract the value from what we have been doing. Therefore, by making sure that each of your members of staff has a personalised development plan, they can track how they are developing and progressing.

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Posted in For Accountancy Practices.