Preparing your accounting firm for the great resignation

Preparing your accounting firm for the great resignation

Nearly 4 million employees in the United States quit their jobs in July, according to a 2021 release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This trend of widespread job exits was dubbed “The Great Resignation” in May 2021 by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University. In a Bloomberg interview, Klotz warned that, “the many pandemic-related epiphanies—about family time, remote work, commuting, passion projects, life and death … [are making] people turn their back on the 9-to-5 office grind.”

While many are skeptical of such an exaggerative term, the data certainly supports Klotz’s foreboding. Following COVID-19, many employees are resigning from their jobs and pursuing alternative options for their careers. The Monster Job Index shows that 95% of employees are thinking about changing their jobs in the near future.

As we all adjust to a post-COVID world, I believe there are many proactive measures that we can take in our firms to attract and retain high-quality staff, even as many businesses grapple with an influx of resignation letters from their employees.

Provide hybrid or remote work options

Amid all of the negative aspects of 2020, Pew Research noted that 33% of Americans appreciated being able to spend more time with their spouse, children, and other family members. As pandemic restrictions ease up in many areas throughout the United States, many employees are taking action on a renewed perspective regarding their work, their relationships, and the balance between the two.

Having experienced the flexibility of remote work during the pandemic, many employees are demanding it become part of their company’s “new normal.” Companies like Apple and Twitter have introduced hybrid work schedules, while Spotify is implementing a “remote-forever” policy. In 2020, my firm switched to a hybrid work model, which offered us more flexibility and an improved work-life balance for my team and me. I’d recommend asking your staff whether they’d prefer a hybrid, remote, or flextime schedule. Then, as you move to a remote or hybrid work model, make sure you:

  • Use Slack or similar apps for urgent communications and emails for non-urgent ones.
  • Share knowledge using a set of standard operating procedures or company wiki.
  • Learn how to hire for fit and train for skills. Good character often supersedes skills.

Empower your employees with skills

More than ever, employees are pursuing the “Be Your Own Boss” concept, and starting their own businesses or becoming freelancers. This is hardly surprising, given the abundance of innovative technology available today. Further, a 2019 Deloitte survey found that millennials and generation Z members are driven by a strong desire to have a flexible schedule and impact their world in a meaningful way. If companies are not providing employees with a sense of purpose or impact on the world, there is a big possibility that they will turn to greener pastures.

Part of providing employees with purpose involves upskilling, a term referring to the continual development of one’s skills and abilities, particularly within the labor market. In PwC’s 2021 Hopes & Fears survey, 77% of PwC’s employees stated they want to acquire new skills. Whether you’re looking to fill new positions or simply avoid losing employees to better opportunities, it’s critical that you provide growth opportunities for your staff. As we enter into an era of increased automation, your staff will appreciate learning new skills that help them adapt and succeed. Remember, staff development isn’t an expense: it’s an investment in your firm’s capabilities and long-term growth.

Align staff roles with your firm’s vision

A 2020 Gallup report revealed that 51% of employees are disengaged in the workplace. It can be easy to view employee engagement as a hyped-up buzzword, but research shows that companies can lose between $450-$550 billion a year because of employee disengagement. One of the first signs that a staff member is considering a fast job exit is a lack of interest and engagement. Part of remedying a lack of engagement in your staff is to align their professional goals with your firm’s growth vision.

Aligning your staff’s personal expectations with your vision for your firm sounds intimidating, but it can be quite simple in practice. For example, in 1-on-1 reviews with employees, ask about their “big picture” for their life, preferred management style, and workplace expectations. Understanding their answers to these questions will provide you with valuable insights that can transform your firm into a workplace they’ll never want to leave. It’s also important to create a sense of safety within your firm by being truthful and transparent with your staff.

Growing requires humane leadership

The pace of disruption and innovation in our world was accelerated by the pandemic, and it’s vital that accounting professionals and leaders adjust accordingly. As our ideas about work and the workplace continue to be challenged and changed, leading our employees with compassion and humanity will prove more important than ever before. It may be the difference between losing or keeping top-performers who can push your firm toward unprecedented success.