The job market for skilled professionals continues to improve, with low unemployment rates and jobs added every month. But with the bullish outlook for accounting and finance professionals comes increased competition for hiring managers and an added emphasis on improving staff retention.
In the finance and accounting field, there's a particular demand for skilled talent, so when top performers leave, employers and hiring managers can find themselves facing the tough task of recruiting replacements.
That’s why improving staff retention is more important than ever these days. Here are some tips to help you keep the talented members of your team on board — and happy, too:
1. Promote time away from work
When workers in an Accountemps survey were asked what perk they’d put at the top of their wish lists, their top two choices pointed at a desire for better work-life balance: 17 percent cited a desire for schedule flexibility, and 35 percent said they’d like more time off.
Vacations allow workers time to relax and recharge, and they often return to the office with renewed enthusiasm for their jobs. Flexible hours can help workers better balance their jobs with their family, friends and other personal obligations, which can boost workplace morale.
It turns out that many employees often don't take off all the time they're given, saying they're too busy, according to a study by time-tracking company TSheets. Still, more than 60 percent of the respondents said they'd turn down a job offer without PTO, and one in three workers said they'd be happier if they had more more time off.
Employers and managers, you can set an example by protecting your downtime and encouraging your staff to follow your lead.
2. Help them define their career paths
Another tip for improving staff retention? Your top employees are always looking to take the next step in their career, and you can work to make sure they do. Sixty-three percent of CFOs in an Accountemps survey said they promote top employees to keep them from jumping ship. If you want to retain your best employees, you have to provide your employees a clear career path and communicate that path to them. Better yet, work with them to define their long-term objectives, and provide them with challenging assignments and skill-building opportunities that will help them reach their goals.
3. Offer competitive compensation
If your top performers think they can get a better salary somewhere else, they’ll probably start looking around for a new job. That’s why it’s a good idea to periodically evaluate your compensation package to ensure it’s in line with other firms in your industry and region. If at all possible, try to pay a little bit more than the average: In the previously mentioned Accountemps survey, 52 percent of CFOs said they are raising salaries to keep their best employees on board.
You can find your best salary references with Robert Half's Salary Guide for Accounting & Finance, which provides salary data for more than 400 positions and an overview of the hiring environment.
4. Appreciate your employees
When it comes to happiness, what's even more important than compensation is praise. According to Robert Half research, accounting and finance professionals report the lowest levels of work-life balance, but their biggest driver of happiness is feeling appreciated for their work. Managers who show sincerity, specificity and timeliness with their expressions of gratitude are more likely to keep their employees from leaving their jobs.
If your company is growing, taking on new clients and projects, you have a lot to celebrate. Make sure you are constantly improving your employee appreciation efforts. When your team hits a major milestone, consider scheduling a lunch or another get-together outside the office, or provide your staff with an afternoon off. Alternately, applaud a major success with spot cash bonuses, movie tickets or gift cards to the local coffeehouse. But don’t forget that a heartfelt thank-you note is sometimes the most meaningful recognition you can provide.
Download the free report, IT'S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.®, and access free resources, including a quiz, infographic, testimonials and videos.
5. Provide development opportunities
Of course, providing company-subsidized training to your top performers can help them develop or refine their skills, which in turn can help increase productivity and innovation in the workplace. But it can help you with improving staff retention. Why? Firms that pay for professional development show they care about their workers’ career paths, which can make them more loyal.
6. Enlist the help of a trusted adviser
Keep in mind that an increasing number of skilled professionals are working on a temporary basis, and bringing in interim help could give your team a much-needed break — or a boost that shows you care about your staff's happiness.
Sourcing temporary accounting professionals through a staffing firm can save you time and hassle. The staffing firm will evaluate each candidate's work history, meet the person for a face-to-face interview, conduct skills evaluations and perform select reference checks. The agency also will handle the administrative details of hiring a temporary worker, such as verifying the professional's employment eligibility and processing payroll.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2015, and was updated recently to reflect the latest information.