The job market for skilled professionals continues to improve. The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 215,000 jobs had been added in July, and that unemployment remained steady at 5.3 percent. For those workers over 25 years old with a college degree, it was significantly lower: just 2.6 percent.
This is particularly true in the finance and accounting field, where there’s an ongoing shortage of talent. Hiring is heating up, as companies capitalize on growth opportunities and launch new revenue-generating initiatives. That means there’s a lot of competition for the top candidates, and when an accounting or finance employee leaves a company, the hiring manager can find herself facing a tough task: recruiting from an increasingly shallow pool of talented professionals.
And that’s why employee retention is more important than ever these days. Here are some tips to help you keep your top performers on board:
Make sure they have a defined career path. Your top employees are always looking to take the next step in their career. And these days, many companies are working to make sure they do: 63 percent of CFOs in a recent Accountemps survey said they’re promoting top employees to keep them from jumping ship. If you want to retain your best employees, you have to clearly map out their path in the company 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.
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, via resources like Robert Half’s Salary Guide for Accounting & Finance, 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.
Help them maintain work-life balance. In another Accountemps survey, workers were asked which perk they’d put at the top of their wish lists. The top two choices both pointed at a desire for better work-life balance: 35 percent said they’d like more time off, and 17 percent cited a desire for schedule flexibility. If you can, it’s a good idea to consider both perks, as both can improve employee retention. Vacations allow workers to relax and recharge, and they often return to the office with renewed enthusiasm for their jobs. And flexible hours can help workers better balance their jobs with their family, friends and other personal obligations, which can boost employee morale.
Provide professional 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 also improve retention. Why? Firms that pay for professional development show that they care about their workers’ career paths, which can make employees more loyal.
Take time to recognize their achievements. If your company is growing, taking on new clients and projects, you have a lot to celebrate. Make sure your employees know how much you appreciate the work they’ve done to get you here. 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.
What are you doing to improve employee retention? Share in the comments section below.