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Staffing is a big problem in our space right now.  That is no news flash, but I am hearing some staggering numbers as it relates to staff turnover in firms.  I am hearing 10-20% type numbers…compound this with the difficulty of hiring in the first place, and we are in a real pickle as a profession.

Does the accounting profession’s problem have to be yours?

Because the poor guy/gal down the street can’t make heads and tails of their staffing situation doesn’t mean you have to follow his/her same plight.  Who cares if they have a staffing issue; their pain is possibly your gain.  For every suffering business, there is another business eating their lunch.  Sound dire or cutthroat?  I hear too many people buy into what the stats say about them versus determining that they have a say in the matter and realize they are able to steer the ship in another direction.

So all that said, you HAVE to retain your staff.  It will be too late if someone comes in with that dreaded one piece of paper containing their many thanks and cheerful comments outlining the opportunity they have had while at your firm but it’s now time to move on (i.e. letter of resignation).  If they are in your office, and you are on your heels, that’s a horrible place to be.   Lead the conversation and get out in front of, possibly, your most important problem.

Retention of staff boils down to a number of factors – culture, compensation, autonomy, amongst other obvious things – however, I want to hone in on the flexibility of working remotely as a key differentiator for your firm.  I guarantee, everyone on the planet values mobility to a degree – the ability to come and go as they please.  While I am not advocating for carte blanche willy-nilly schedules, I am arguing that adults can indeed be treated as such and can meet and exceed the goals you have set for them so long as they are S.M.A.R.T., and you have buy-in.  So letting someone go remote 10-100% of the time is a vote of confidence in that person’s ability.  In addition, all of the people that fit the category of high performers are also prime targets to get poached, so why not get in front of it?

Let this be said, working remotely is a benefit, not a right of employees.  That also needs to be understood by the culture.

Questions to ask yourself if you are wondering if remote can be a key tactic:
  • Do you live in a large metro area?
  • What % of your staff commutes 60 minutes or more a day (total commute)?
  • Are you unable to find talent in your local market and possibly need to tap other markets for qualified people?
  • What % of your staff continually meets or exceeds their goals?

*There are no pure yes/no/points decision metrics on whether or not your firm should enable people to go remote, so the above questions are for pure brainstorming…run with them how you’d like.

Interesting things to try:
  • Map out your staff’s home addresses on Google Maps and overlay that with local CPA firms you would view as competitors.
  • Do a pilot and select two employees to go remote (full or part-time), and for the benefit of doing so, they need to hone in on some tips, tricks, aspects of the culture that need to improve, etc…they have to come up with their findings and do a presentation in front of the firm on what is working and what is not.  The presentation has to be done 100 days after the pilot starts.  Non-negotiable.
  • Every person who goes remote (full or part-time) has to get it approved every quarter where they invite their boss to an in-person meeting to ensure it’s working.
  • List out the 10% of your staff that you can absolutely not lose (yes life goes on if these people leave, but you get my point) and then list three things of each of them values outside of money…work out a plan to address these values.

Remote series items

Roy Keely
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Roy Keely is the VP of Market Strategy at XcentricRead more...

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