Employee Retention Strategies for Busy Season

Professional staffing firms are predicting that 2006 will the best year since 2000 for job seekers, especially in high-paying fields like financial services, and many employers are looking for strategies to keep their best workers. Neil Lebovits, president and chief operating officer of Ajilon Professional Staffing in Saddle Brook, NJ says in a report in The Seattle Times “The voluntary quit rate – employees leaving jobs without being fired, laid off or otherwise forced out – will emerge prominently in 2006.”

How do accounting firms which have long been focused on employee retention, particularly during the grueling busy season, manage this increased pressure? Managers and staff who in previous years had looked forward to the late night take out and the stimulating exchange of technical knowledge with team members at all levels, may be experiencing pressures from home, or may just be looking for new challenges, and compensation strategies may not be enough.

Finding new challenges for professionals within the firm can be a mutually beneficial strategy, Lebovits says.

Instilling a morale-minded attitude in managers, who can communicate goals and for whom people like to work is one of the key elements of her company’s employee retention strategy, says Marcie Brogan, managing partner at Brogan Associates, a marketing firm, in a Christian Science Monitor report. And nonmonetary incentives can motivate, as well as help, to develop loyalty.

“All things being equal, you can attract, retain, and motivate the best and the brightest by recognizing that what motivates me might not motivate you," says John Putzier, author of “Get Weird”, a book about creative personnel practices, according to the Monitor. “And most of those things aren’t necessarily financial, they are “What’s it like to work here day-to-day?”

Putzier recommends that employers strike a “mutually beneficial deal with each employee within the framework of a broad policy that gives them “time to live.”

“For young people, it might be looking at flexible hours in order to have long weekends; for others it might be flexible arrangements that allow for the care of aging adults; and for others it might be child care," says John Peoples, managing partner at Global Lead Management Consulting in Baltimore, in the Monitor report.

The individual agreements Putzier recommends should not leave out the needs of employers, other personnel consultants emphasize, and for accounting firms the busy season is one of those needs.

Once an employee feel adequately compensated, says Donna Oldenburg in the Monitor, former publisher of Incentive magazine, tangible rewards, like a watch or a radio, encourage people to go for their goals.

Setting measurable goals for employees can help with retention when employees can see how their contributions contribute to the success of the team and the business, Paul J. Savardi says, writing for Entreprenuer.com. Managers should point out the ways an individual’s workplace contributions are having an impact.

Savardi says that managers should also emphasize their firm’s competitive advantage, and emphasize what is it that sets them apart from the competition and makes them unique. “People want to work with a winner,” he says in Entrepreneur.com .

Troubled BearingPoint, Inc. which has been struggling with legal and accounting problems, has adopted a bold compensation strategy to in order to keep staff, tmcnet.com reports. The consulting firm has lost over 25 percent of its employees in the past year, and is trying a compensation strategy that includes restricted stock awards and a revised system of bonuses. The new bonus system rewards employees based on performance and not on billable hours as in the past. So far, the results are mixed, the tmcnet report says.

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