How to Minimize the Pain of Accounting Team Turnover

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I’ve had three jobs in my public accounting career and though they were at very different firms, the one thing I feared more than anything else was that one of my senior accountants would quit and I’d be left to pick up the pieces.

Why was I so afraid of losing one of my staff? Because so much effort had been invested in training each of my team members on the individual details of every client engagement, the unique processes around those engagements, and how to handle all of the various, delicate client relationships.

Transferring that knowledge is a big task, especially when you’re running a Client Accounting Services (CAS) team, also known as outsourced accounting, in which each employee may be responsible for dozens of engagements.  In short, turnover is a huge pain.

And with a looming global talent shortage, expect retention to become a bigger and bigger problem for small and medium sized teams, too. We can do our best to make our employees happy at work, but no matter what we do, the competitive labor market will make turnover inevitable.

Sometimes the best we can do is damage control. In that spirit, here are three ways to minimize the pain of accounting team turnover.

1. Build Slack Into Your Staffing Model

I blame the time sheet and hourly billing for many of the problems in public accounting today. When you view an employee as a bundle of 2,000 or so hours per year, it’s all too easy to load them up with billable hours to the point that they have no free time to do anything but billable work.

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About Blake Oliver

Blake Oliver

Blake is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at FloQast, which develops close management software created by accountants for accountants to close their books faster and more accurately.


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Jun 8th 2018 19:45

These are excellent point Blake. Unfortunately, the trend I have seen is taking businesses in the opposite direction from your point #1. I recently worked for an organization where accounting staff were asked to complete a survey outlining their daily/weekly/monthly tasks. The implication was that employees who had "unaccounted for" time, aka slack or buffer time, were in need of more tasks. Buffer time or slack, is to be avoided at all costs in today's business mindset. It's a dehumanizing disgrace. I've warned my younger family members to avoid accounting and finance careers at all costs.

Thanks (2)
to catcity13
Jun 11th 2018 21:38

That's a terrible business practice! We can't look at accountants the same way we do factory workers. Knowledge work is fundamentally different, and that's why timesheet-based management systems fail so miserably.

Thanks (1)
to Blake Oliver
Jun 13th 2018 16:27

I agree Blake. I think part of this business practice stems from the fact that nowadays, accountants are increasingly performing tasks which will be completely automated in the future. For example, the finance department is quite often responsible for processing huge volumes of data. Accountants specialize in using tools like Access and Excel, and we automate as much as we can. In my experience, this leads to a scenario where the people performing such tasks are treated as if they are part human/part machine hybrids. The rise of "open office" concepts is also evidence of this trend.

Thanks (1)
Jun 9th 2018 10:21

It’s great to come across a blog like this, fantastic read!

Thanks (2)
Jun 19th 2018 15:31

This is helpful, thanks! Can you share your tech stack with us? Sometimes the hardest part is picking a tech stack and getting started. There are so many options out there, paralysis by analysis is real!

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to jackerman09
Jun 20th 2018 21:25

On my list for a future post. :)

Thanks (1)