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Tips for Staying Ahead of the Great Resignation


The emergence of remote work and changing priorities has led to the "Great Resignation," and with it has come more competition among firms for top talent. Here, Sandra Wiley of Boomer Consulting explores new ways of driving value so your firm can attract and retain employees despite the challenges ahead. 

Nov 22nd 2021
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What would you do if 40 percent of your team quit next week? Of course, such dramatic turnover is unlikely, at least all at once, but it could become a reality over the next year.

According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, 41 percent of the global workforce is considering leaving a job within the next year. What’s more, 49 percent plan to make a major career transition. In other words, not only do you need to worry about losing talent to other firms, but also to entirely different fields.

Rampant stress, burnout and the reprioritization of work are leading many people to quit their jobs in search of more flexibility, higher compensation, greater career satisfaction and other advantages, a shift that’s being referred to as the “Great Resignation.” What could it mean for your firm? 

Rethink Your Hiring Strategy

While money isn’t the only factor in career satisfaction, we can’t ignore that a paycheck is a motivating force for most people. With more and more employers across the country allowing employees to work remotely, competition for the best talent isn’t restricted to employers in your geographic area, but includes employers from across the country and even around the world.

Small firms located in areas with a low cost of living will have difficulty matching offers from firms in big cities. In that case, consider what else your firm can offer, whether it’s a better work-life balance, more autonomy or a clear path to becoming partner. You may need to draw on the expertise of your marketing and human resources teams to develop messaging that will make your firm stand out. 

Outsource and Automate

If you aren’t able to hire all of the employees you think you’ll need over the next few years, consider outsourcing and automation as ways to fill the gaps:

  • Contract talent. Many talented professionals have turned to freelance and contract work to have more control over their time and the types of clients they work with. Some potential resources include Accountingfly and Beech Valley Solutions.
  • Outsourced labor. Consider outsourcing compliance work to free up your team for high-value projects that are more rewarding. Resources include Datamatics, Commerce Clearing House, Mphasis, Outsource Partners International, SurePrep and XPITAX.
  • Automation. Routine, manual tasks that are time consuming can be automated to allow your team to do more with less. Talk to your IT team and solution providers to see what’s possible with your existing tools and technology. We’ve heard of some amazing wins from firms that spent just a few minutes learning how to use the automation templates in Microsoft Power Automate.

Keep in mind that you cannot automate inconsistent processes. Eliminating personal preferences and streamlining your processes make automation and outsourcing possible. 

Develop and Upskill Your Team

In the next few years, growth in our profession will come from advisory and consulting services rather than transactional and compliance work. The problem is, many professionals today don’t feel prepared for that shift because their education and experience thus far have focused on technical accounting and tax skills.

Investing in upskilling your team will go a long way toward showing them they have a future in the profession and keeping them in your firm. Some of the core skills to focus on include active listening, communication, project management, building trust, problem-solving and collaboration. You should also consider technical skills beyond their current roles, such as data analytics or specialized technical certifications related to your firm’s niches. This applies to all staff, including administrative, IT and marketing professionals—not just CPAs. 

Be Flexible to Retain Talent 

Recently, I’ve heard many firm leaders talk about getting people “back to work.” Of course, what many of them really mean is getting people back to the office full time. I have two issues with this.

First, people have been working very hard for the past two years, whether in the office or from home. Saying they need to get “back to work” diminishes the phenomenal job they’ve done at being productive and serving clients during a time that, for many, has been the hardest of their careers.

Secondly, some people have no interest in or intention of returning to the office full time ever again. They enjoy the flexibility of remote or hybrid work and want to keep it that way. Forcing these employees to return to the office will likely backfire.

There may be one or two team members who struggle to manage their workloads and complete projects while working remotely. However, if that’s the case, don’t let one or two exceptions lead you to determine that remote work is a failure. Address these outliers separately, and trust that your team will deliver their best work regardless of their location, which will allow everyone to be more successful.

Don't Ignore Firm Culture

Another challenge firm leaders often face while leading a remote or hybrid team is maintaining firm culture. Building and maintaining culture in a remote firm is possible, but it does take intentional effort. Consider creating a committee tasked with building culture and keeping the team connected. Some ideas for the committee include:

  • Hosting challenges and events
  • Celebrating birthdays and anniversaries
  • Sending treats to team members attending virtual meetings
  • Sharing personal and professional wins with the entire team
  • Starting “water cooler conversations” on the firm’s messaging platform, intranet or newsletter

Employees may leave your firm for a variety of reasons, but the Great Resignation doesn’t have to spell disaster. Consider the strategies outlined above to get ahead of the Great Resignation and make the most of the team you have.