Post Lockdown Alert – Your Staff!!

We provide advice to Accountants on all areas of their Practice, but if there is one key element that has the biggest impact on Practices at the moment, it’s your staff!

Staff can make or break a business. Great staff will not only change your Practice, but can also change your life – giving you more time away from work and less stress about maintaining your business.

At the moment there is a high demand for quality staff. Higher than in the past. There seems to be a lot of changes happening, salaries are rising and practitioners are a bit nervous.

What is going on?

While a number of firms were prepared this time around during the lockdowns of 2021, the turnover in staff in the last month or so has been quite staggering. Its rarely we talk to an Accounting firm in recent times who hasn’t had some changes in their staffing. And we talk to a LOT of Accounting firms.

First of all, when staff work at home there is less of bonding between the company & the individual employee. Working in an office with social interactions does assist in the feeling of belonging for employees. With a lower level of attachment to the firm, employees may be inclined to be tempted elsewhere for additional pay.

Accountants seem to be always in demand and having flexible working arrangements also plays a large part in employee satisfaction. The fact is that many staff have enjoyed the ability to work at home and while in future they are happy to return to the office they often would like the ability to work some days at home. Do you offer flexibility for your employees?

The changes are not simply limited to staff in Australia. Lockdowns have also had an impact in countries where outsourced Accounting support is utilised. Taking to a few of our clients who have staff in the Philippines, they have experienced some turnover in staff as well that has caused some disruptions to their ability to get through their client work.

Finally, supply of quality Accounting staff are hard to find. We understand some firms have been running ads for months with no candidates of interest. Additionally, long gone are the days when a good supply of newly graduated Accountants came out of our universities.

Sourcing Great Staff

For those that are looking to find good staff through recruiters or advertising online (Seek, LinkedIn etc.) here are a few other thoughts:

Sourcing within – are there low-level staff who have potential? Showing your confidence in them and encouraging them to advance their education and credentials builds trust and loyalty and is a win, win for both parties.

Like attracts Like – A great staff member may know others in similar roles. Ask your current staff if they know of anyone, you can also consider providing them with an incentive for a good recommendation.

Remote Opportunities – With a lot of work being done remotely you may look at hiring someone in another location that has more availability of resources. Similarly, if you have a staff member that asks to leave because they are moving to a new location, they may still be able to work remotely or even set up another office in their new location.

Acquisition – You may be in a position to acquire another small practice. This can bring in a team of experienced staff and enables you to quickly scale up your resources. A merger can also become a succession plan with another competent principal on board.

Outsourcing – Consider outsourcing, either within Australia or overseas. Its not all bad news overseas, in fact some firms are embracing this idea given the tight market here. Basic compliance tasks can easily be completed elsewhere and your team can focus on the more profitable services, like business advice. There are some very sophisticated options for offshore accounting services these days.

Keeping Great Staff

A very important point is that the onus should not just be on the staff to be ‘great’, a great work culture will create great staff.

Whether you have found some great staff members or want to nurture your own team, it’s important to retain them. Reducing staff turnover helps minimise time lost in recruitment and hand-over, helps strengthen your options for succession planning, reduces stress and protects your sanity!

Here are a few key points for better retention:

Trust – while it can be scary, trusting your staff is critical for building loyalty, no one likes to be micromanaged or kept out of the loop.

Clarity – Clear descriptions and expectations go a long way towards good employee relations. This is a really great place to start if you want to create a more staff-friendly work environment. This includes clarity around roles, sharing responsibilities and structure (up and down the line). Less ambiguity means less opportunity for confusions and frustrations for all parties.

Communication – this doesn’t just mean weekly ‘work-in-progress’ meetings or email updates, it is more about deeper communication about the functioning and future of the business. Don’t be blind-sided by a staff member who ‘suddenly’ walks out, check in with staff on a regular basis to see how they are doing, acknowledge their achievements and address frustrations up front.

Investment – remember that your staff are giving their efforts and energy into building your business, investing in them shows they are valuable. Staff can easily feel taken for granted when they are never shown trust, or listened to or offered opportunities to advance.

Genuine Interest – This may be the single keystone to retaining and nurturing good staff. A good relationship with your staff is really a two-way street. Recognising staff successes and challenges as well as discussing their future plans generates regular and genuine communication. Showing trust in their skills is empowering and may give them the confidence to take on more responsibility or further education.

Positive experiences build loyalty. Loyalty means staff will go the extra mile, and take some of the stress off your shoulders. It strengthens your team, your business capacity and future potential, as well as your ability to step back and focus on where your time is most valuable.

Interested in getting a second opinion on your Practice? Did last year exhaust you and would love some assistance getting on top of your Practice?

Call us on 1300 121 013.