Why Do Good Employees Leave and What Can You Do About It?

If you feel your department is understaffed, you’re not alone. According to the Robert Half report Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function 2017, 39% of U.S. business leaders interviewed feel their departments don’t have a full complement of employees. The largest companies — those worth $5 billion or more — feel the biggest pinch, with 62% of respondents saying they’re somewhat or severely understaffed.

While the retirement of baby boomers is one reason for the employee shortage, another is today’s competitive recruitment market, where demand outpaces the availability of skilled accountants.

Whatever the cause, once you’ve landed highly skilled professionals, you need to make sure they’re happy if you want to keep them. And you’ll need to do that sooner rather than later: Another Robert Half study finds that 42% of workers polled are likely to look for a new job in the next year. Among the millennial (ages 18–34) cohort, that figure jumps to 68%.

How can leaders hold on to their top performers? The key to retaining employees who are on the verge of jumping ship is to understand what’s behind their dissatisfaction. Here are the top three reasons people leave, followed by what you can do to trim your turnover rate:

  1. Subpar salary and benefits

The top cause of employee departures, cited by 39% of workers surveyed, is inadequate compensation and benefits. Starting salaries have been trending upward since the beginning of the decade, but accountants who have been in the same job for several years may not have seen a comparable bump in wages. For them, the best way to get a pay hike is to find a new job with a higher salary.

From an employer’s point of view, low wages is a poor reason to lose a valuable team member. Not only would you have to replace them with professionals who know their market value, you’d also have the costs of recruiting and training. In addition, you lose institutional knowledge and the client relationships they’d built.

Solution: Benchmark your employees’ salaries to make sure you’re in sync with what they may be offered by other firms, which you can do with the Robert Half 2018 Salary Guide. Make sure what your workers earn is at least in the middle of the scale. To really boost morale and increase loyalty, proactively increase salaries.

  1. Unhappiness with management

More money is great, but it can’t make up for strained employer-employee relations. Good bosses inspire workers and make them want to work harder toward a common goal. Bad bosses create a toxic workplace that drives away talent, according to the recent Robert Half report IT’S TIME WE ALL WORK HAPPY.®

Solution: What puts a smile on workers’ faces and a spring in their step? The top two drivers for accountants are feeling appreciated for the work they do and being treated fairly, and managers play a large role in both. Accountants work long hours and mostly behind the scenes. Make the effort to publicly recognise their important contributions with sincere words and tokens of appreciation. Don’t overwork them – bringing in interim staff during peak seasons is a thoughtful way to demonstrate your respect for their work-life balance.

  1. Limited opportunities

For 14% of workers surveyed, they’d move on because their career has stalled. The more they feel they’re in a dead end job, the more they seek an escape route. This is especially the case for accountants just starting out. They’re eager to learn, climb the corporate ladder and make their mark.

Solution: Do you talk about career pathing with individual team members? If you don’t, you’re missing out on a valuable retention tool. At least once a year, perhaps during performance review season, discuss employees’ future within the firm. Plot out a possible course of progression, including the professional development needed to reach their goals. Work with them to develop a short-term plan, such as which industry conferences to attend and when they’ll complete a certain financial certification. Also take a longer-term view, with discussions on moving into management or a specialisation such as analytics. Let them know you value them enough to invest in their future.

Retention is not always a manager’s top priority, but that could be a mistake. Your best people may be happy today, but what about 12 months from now? The only way to be sure they’ll still be around is to create a work environment so desirable they won’t want to go anywhere else.

This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half, parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources. Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a temporary, full-time and project basis. For career and management advice, follow our blog at roberthalf.co.uk/blog.