Brendan Courtney

The Challenge of Retaining Tax Professionals: What Do Your Workers Want to Keep Them Happy?

A recent survey conducted shows that many workers say their employers are not taking the necessary steps to retain them.

November 8 , 2007
Sponsored by Spherion Professional Services
by Brendan Courtney, senior vice president, Professional Services Group

In spite of the recent turbulence in the financial markets, the nation’s labor market is still tight by historical standards for tax and accounting professionals. These high-value professionals continue to be in high demand for everything from routine tax and audit work to complex financial reporting.

So it may be surprising to know that a recent survey conducted shows that many workers say their employers are not taking the necessary steps to retain them. This is especially disconcerting for employers of tax professionals because this same survey found that less than half of the U.S. workforce (43%) are satisfied with their current jobs.

Spherion’s Emerging Workforce® Study, the fifth iteration since its inception in 1997, is based on a survey of 3,152 employed adults recently conducted by Harris Interactive in conjunction with Spherion. The Study provides comprehensive and historical data on workplace trends and measures workers' views on evolving workplace values and job satisfaction, among other topics.

The most recent data suggest a continued disconnect between employers and employees regarding the effectiveness of various employee retention tactics such as financial compensation, benefits and work/life balance programs. Three-quarters of employees surveyed view healthcare benefits (78%) and compensation (75%) as most crucial to retaining them, while employers felt the most important factors were the management climate (80 percent) and supervisor relationships (80%).

Consider the contrast between employer and worker views of the most important factors influencing employee retention:

Drivers of Retention


Employer View


Worker View

  1. Management climate (80%)   1. Benefits (78%)  
  2. Supervisor relationship
(80%)   2. Financial compensation (75%)  
  3. Culture and work environment
(65%)   3. Growth & earning potential (68%)  
  4. Benefits (61%)   4. Management climate (67%)  
  5. Growth & earning potential
(58%)   5. Time & flexibility (65%)  
  6. Training & development
(54%)   6. Culture & work environment (63%)  
  7. Financial compensation
(49%)   7. Supervisor relationship (61%)  
  8. Time & flexibility (35%)   8. Training & development (52%)  

The Study also shows that 29 percent of workers say their company has put less effort into retaining employees and only 13 percent have put in more effort to keep them on the job.
These results indicate some very troubling trends in the employee-employer relationship. The workforce is largely dissatisfied with their employers' efforts on the factors they feel are most important to them and will keep them in their current jobs.

Professionally, nearly every worker surveyed preferred jobs allowing them to think creatively (96%) and required an innovative approach to tasks (91%). Personally, employees say the most attractive workplaces are those that help them meet family obligations through the use of flex-time, job sharing, telecommuting and other work/life balance programs. In a change from previous Studies, a growing number of workers now state that job stability and security are important facets of an attractive work environment. Sixty-four percent of all workers say their level of commitment to their employer is based on the promise of long-term job security.

While some factors regarding job security are certainly out of any employer's control, it is crucial to engage employees on a regular basis and solicit their feedback on their personal job satisfaction and work environment. This will not only help retain crucial talent, but help make them more productive and loyal as well.

The lesson here is that it is imperative employers not only understand, but adapt accordingly to their employees' evolving needs and attitudes toward work if they intend to maintain current talent levels through skill shortages. While employees are definitely redefining their idea of “career success” and putting a premium on things like work/life balance programs, providing comprehensive benefits, commensurate financial compensation and a secure work environment that fosters creativity and participation will always be critical to long-term employee retention.

For employers of tax professionals, a category of workers in increasing demand for their specialized skill sets, the employee retention stakes are higher than ever.

For more information visit Spherion Professional Services.

Brendan A.J. Courtney, senior vice president and group executive, Professional Services Group, Spherion Corporation. Brendan Courtney serves as senior vice president and group executive of professional services for Spherion Corporation (NYSE:SFN).