Practice Management

How to retain key employees in a tough economic environment.

March 2009
by Chris Wingfield, et al./The Tax Adviser

Employee retention has long been an issue in public accounting. The demanding hours combined with ever-increasing client needs, technical complexity, and monthly deadlines have resulted in a shortage of qualified accounting personnel. In addition, the "aging" of CPA firms is increasing pressure to retain key employees to assure future growth. Firms across the country are implementing unique as well as time-tested strategies to deal with this concern.

In-House Training

While the idea of providing timely and quality training to employees may seem obvious and is high on the list of potential employees' expectations, employers often overlook training. It is vitally important that new employees feel a part of the firm and become familiar with the firm culture as soon as possible.

One of the best ways to foster these goals is through in-house seminars. These allow firm personnel to display their expertise to others throughout the firm while also allowing for networking among employees, who may often work in different locations. New employees will integrate more quickly within the firm when given the opportunity to interact with other firm employees in this type of environment. Such assimilation is key to the long-term success of an employee, and the training received reinforces the employee's sense of value to the firm. (For more on in-house training, see Trenholm, "Training in the Modern Tax Practice," The Tax Adviser (March 2008).)

Work-Life Balance

Laptops, cell phones, and BlackBerrys are now a regular part of our lives. Wireless Internet is available almost everywhere. While these important developments keep us constantly informed and updated, they also give us the freedom to work from just about anywhere.

Employees have different family situations that may require employers to be accommodating when dealing with work deadlines. Sick children or parents, bad weather, and other unexpected events often require employer flexibility. With the technology now available, employees can log in and work at their convenience rather than being tied to a 9-to-5 routine.

Employees view this as another benefit, similar to 401(k) plans or medical insurance. When structured properly, both the employee and employer come out ahead.

This article has been excerpted from The Tax Adviser. Read the full article here (PDF).