How can Audit and Accounting Firms Improve Their Talent Retention Strategy?

According to a recent survey, large CPA firms report experiencing annual turnovers of 20% or higher.  

This data is deeply concerning, given how maintaining a skilled talent pool is paramount for every audit and accounting firm. As competition in the industry intensifies and the global marketplace becomes more dynamic, the ability to attract and keep exceptional professionals becomes more challenging.  

Failure to do so can compromise project quality, damage the firm’s reputation, and hamper its market value. However, with advanced resource management tools like SAVIOM, firms can effectively recruit, engage, and retain employees.  

This article provides several methods to help retain audit and accounting staff. 

 But first, let’s understand the importance of talent retention in this industry.  

2. Significance of retaining talent in audit and accounting firms

As stated before, an audit and accounting firm’s success relies on a crucial asset, i.e., its talented professionals. Here is why – 

2.1. Preserves institutional knowledge:  

Long-term employees accumulate knowledge and expertise about the company’s processes, systems, and industry trends. This knowledge is often irreplaceable, making retaining employees imperative. 

2.2. Minimizes recruitment and training costs 

The recruitment and training of new audit and accounting professionals demands both money and effort. Therefore, prioritizing the retention of top talent is essential to curb unnecessary costs and ensure smooth operations. 

2.3. Improves client relationships and firm’s reputation:  

Experienced professionals who are well-versed in clients’ businesses can consistently deliver high-quality service. This continuity helps build trust and long-term client relationships, bolstering the organization’s reputation in the audit & accounting industry. 

Now, let’s explore effective strategies audit and accounting firms can adopt to retain their talent.

3. 7 ways to retain employees in the audit and accounting firm

In today’s competitive landscape, attracting and maintaining a skilled workforce is essential. Let’s explore ways in which one can achieve this goal. 

3.1. Align talent acquisition strategy with the firm’s business objectives  

When a project reaches a certain stage of probability in the pipeline, accounting managers must assess the anticipated demands and ascertain the necessary skill sets. In case these competencies are unavailable or in deficit, organizations must devise a well-structured hiring plan and align it with the business objectives in advance. 

For instance, an accounting firm is gearing up for a busy tax season but lacks sufficient expertise in cryptocurrency taxation. Thus, they request HR to proactively hire or upskill their team to meet the upcoming demands. This ensures the acquisition of professionals who actively contribute to organizational success. 

3.2. Allocate accountants and auditors as per interest & competencies 

When organizations fail to allocate consultants to tasks based on their interests and competencies, it can lead to lowered morale. This hampers productivity, causes delays, and deteriorates project quality, resulting in client dissatisfaction. For instance, deploying a skilled professional to low-priority or non-billable tasks can disengage them and cause billing losses.  

Contrarily, assigning junior employees to high-priority work can make them feel overwhelmed and burned out. Thus, considering the accountants’ and auditors’ skills and availability is pivotal for talent retention. This enhances the workforce’s efficiency, boosts confidence, and reduces turnover rates. 

3.3. Ensure optimum utilization of the accountants and auditors 

To ensure the productive utilization of accountants and auditors, managers must have real-time visibility into their utilization levels.  In case of over-utilization, managers can implement resource optimization techniques to ensure a balanced workload. For instance, accounting managers adjust projects’ start or end dates or redistribute work as per employees’ schedules.  

Further, they can deploy additional resources if the project is time-constrained. Conversely, in the case of underutilization, managers can mobilize the accounting consultants from non-billable to billable projects to boost financial returns. This approach guarantees optimum workforce utilization, ultimately improving employee retention. 

3.4. Provide stretch assignments to professionals periodically 

Stretch assignments are short-term projects given to competent professionals to develop new skills and knowledge. For this, managers must identify suitable candidates from the talent pool and provide them with stretch assignments relevant to the needs of an audit and accounting firm.  

If these employees accomplish tasks as intended, they can be considered for advanced projects. Thus, it enables accounting professionals to explore new opportunities and diversify their skill sets, thereby future-proofing them. This heightened engagement contributes to employee job satisfaction, enabling firms to retain talent. 

3.5. Offer competitive salaries and benefits 

When audit and accounting firms fail to offer attractive compensation and incentives per the industry standards, the employee may feel underpaid and undervalued. This may lead to lower productivity and job dissatisfaction, increasing the risk of unplanned attrition.  

However, by proactively offering competitive salaries and benefits, these firms can retain their workforce and reduce high turnover rates successfully. Further, it will enable managers to maintain high morale and commitment within the current workforce, ultimately enhancing employee retention rates. 

3.6. Encouraging employees to choose projects of their interest 

Encouraging employees to select projects that align with their interests is a valuable strategy for reducing employee turnover. Employees who are enthusiastic about their projects tend to be more committed and productive. Further, it provides them with opportunities to learn new skills and diversify their portfolios, promoting career growth.  

Moreover, empowering employees this way allows them to showcase greater accountability for their work, improving their overall performance. It also eliminates the need for frequent check-ins on the task progress, fostering autonomy. Therefore, this approach benefits both employees and organizations, boosting retention rates. 

3.7. Invest in training and career development opportunities 

Investing in training and career development opportunities is crucial to retain accounting personnel and enhance overall employee engagement. Managers must identify the consultants’ existing skill sets and facilitate training programs to equip them with in-demand industry skills and knowledge.  

For instance, A&A firms can leverage cross-training, peer-to-peer coaching, workshops, seminars, etc., to train the audit personnel on new internal audit techniques, risk assessment, compliance, and emerging technologies. These initiatives broaden employees’ skill sets and create a culture of continuous learning, thereby improving consultants’ engagement and retention.  

Now, let’s understand how an advanced resource management tool can help apply these strategies and improve talent retention.

4. How can an advanced resource management tool help?

Saviom’s robust resource management software enables audit and accounting firms to improve their talent retention strategies in the following ways.  

  • The tool provides enterprise-wide visibility into resource roles, competencies, interests, experience, availability, etc., and ensures competent allocation. 
  • Further, with the tool’s forecasting capabilities and capacity vs. demand reports, managers can foresee resource skill gaps and implement suitable remedial measures. 
  • The tool also helps maintain an up-to-date competency matrix to match the skillset with the right tasks.  
  • The utilization reports and color-coded heatmaps enable firms to optimize the workforce’s workload, thus eliminating burnout and disengagement. 
  • Moreover, the tool’s open seat feature allows firms to publish project vacancies and allocate interested resources to projects, thus improving retention.

5. Conclusion

Adopting a holistic employee retention strategy is key for audit and accounting firms to maintain an optimized workforce and stay competitive. By following the abovementioned strategies coupled with the right resource management software, A&A organizations can nurture and retain valuable talent to ensure long-term sustenance.

Interesting Related Article: “Human resources : definition and meaning