Staff retention at midsize firms charts new waters
An article in WebCPA talks about the steps midsize firms in particular are taking to ensure their young people stay put:
More midsized firms are starting to address this issue by paying attention to what younger people need to stay engaged. Some are including younger staff members in more significant firm decisions through advisory boards; others are pairing younger staff with older partners in mentoring relationships; and some have even postponed accepting large proposals until there is an assurance that a particular department can handle the increase in hours and staff demands.
Giving younger staff a chance to be heard on firm decisions is a great idea, and one that is taking hold in my office of late. I have recently been involved in the formation of an IT Committee composed of young staff that work in the field, and we are working on ensuring the field staff have what they need IT-wise.
We found that IT resources in the firm are too centralized to respond quickly to staff needs and we are doing something about it, with the guidance of a partner of course. The inertia of centralization isn’t a new problem but hopefully our committee will be able to effect positive change and improve productivity in the field and client service.
As for pairing younger staff with mentoring partners, our firm already has a mentoring program in place. I’m not paired with a partner however, but a manager. I think it would be better to have two or more mentors — one at the manager or senior manager level(s), and a partner.
Younger, new staff often feel like the partners don’t know who they are (and that’s often the truth), so having them become more involved in the beginning will really help staff feel valued and encourage their development and loyalty to the firm. It’s a net benefit for all parties involved, really.
More important in my opinion to accepting new clients and ensuring the capacity is there, is the issue of client retention. It’s far more demoralizing to work on a client that is abusive towards the auditors than it is to work long hours. In fact, I have a client that is incredibly long hours for 3–4 weeks straight and it is one of my favourite clients! Why is that? The client’s staff makes the work fun and enjoys the audit!
That being said, the effort to ensure staff workloads are appropriate is undoubtedly appreciated.
The three strategies the article touches on are all important in the fight to keep young staff on board at midsize firms. It’s great to hear that firms are starting to implement them in earnest, as it indicates that staff like me will continue to feel valued and challenged as we build our careers and serve clients.