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Retaining Employees After a Difficult Tax Season


Employees are feeling more burnt out than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and accountants and CPAs are no exception. In this article, Allison Irvine of LHH Recruitment Solutions explains how companies and firms can stay ahead of the great resignation by creating a workplace culture that encourages flexibility and rewards employees with benefits that matter to them.

5th Apr 2022
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This year’s busy season was especially challenging for accountants and CPAs who are still navigating the world of working remotely and feeling burnt out after the yearslong COVID-19 pandemic.

The busy season on top of exhaustion can end up taking a bigger toll on employees’ mental health, according to Allison Irvine, CPA, a Chicago-based market director for LHH Recruitment Solutions. In her role, Irvine has worked directly with accounting and finance professionals looking for jobs as well as with companies seeking employees. Currently, Irvine manages the teams for recruitment across Illinois and Wisconsin. Here, Irvine offers her tips for retaining employees after another challenging tax season. 

Turn the Great Resignation Into the Great Reevaluation 

The number one priority for firms and leaders should be tailoring working conditions to align with employees’ values, and that means flexibility, Irvine said.

For example, just two weeks ago, LHH represented a candidate who received two offers: one from an LHH client and one from a competing firm. The former offered a hybrid schedule with one day a week working from home, while the competing firm offered a 100-percent remote position. Ultimately, the candidate took the job with the competing firm, Irvine said.

“Flexibility is the number driver in an applicant’s job search right now. We are seeing this in action every day,” Irvine said.

The great reevaluation also presents an opportunity for job seekers who have little experience to get into a firm or company that is willing to take a chance on them due to the current staffing shortage. 

“People are getting opportunities to join companies without experience and prove themselves. If you’ve always wanted to get in somewhere, but you’ve had roadblocks, now is the time to do that,” Irvine said. 

Give Employees the Benefits They Want

Accounting firms and leaders must find new ways to keep team members energized through tax season and beyond. Irvine said the number-one benefit to employees today is paid time-off, especially when it is expressly given or encouraged by a manager.

“There’s a general sense of guiltiness in taking PTO among people who are working from home, but getting that validation from your manager acknowledging that you've had a great week or you’ve had a tough week is so important,” Irvine said. 

Irvine said companies should also be aware of world events that might be affecting their employees’ mental health and consider how to support them. Finally, compensation is always a good option, and companies that are willing to pay more for new hires should make sure they are also offering bonuses and salary increases to current employees, Irvine said.

Consider Off-Cycle Salary Adjustments

Some companies wait for employees to threaten to quit before offering salary increases, but examining how employees are compensated beforehand and offering off-cycle salary adjustments could preempt this situation, Irvine said.

“When people feel monetarily rewarded beyond their expectations, they feel more loyalty and appreciation for their leader and company, which might lead to better retention. Plus, if an employee was thinking about leaving and then gets a bonus, maybe they’ll put off that job search,” Irvine said.

One potential drawback of off-cycle salary adjustments is that it does require some planning and tracking, especially if a company has hundreds of employees. 

“Make sure your internal equity doesn’t get thrown off across departments. You need to track increases,” Irvine said.

Improve Company Culture 

Strong company culture and flexibility are especially important to today’s workers. To improve both, firms must consider allowing 100-percent remote work, or a hybrid schedule at a minimum, Irvine said. 

“Across the board, companies that require employees to work five days a week in the office are losing out on talent,” Irvine said. 

Another shift in company culture is basing employees’ productivity on their output rather than the hours they logged. Companies should be willing to allow an employee to start the workday after 9 a.m. if the employee has no problem meeting deadlines, Irvine said. 

“Managers who micromanage are losing out on talent. But employees need to remember salaries are paid for how they perform, not the hours they work. There is a trust factor there,” Irvine said.

The big takeaway is that flexibility is key, and companies should consider how the pandemic has affected its employees rather than simply looking at its effect on work product, Irvine said. 

“Companies should treat their employees as people, not only as employees,” Irvine said.

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