Question: Improving employee retention in CPA firm

Firms in accounting/audit industry are notorious for high-turnover, especially among younger employees. I am looking for professionals in-the-know on how the leading firms have identified top issues in retention and what they do to lower the churn.

2 Expert Insights

The top 5 reasons young talent leaves firms, especially accounting firms:
1. Lack of opportunity to develop in their chosen profession or to make them more marketable
2. Constantly working on mundane or routine projects/Using outdated technology
3. Lack of connection with direct supervisor/boss
4. Little or no career development within the organization. Young people want to know their career trajectory
5. Little connection to work/life balance. Millennials really want to be able to balance their work and outside of work lives. They know how to do it and are constantly connected. Let them leverage that knowledge.

What can firms do to stem the tide?
1. Ensure that front line managers and leaders understand how to interact with and develop young staff
2. Ensure there is a connection between the work that the employee is doing and the success of the business or its importance to the customer's success
3. Allow younger employees to research new ways to get things done. Give them the opportunity to present their business cases and gather feedback. Implement smart ideas!
4. Develop (or highlight) career paths within the organization. Make sure that everyone is clear about how they can progress within the organization AND the steps they need to take to get there.
5. Make new employees feel part of the team right away. Get them involved in projects and client work immediately. They are going to stumble at first, but the best way for them to learn (and start to enjoy) is to do it!

My firm has worked with CPA firms on senior partner transition programs that have helped firms create succession plans for senior partners to retire out of the firm in ways that do not cripple the firm financially and also helps the retiring partner with understanding what their next chapter will be.

We have seen that the absence of an orderly succession plan that retires out senior partners creates a opportunity block for the firm's junior members to advance. This then creates retention issues as the associates look to other firms where their path to partnership is more clear.

Many of the senior partners who stay on long after they should leave do so because they have no better options. They enjoy being active and the relationships that they developed over the years. Almost all of the situations where we have been involved   we have seen that the partner stays because they cannot think of a better option.

We help to address this with the partner and the management team. these type of conversations can be difficult since the partners have long term relationships with the firm. These conversations are necessary though since senior partner transition needs to be part of the overall succession plan for the firm.