Mitigate the risks for some of the most common reasons for leaving

  • 01-01-18
  • David Landau

January can be a peculiar month for many employers. Many accounting professionals return to work rejuvenated from the holiday season, but for some, the new year can bring with it a tide of unforeseen change. Having had time to reflect upon their career and where they are headed over the break, many employees come back to the office with a different mindset. This can lead to a spate of resignations over the course of the ensuing months as they seek new prospects in seemingly fresher waters.

The Australian Human Resource Institute Turnover and Retention survey found that the average staff turnover in a one-year period was 16% and on an upward trend. Losing an employee can cost an exorbitant amount of dollars and time and can exert pressure on existing teams. Unfortunately, staff attrition at some level is inevitable. As an accounting recruiter, it is our job to understand the most common reasons why people choose to leave and in most cases what you can do to reduce the potential issue before it occurs.


Have a look at the top reasons why people leave below – do any resonate with you and your organisation?


The difference between a manager and an employee, professional or personal, is the leading cause why Sydney’s Accountants want to move on. It comes as no surprise, as the ‘boss’ is central to most daily activities, providing feedback as well as direction. If this fracture can’t be healed it can lead to lower engagement, confidence and motivation, and eventually drive people to leave the organisation.


We have had many accounting job seekers tell us that they had also left their previous company due to toxic relationships with their team members. When the majority of the day is spent working closely with colleagues, there needs to be synergy and mutual respect to positively affect the working environment. If this isn’t there, then the workplace can quickly become a place you don’t want to be. This is amplified by any presence of company politicking, which can add to the less-than-positive atmosphere and intensify even the smallest issues between team members, all of which have a negative impact on your company culture.


Employees need to feel they can cultivate their careers as accountants and see they have future opportunities to improve their skills within the organisation. When there is inadequate progression and minimal professional enrichment, staff are likely to go in search of greener pastures. Furthermore, the simple fact is that Sydney is expensive. Many of the accountants who meet us express concern about stagnant remuneration or unpaid bonuses – both critical reasons for staff attrition. Most employees have a fair appreciation that companies aren’t always in a position to offer a pay rise or other additional monetary rewards. However, to counteract that, we’ve seen employers have success by offering employees other benefits; from anything as small as providing fruit in the office, to free professional development courses, or even discounted corporate gym membership. A little can go a long way to retain top talent.


Although not as high on the list, the following causes can also contribute to staff attrition. Can you identify with any of these in your business?


No one wants to spend endless hours doing work without significance. Employees want to feel connected to the reasons why what they are doing has purpose and meaning in the overall scheme of things. Employers can help their people see where their work makes a difference by being a little more transparent and showing them how their piece of the puzzle fits into the overall picture. Nothing is more demotivating than producing a report or piece of work that you feel nobody will ever seriously look at.


The combination of reduced sales, bad press and redundancy offers, along with pay freezes and company mergers, is also a key driver of staff attrition. If the company is struggling financially, this can breed concern and many will leave if they aren’t reassured of strategies to combat this. People often prefer to leave of their own accord in search of stability before they are made redundant.


At this time of year, it is not uncommon for people to have a total about-face when it comes to their career direction. Some may even choose to leave accounting altogether or bite the bullet and work for themselves. We have seen other instances where accounting candidates have enjoyed their work but had to follow a spouse to a different location. These reasons are out of your control and unavoidable.


The malaise of protracted travel can impact an employee’s overall enjoyment of work. Some accountants we have spoken to, travel up to 4 hours a day! In these cases, offering flexible working arrangements is a great way to hold onto people who are of value to your company and who need a couple of hours of leeway, or the opportunity to work from home more often.


The recruitment industry is notorious for having high staff turnover, and accounting recruitment is no different. However, we have found that the silver lining in bucking this trend in our business is to implement some of the solutions below. This has resulted in our rates of staff attrition and tenure being some of the best in Sydney. So, here are some of the lessons we’ve learnt from the work we have done around this, and also what we have observed in other organisations:


If you’re a finance leader, it’s important to create a clear path for the accounting team or teams rather than trying to change the entire company's vision. However, it is imperative that your people can see you working towards achieving the overall vision of the organisation and know that they are a vital component of that. Meet with individuals to discuss their goals and how they can reach them in your business. Offering your team the chance to be involved in the team’s and subsequently the company’s vision, will engender a greater sense of camaraderie, connection and commitment.


When your staff feel that their leaders value their performance and efforts, they are more likely to stay. We have enforced a rewards strategy that is consistent and equitable in many of our client’s businesses. These have included issuing gift cards, restaurant vouchers or even movie tickets. Yes, pay rises and bonuses can be a great motivator, however, we have found that a simple public display of gratitude such as a “thank you” at a team meeting is just as worthwhile.


Follow this mantra and bring about some fun by organising events to engage all staff. Team building days or even a celebratory afternoon tea for a birthday in the office will bring the group together to facilitate connections and bonding. Considering regular anonymous surveys on the state of play in your company or team is another good way to maintain an open culture. Staff are more likely to divulge opinions on systems and processes, as well as company culture and ethos this way. What is instrumental here though, is to be transparent about the responses and show you are tackling any concerns raised. If there is an issue, face it head-on and deal with it before it can become something bigger.

As an employer, once you open the lines of communication, it’s vital to actively listen. Organisations that harness the power of clear communication will reap the rewards of better relationships, clearer goals and further improvements in culture and morale. Take time to listen to your team and engage in open conversations about any problems as well as successes.


Sometimes resignations come out of nowhere, even if you have covered all of your bases – after all the grass is always greener!  There is nothing you can do about this. However, you can still circumvent most of the reasons people leave your business by galvanising retention strategies that meet your staff’s needs. Your reward? Fewer exit interviews and instead, stronger, more engaged teams. You will find that people will naturally want to stay and as importantly will want to join your business.

If you would like to discuss your staff attrition rates or are after an Accounting Recruiter who will fill the talent void in your business, call us in Sydney today.

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